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Big 12 Leaders Need To Become The Predators Instead Of The Prey

It's high time the Big 12 leadership stops waiting to find out what Oklahoma and Texas are going to do and starts becoming more proactive in shaping and securing the future of the Big 12 Conference.

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Dan Beebe, Big 12 commissioner
Dan Beebe, Big 12 commissioner

Memo to the Big 12 Board of Directors: You can't play, and you certainly can't score, if you don't get in the game. For the past several weeks now we've been hearing that everything in the Big 12 office regarding conference realignment is virtually on hold depending on what Oklahoma decides to do. Before that, it was...until Texas A&M announces what its plans are.

Unless commissioner Dan Beebe and the leadership of the other Big 12 member institutions are simply willing to concede defeat and chalk all of this up to a sad sign of the times, the future of the Big 12 is not fully dependent on what Texas A&M does, or Oklahoma, or even Texas. It's time for a wakeup call at the Big 12 headquarters. Time is running short, for sure, but all is not lost, regardless of what happens with the Sooners or Longhorns.

For the past six weeks, the resurgence of the conference realignment issue in college sports has been centered on the Big 12. This is largely because of the recent actions taken by Texas A&M to bail on the Big 12 in favor of greener (as in money) pastures in the SEC and, more recently, with David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma, declaring that the Sooners aren't convinced that the Big 12 can stand on its own for the long term and that OU wasn't going to standby - like a "wallflower," he said - and wait for the conference's fragile house of cards to come tumbling down.

In the last week, we've learned that it isn't just Oklahoma that is working to secure a welcome deal with the Pac-12, but also officials from Oklahoma State (which, despite their differences, prefers to be with Oklahoma in whatever conference configuration), Texas and, to round things off nicely, Texas Tech.  

There's even wide talk that should the four schools from the former Big 12 South move to the Pac-12, as speculated, the new 16-team league would be subdivided into four, four-team pods. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech would make up one of the pods and, as a result, would continue to play each other every season, as they do now.

With the feeding frenzy that is now rekindled in the college sports landscape, for the Big 12 to stay on the sidelines claiming that its hands are tied until it understands what is going on is nothing more than a self-administered death sentence. It's quickly getting to the point, if isn't already there, where schools aren't just looking elsewhere as an opportunity to increase revenues, but also out of fear of being left behind when all the seats are filled.

I like the way Daily Oklahoman sports columnist Berry Tramel describes what is going on in the Big 12 regarding the realignment issue. "The Big 12 has reached the point where finding replacements for Nebraska, Colorado and A&M is not the problem," he writes. "The problem is sleeping at night and not knowing who will be there when you wake up."

The SEC, the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the ACC are the Big Super 4 conferences that seem destined for the long haul when all the earth tremors under way in college athletics finally shake out and the new athletic conference landscape is formed. There will still be other smaller conferences, for sure, but as far as BCS conferences are concerned, there will probably be no more than five and, most probably, four superconferences.

That means either the Big East - which, as of Tuesday, appears to be down to four survivors, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh already having applied for membership to the ACC, and Connecticut and Rutgers, in the past 24 hours, having begun to make overtures to that same conference - or the Big 12 is probably doomed for extinction.

Let's just consider for a moment that the four aforementioned schools are gone from the Big East and that the same is true of the Big 12, with the inevitable departures of Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech. It's true that none of this is happening right away because of ongoing negotiations, legal constraints and accompanying political showboating and filibustering, but to make a point, we are cutting through all the red tape for a moment.

Given this scenario, West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida would be the only remaining teams in football - and make no mistake, this entire transformation is ALL about football - from the Big East, until 2012, at least, when TCU is scheduled to join the ranks. Meanwhile, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor would be what remained of the Big 12.

Rather than wait for Missouri and Kansas to jump ship, out of fear for their future, for, say, the Big Ten or Big East as part of conference expansion in those leagues, wouldn't it make more sense to become the predator instead of the prey and work to absorb some or all of the Big East schools into the Big 12 rather than the other way around?

There's nothing to say that the four referenced Big East schools would be interested in becoming affiliated with the Big 12, of course, but with all the current craziness, who's to say they wouldn't. Those four schools, plus TCU, are very formidable in football, and they also have a strong history in basketball. So nothing would be lost in either major sport.

One of these two BCS conferences is almost certain to become history in the not too distant future, and there's nothing that says it has to be the Big 12.

If Big 12 officials don't start taking a more proactive stance, however, the Big 12 and the roots from which it came will soon be nothing more than a memory.