In 2010, Nebraska kicked off a radical realignment in college football.
They left the Big 12 to join the Big 10, in large part because they felt the league showed favoritism toward flagship programs Texas and Oklahoma, especially Texas; the Longhorns received their own 24-hour television network.
Texas A&M, Colorado, and Missouri followed suit, leaving for the SEC, PAC 12, and SEC, respectively. The repercussions of those four teams leaving could put the Big 12 in serious peril.
The Big 12 had a horrific showing at the 2017 NFL draft, and perception of the conference is at an all-time low.
From the Dallas Morning News:
For the 11th straight year, the SEC led all conferences in number of NFL draft picks.
The league had 23 players taken during the final four rounds Saturday to increase its three-day total to 53, 10 more than the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC closed with a flurry, with 32 of its 43 drafted players taken on the last day.
The Pac-12 edged out the Big Ten 36-35 in picks.
The Big 12 had only 14 players drafted, the fewest since the conference formed from the merger of the Southwest Conference and Big Eight in 1996.
The Big 12’s meager 14 selections is one fewer than the AAC, and only three more than the MAC.
The conference doesn’t seem to have any good solutions at the moment, unable to lure teams that boost the league’s profile.
From CBS Sports:
Actually, the astonishing thing is how far the Big 12 has sunk in terms of perception, talent and … winning. We can debate everything from revenue to recruiting, but what can’t be argued is image.
The Big 12’s is not good at the moment. Type the words “Big 12” on Twitter and mostly vitriol is shot back. What was once celebrated is now defended.
It is the only league to miss the three-year-old College Football Playoff twice. It is the only Power Five league not to win a CFP game.
Last year in Phoenix, there was a hair-on-fire feel to the spring meetings as expansion talk started in earnest. The league went through a laborious, extensive and — some think — divisive process that ended up fruitless in October.
The Big 12 stayed at 10.
Conference realignment — as well as a talent exodus — has conspired against the Big 12 lately. Start with the fractionalization of the conference’s recruiting hub in the state of Texas.
The loss of Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M in realignment meant 170 native Texas recruits have matriculated to those four schools in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC since 2011.
That’s the equivalent of almost seven Texas-only recruiting classes that could have ended up in the Big 12. Make no mistake, the Big 12’s strength revolves around Lone Star State recruiting.
“The [recruiting] hole in the fence in the state of Texas is real,” said Barton Simmons, director of scouting for 247Sports.
The Big 12 remains the smallest FBS conference (10 teams). Twenty-one years ago, the reason the league was assembled in the first place — the power of Texas and Oklahoma — is part of the reason it is struggling now.
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Oklahoma hasn’t signed a top-10 recruit from the state of Texas in four years. Herman signed Texas’ “worst” recruiting class since rankings were established in 1990. Herman called it a “transitional” year in recruiting after his class finished 26th.
Losing those four programs and replacing them with West Virginia (no fertile recruiting base) and TCU (perennial doormat until 10-15 years ago) hasn’t done much to give the conference more bite.
Controversial college football commentator Paul Feinbaum was even more harsh in his criticism of the Big 12. He said on his radio show:
“I see the Big 12 as a complete trainwreck. The Big 12 is the Titanic and you can see the iceberg in sight. I love the fact that at the Big 12 meetings the other day, the athletic directors all scoffed at reports with the old Mark Twain line,’The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ I don’t think we’re exaggerating. You can lay out any set of facts you want and in my mind, they don’t have an answer other than being in a complete state of oblivion.
I believe very strongly, based on information that I’ve been told that Oklahoma flat-out wants out of the Big 12 as soon as it can get that door open without mortgaging its entire bank account on its future.
The Big 12 is in trouble. The good thing it has going for it is Texas has the power to revitalize the league. Under a worn-out Mack Brown and Charlie Strong, Texas floundered.
But Tom Herman has the pedigree and youthful enthusiasm to turn the program around. Now not only does the school need it, the entire conference does.