By Mathew Gogerty
The Big 12 Conference finally appears have some stability and might even have a relatively bright future in the coming years. It’s still a rebuilding process, but the pieces appear to be falling into place for continued growth and stability for each of the member schools.
Hiring Bob Bowlsby was a monumental move, probably the best hire they could have possibly made. The Iowa native has been a proven leader every place he’s been from his start at UNI, to his 14 years at Iowa, and most recently spending his last 6 years at Stanford University. You can bet he had no doubt he could turn the Big 12 into not only a major player, but quite possibly one of the 1st “Super Conferences” in college football to leave his gig at Stanford.
In addition to this hire, the conference has also recently struck a new television deal with Fox and ESPN that should net each Big 12 school close to $20 million a year. This in my opinion was the pivotal factor in keeping this conference alive, as without the monster television contract that nearly every other major conference now has, more teams would continue to leave the Big 12 for greener pastures, literally. This finally gets them up there, and even ahead of most of the other major conferences, at least for now.
So what’s next on the agenda? This year newcomers TCU and West Virginia enter the mix, both of whom should be competitive within the conference from the get-go and I think most would agree that Bowlsby will want to add 2 more teams to the conference to get back to 12, that way they can once again have separate divisions and ultimately a conference championship game. Not just any 2 teams will do however, as these would need to be 2 relevant teams in the football world. The latest rumblings are that he will go after Clemson and Florida State, both from the ACC Conference. Obviously these are just that, rumblings and nothing more at this point, but you can be sure that talks are going to heat up very quickly in regards to more conference realignment.
Now I’ve always been of the mentality that anything that makes the conference stronger and better I’m all for it. That being said, a bigger and stronger conference also means a tougher schedule year in and year out. Some other rumblings going around are that the Bowl requirement qualifications could also be changing sometime in the near future. Once again, these are just rumors for now and may not amount to anything more than that. Currently a 6-6 record will qualify you for a bowl game, but according to some rumors this could change to 7-5 instead, which could be quite detrimental to those programs that struggle to get above .500 for the season as far as their bowl aspirations go.
Yes Cyclone fans, you would most likely be among those most affected within the conference if this were to happen, as not only is your conference schedule continuing to get tougher but you also have that 1 non-conference game every year to play (and no I’m not talking about UNI) which makes it even that much tougher to finish above .500 overall. As it currently stands, the Cyclones haven’t had a winning regular season record since 2005 when they finished with a 7-4 record before losing to, guess who?…TCU in the Houston Bowl. I guess this really could essentially make the Iowa game their bowl game every year. Oh wait, it already is.