Big 12 Mailbag: Doomsday scenarios

If super conferences are created, will TCU be left on the outside looking in?

Brandon Wade/AP

Thanks for all the questions this week, everybody. We’ll get right to it. This week, we mostly tackle expansion, but handle a few on-field issues, too. 

Will Klose writes: How worried should certain schools be about being left without a chair when the music stops? ISU, KSU, OSU, KU, TCU, BU

David Ubben: That’s a complicated question. I’d definitely be worried if I was them, but only because I wouldn’t control my own fate. The uncomfortable truth for the rest of the Big 12 is Oklahoma and Texas hold all the cards for the future of the conference. 

That’s why pacifying Texas by granting it the Longhorn Network was the only way to keep the Big 12 afloat. If the Big 12’s administrators and Dan Beebe had refused to do that, Texas wouldn’t have had the option for its own network and the Pac-16 would already exist. 

So yeah, if I were any of the six schools you named, I’d be worried. I’d like to have some control over the trajectory of my athletic department but of those six, Oklahoma State is the only one that can feel reasonably safe. If the Big 12 does splinter again, Oklahoma State can safely assume it will end up wherever Oklahoma does. Those two schools have a good relationship, considering they’re in-state rivals and though it’s not impossible for OU to extricate itself and go to a new conference, OSU is still a strong program with a decent-sized fan base and Oklahoma wouldn’t have much motivation to try and leave the Pokes behind. 

Texas Tech and Baylor might have some luck following Texas, but that’s not necessarily a bet I’d make. I would, however, bet that both schools would lawyer up as high as necessary to try and make it happen. 

J. Mark in Texas writes: Some say the Big 12 will be picked apart when 4 super conferences are created someday. Do you think schools like BU and TCU will still be left outside looking in, as they would have been in 2010/2011?

David Ubben: This is actually a really interesting question. The idea of four 16-team conference is closer to college football fan/media fiction than reality right now. For one, major conferences now have the autonomy they craved.  Thus, much of the motivation for forming these "super conferences" is lost. Second, most of the administrators I talk to say the consensus for people who have spent most of their career in college athletics is that super conference scenario wouldn’t be good for college sports and isn’t something that’s widely desired. A possibility, sure, but far from anything resembling inevitability. 

Even with growing facilities and football success, TCU and Baylor might still be hampered by the reality of their diminutive fan bases that simply aren’t big television draws. That’s just natural considering the lack of historic success from both programs and their small enrollments relative to other schools in the state like Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Additionally, as private schools, it would be much, much harder for them to latch on to wherever Texas and Tech would end up if the Big 12 did break apart. Their best bet would be holding together and bringing teams like Cincinnati or BYU into the league and become an odd middle ground between what we now know as the Group of Five and the Power 5. A Big 12 without OU or Texas but with Cincy or BYU would not really fit either of those classifications. 

Considering we’ve seen both of them win a major conference, would they be forgiven some of the questions that TCU and Boise fought as Mountain West members? Would it be easier for them to compete for a national title? My guess is yes. 

Zack Hall in Heavener, Oklahoma writes: Given the recent success of developing recruits, how far away is Oklahoma State from a Big 12 Championship. 

David Ubben: OSU has a great shot to upset the order of the league this year, but if it does end up winning 9-10 games, the Pokes can probably plan on being the league favorite in 2016, or at least among them. Last year’s team was almost exclusively freshmen and sophomores, and you saw the growth late in the season, well beyond the quarterback spot. The offensive line was the most encouraging sign of growth. This team will be a tough out this year. OSU, like you said, has been one of college football’s best at developing recruits. You need a little luck with injuries and close games, but OSU will be in outstanding position to grab a second title in the next two seasons. 

Daniel Rader in Oklahoma City writes: Expansion? Why not "addition by subtraction"? Drop the 1-2 least revenue contributing schools and play more non-con games?

David Ubben: Well, the biggest, most concrete reason is the Big 12 has a television deal based upon current membership. Getting home games every year against Power 5 opponents that would fall under the league’s TV deal is not the simplest proposition, and it gets complicated if you want to demand teams do that. 

Second, it’s just not something that’s done. There has to be some level of trust in a conference and your plan is the quickest way to betray that trust and discourage new membership. The money would be better in the short term, in theory, but it poses a ton of long-term issues that make this a very misguided solution. 

MK in Dallas writes: although chances are nil which team would create bigger waves if they joined the Big 12 down the road: Nebraska, ND, or FSU?

David Ubben: Those are three very intriguing, unrealistic options. The hilarity and self-righteousness that would emanate from the rest of the Big 12 would make Nebraska the most entertaining option. Florida State, while not realistic, is also the most realistic of those three options. 

However, Notre Dame gets my vote. The combination of a) a national brand b) The Irish’s status as college sports’ golden goose and c) their insistence to remain independent would be a gigantic coup for the Big 12 that would probably change the perception of the league forever. I get a sense that not coaxing Notre Dame into the Big 12 might be DeLoss Dodds’ greatest regret in an otherwise stellar run as Texas’ athletic director. 

Evan Bauer in Santa Barbara, Calif. writes: Who puts up bigger numbers between KD Cannon and Corey Coleman this year? Is either a legit Biletnikoff contender?

David Ubben: My vote is Cannon, who might not be consistent enough to win the Biletnikoff this year, but certainly has a sky-high ceiling that makes it a realistic possibility. 

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