In the almost four decades of me being a college sports fan, nothing compares to the stupidity and chaos of conference realignment. And, while the musical chairs exercise from six years ago has mostly died down, the Big 12 continues to keep the music going for indefensible reasons.
I write this as a born and bred Sooner raised just a short drive from Norman, Oklahoma. My childhood shaped my worldview that the University of Oklahoma and its football program are, without question, college football royalty. Regardless of this indisputable fact, OU’s membership in the Big 12 can’t come to an end fast enough.
Someone, please make this nightmare stop because the administrators leading this absurd parade are sucking the ever-loving joy out of my passion for college football. So, you want a solution?
Let’s take a look at the options OU is facing in the Big 12-4+2=10.
Option 1: For the love of Bud Wilkinson, EJECT!
The least likely – but most coveted – scenario is the one where OU leaves for either the SEC or Big Ten as soon as possible. Staying here is a losing situation and, frankly, OU’s resume and those conferences’ histories make the prospect worthy of marriage. Simply put, the Sooners would fit nicely with either conference and add competitive value.
The question has been posed to me: “what value does OU bring to either of those conferences?
Simple. They’re winners. A history of national hardware rivaled by only a handful of other schools in the country. In this century, the Sooners have won a national title, played for three more and were in the College Football Playoff last year. This is a program that has played top-tier opponents and beat them. In last six years alone, OU swept two-game series with Florida State and Tennessee and split with Notre Dame.
What about the other sports?
OU competes at the elite level in sports throughout the athletic department. But, realignment is about football. Everything else is superfluous, so I’m not going to run down the rather impressive list of accomplishments in hoops and the Olympic sports.
Would OU offer TV sets and revenue opportunity?
Let me say this clearly. WHO CARES? At some point, college administrators were able to convince fans that the possibility of a more lucrative TV contract was important…to the fans. The bean counters were able to get fans to buy into the idea that “expanding a conference’s digital footprint” was logic enough for adding a team to a league’s roster.
I am an OU fan. I want to watch the Sooners play in a league that is fun and worthy. How much money OU makes from a conference TV contract couldn’t mean any more to me than the premier date of the next Bridget Jones movie. OU needs to be connected to those who view college football with the same level of intensity.
SEC fan bases would be kindred spirits to those who don the crimson and cream. Fans down South are passionate. They’re committed. They’re irrational. They have it all! OU would be a cultural fit and would bring a football tradition that would be second only to Alabama. An SEC West slate that included home games against LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn and Arkansas, offset by road trips to Tuscaloosa, College Station and Starkville? Sounds like Heaven.
The Big Ten would also be an incredible step up and would also surround OU with schools whose fans care about football year round. While being in a league with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State would make my heart skip a beat, the thought of renewing the Nebraska rivalry makes me want to drive across town and pop open a Pearl Beer on Barry Switzer’s patio.
Option 2: Dilution by Expansion
Currently, at least 20 mid-major schools have sent candygrams and gift cards to the Big 12, hoping to win their hearts, affection and an invite. A list that includes Houston, BYU, New Mexico, Arkansas State and Tulane make up the cast for the worst season of The Bachelor ever.
This whole laughable display is the equivalent of your buddy telling you that he can set you up with a prom date. Your immediate question is, “is she hot?” and his reflex response is “dude, she really rocked last week’s biology quiz and I hear she’s a good dancer.”
Adding some mid-level programs to an already porous conference membership would be the most Big 12 thing ever. As a lifelong Sooner, nothing sounds more ridiculous than being in a conference with Central Florida or Cincinnati.
So, if OU isn’t going to leave immediately, then the next best thing is for the Big 12 to stand pat at 10 teams and then seek another destination when the current TV agreement ends in 2025.
Option 3: The Pipe Dream
There are scenarios that have been suggested where the Tiny 10 steals a notable from a Power 5 conference. While it would be absolutely fantastic for Nebraska to come back to the conference and join Florida State as Teams 11 and 12, that is not a realistic view of the world.
Any Power 5 school that would want to jump into this dumpster fire would be out of their minds. The Big 12 is a constant, dysfunctional, open-air catfight and the people in charge show no desire to operate with respect or self-awareness.
I have yet to meet anyone who wants this university to stay here for one more second, much less wait until the broadcast grant of rights agreement runs out in a decade. As someone with a front row seat to this horror show, it’s not a place that any other Power 5 school wants to be a part of.
How did we get here?
Six years ago, OU had an invitation to join the SEC in tandem with Texas A&M. But, the university leadership turned it down because they only would go somewhere if an invite included Oklahoma State. Turning down the SEC – especially with the OSU attachment stipulation – was an insane decision then and it has proven to be even dumber now.
The University of Oklahoma brings significant value to the reputation of any conference. From historical success to being a current elite, OU football is a product that the SEC and B1G would want to have. It’s time for OU to load up the schooner and find another place to call home.
E-mail Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MarkCFried.
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