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Soak In The Big 12’s Last Ride

Big 12's Last Ride

College football’s week zero presents plenty of football tastes like a Michelin-star restaurant presents tapas. The bite explodes with flavor. It strikes all of those taste receptors like a linebacker de-cleating a poor slot receiver on a slant route. But until the main dish comes out, everyone’s insatiable desire for more only grows. Now imagine knowing that the restaurant, even though it has been established for decades in its current location and has passionate fans coming from all around the area, is shutting down. The ownership group believes it can make more money if they take the restaurant 300 miles east. It knowingly abandons what it has established for the pursuit of more money. Big 12 play is sitting out week zero, but when week one rolls around, fans better be ready. The Big 12’s last ride is going to be wild, fun, and full of bitters reserved usually for the best Old Fashions.

How Did We Get Here?

Realignment talk was always best in a hypothetical space. But then TV executives decided to start taking some of these hypothetical shuffling of teams and bring them to reality. The Big 12 has known for a while now that Houston, BYU, UCF, and Cincinnati would become Big 12 members this year. But that move came out of necessity. Realignment has been around for much of college football’s history. The modern-day realignment can be traced back to the creation of the Longhorn Network. Back in 2010, the Pac 12 (then Pac 10, and currently Pac 4) had an opportunity to create the first “super-conference.” They had positioned themselves to take six programs out of the Big 12, including both Oklahoma schools and three Texas schools. But in the eleventh hour, the deal fell apart. Colorado still left for the Pac, while Texas A&M took off to the SEC.

Keep Your Friends Close

Fast forward a decade and those realignment playbooks got dusted off. The infamous Alliance with the ACC, Big 10, and Pac 12, was supposed to be a great stabilizer. But the Big 10 pulled off a backstabbing that would even have Brutus and Benedict Arnold uneasy about going forward. After all, “There’s an agreement among three gentlemen,” Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said at the time. “… And there doesn’t need to be (a contract).”

So for the last two years, we have seen major changes all set to take place in the 2024 season. Specifically in the Big 12, its long-time flagship bearers of Texas and Oklahoma are off to the SEC. Many thought that they would have been playing SEC ball already. Texas and Oklahoma were “too proud” to just be lame-duck partners in the Big 12. But because they have decided to see the end of this Big 12 contract, they will be playing in a unique 14-team Big 12 for one season.

Big 12’s Last Ride Will Be Full Of Multiple “Super Bowls”

Love ’em or hate ’em, Texas and Oklahoma are the undisputed biggest brands the Big 12 has ever had. They have bullied their way around the conference (see unequal revenue distribution), even though neither has played for a national championship since the 2008 season. Oklahoma certainly has been much closer than Texas. But the Big 12’s last ride will host so many “Super Bowls” even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would be jealous. The social media jokes of Texas and Oklahoma fans claiming every school treats them like “their Super Bowl” will actually be true this year.

All of the remaining Big 12 programs will love nothing more to send both the Longhorns and Sooners out the door with a swift kick. It also appears that Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark is not exactly wishing them the best in 2023. The towns of Waco, Houston, Fort Worth, Ames, Cincinnati, Lawrence, Stillwater, and Provo will have some extra juice in the stadium when either Texas or Oklahoma comes to town this year.

Biggest Big 12 Game Is In Stillwater, Not Arlington

The must-see event of the Big 12’s last ride will be Bedlam. For the casual viewer, it is hard to sell someone that they will miss a rivalry in which one side has a 91-19-7 record against the other. It truly is the case of big brother shooing away little brother on an annual basis. Mike Gundy, the greatest coach in Oklahoma State history, is only 3-15 against the state bully. And yet, Boone Pickens Stadium will be buzzin’ like hordes of angry cicadas.

In fact, if anyone reading needs to introduce someone to college football, this would be the one game I would show them this season. Gundy and Oklahoma State have very clearly pointed the finger at the Sooners for not continuing the rivalry. And, quite frankly, Oklahoma hasn’t exactly responded strongly against it. The level of venom and passion that will be spilling out of the orange-clad faithful in this game is something that college football fans will bathe in like a pig in mud.

Thanks For The Memories

It is sad that nothing but egos are going to be the death of great in-state rivalries in the Big 12 footprint. College football fans were robbed for the last 11 seasons without the Longhorns and Aggies playing each other. The sport was built on regional rivalries. So Bedlam being gone means less actual bedlam in workplaces, schools, bars, and neighborhoods. Texas claims they want to maintain a game with Texas Tech, but if it doesn’t make financial sense to the Longhorns, that game will die off. Big 12 fans have every right to be mad at their departure.

But no one needs to pretend that this conference would have become the Big 12 without them. Remember that first time at our Michelin-star restaurant? Remember how incredible it was? It was so good, we couldn’t quit it. Even when the chef became more pompous and wouldn’t let us make changes to the menu, we kept coming back because it still was amazing. So now, for the Big 12’s last ride, they are giving all of us an exclusive once-in-a-lifetime tasting menu.

They are even setting up outdoor seating to accommodate more patrons. The new owner actually just announced an open bar for this last dinner hour. It opens on Thursday, August 31st, and is going to stay open until December 2nd. The future does look bright for the Big 12, but it won’t be the same. Realignment has taught us that nothing can truly be predicted. There could be another massive shuffling that happens again in five or six years. So enjoy this gift from the college football Iron Chefs. And, just like Fall Out Boy reminds us, we will always be thankful for the clear memories of the Big 12’s last ride.

I’m looking forward to the futureBut my eyesight is going badAnd this crystal ballIt’s always cloudy except for (except for)When you look into the past

 

Big 12's Last Ride

Photo courtesy: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

 

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