Big 12 changes come after a recent 10-school season
Arlington, Texas – On the surface of the Big 12 football media days, nothing really seemed different. The 10 mannequins lining the main stage wore the uniforms of the same schools that have made up the conference for a decade.
As the annual two-day kickoff event drew to a close on Thursday, workers began dismantling the oversized figures and then, one by one, carried them off the stage, which was adorned with all the team logos.
The Big 12 enters its final season as a 10-school league. Oklahoma and Texas, the conference’s only national soccer champions, have at least this season — and up to two more after that — before moving to the Southeastern Conference.
BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF won’t join the Big 12 until next summer. And it’s unclear whether other teams could eventually be added to the mix – from the Pac-12 or elsewhere.
“I don’t want to speculate about the future,” said new Oklahoma coach Brent Venables. “I’m going to maintain it this season and what’s right ahead.”
Right now, the Sooners are trying to win another Big 12 title after that Their record streak of six championships in a row ended last season.
As for the Longhorns, they’re hoping for a big improvement after losing 7-5 on a six-game losing streak in coach Steve Sarkisian’s first season. He hasn’t decided yet whether Hudson Card or Transfer Quinn Ewers will be the starting quarterback, but Sarkisian isn’t worried about that — “We’re in a really good position,” he said — nor is he worried about the pending league switch.
“Regardless of whether we play in the Big 12 this year or in the Big 12 next year or whatever that will be, our style of play, our squad that we have is one that, regardless of who we play against, going to be one that suits us and what we want to do,” said Sarkisian. “That’s just our belief in who we want to be as a team.”
It was a week after the Big 12 media days concluded last July when it was announced that Oklahoma and Texas were planning a move to an expanded SEC.
The Big 12 responded in September with the four entrants, non-football BYU and the three schools in the American Athletic Conference crafting an early departure from that league. UCF had messages on electronic billboards around AT&T Stadium this week expressing the school’s excitement about moving into the Big 12.
“We have really good programs going and we have really good programs coming,” said new Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire.
Matt Campbell, the league’s second-longest-serving coach entering his seventh season, believes the Big 12 are in a strong position now because Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other executives decided last summer to move on, not stand still to stand.
“Probably in much better shape than he was at this point a year ago,” Campbell said Thursday. “A good move at the time because I think it probably put us in a great position to move forward.”
Two weeks before this year’s Big 12 media days, Brett Yormark was named the league’s new commissioner after Bowlsby, 70, decided earlier in the year to retire. There was also another surprising shift in conference alignment when UCLA and Southern California left the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.
Yormark, constantly busy even before his first official day at work August 1, described himself as actively involved in the realignment, with contributions from across the conference. He said during his introduction on Wednesday that he saw “there are opportunities” without specifically naming schools, adding that nothing was imminent.
“If we look at the possibilities, everything will be additive. Nothing will be dilutive,” said Yormark. “I am very confident that our conference is in the best position it has ever been.”
Texas and Oklahoma are expected to remain in the Big 12 through the 2024-25 academic year, which would bring them to the end of the conference’s current media rights deal with ESPN and Fox.
When asked about a potential early departure for the Longhorns and Sooners, Yormark said he expects some future discussions with the two schools and would always look for a “win-win” situation.
That’s what Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said on Wednesday He believed his team’s Bedlam streak would end against Oklahoma when the Sooners leave the conference. And while he said he was joking, he also questioned why OU and Texas still attend Big 12 meetings.
“I think the world is changing and people are saying yes they’ve made a business decision. You know, the new commissioner, if I were him, I wouldn’t let OU and Texas meet,” Gundy said. “I say that as a joke, but actually it’s pretty much the same as always.”
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