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Guerin Emig: Big 12 could have a future with Nebraska, A&M, Mizzou, Colorado back aboard... but only in Dreamland
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Guerin Emig: Big 12 could have a future with Nebraska, A&M, Mizzou, Colorado back aboard... but only in Dreamland

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A theory that several of you have touted via email: The best way for the Big 12 Conference to stay in business after Oklahoma and Texas leave is to invite back former members Nebraska, Texas A&M, Colorado and Missouri.

All right, let’s play along.

Why would the Big 12 be interested? Because adding Power 5 schools beats a Group of 5/American Athletic Conference raid that does nothing for your league.

Adding the old Big 12’ers beats a Pac-12 raid for Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado. No battleships in that bunch.

The Big 12 needs OU and Texas type artillery now that the Sooners and Longhorns have made their SEC intentions public. Nebraska and Texas A&M are as close as the Big 12 could come.

Why would the old Big 12’ers even take Bob Bowlsby’s call? A combination of bitterness and sadness.

Texas A&M has never liked Texas and never will. The Aggies couldn’t get out of the Longhorns’ shadow fast enough when the SEC invited them a decade ago.

When news broke that Bevo set his stare on the SEC, Reveille coughed up her bone.

Nebraska doesn’t care for Texas either. The Huskers have had their tiffs with the Big Ten. They had a fat one last August as the conference initially decided against playing football amid the pandemic.

Maybe Big Red would be receptive to a Texas-less Big 12.

Maybe Big Red would be receptive to slowing its sad football decline.

The Huskers have five winning and five losing seasons in 10 years of Big Ten football.

Colorado has two winning and eight seasons in 10 years of Pac-12 football.

Missouri has two winning, four losing and three .500 seasons in conference games since joining the SEC in 2012. A&M’s scoreboard under the same circumstances: three winning, one losing and five .500 seasons.

All four programs took wrong turns in the Big 12, too, but Nebraska’s and Colorado’s have accelerated in their latest leagues. They could stand a competitive change. It wouldn’t hurt A&M and Mizzou to consider the same.

So there is a world where on-field results, personal agendas and Big 12 interest (desperation?) advance our original theory.

It’s too bad that’s Dreamland, where $100 bills sprout like fescue blades.

Why wouldn’t the old Big 12’ers be interested in a reunion? Let’s bring in Steve Berkowitz. He’s the outstanding USA Today project reporter who follows college sports’ money via tax document analysis and media firm consultation.

Berkowitz estimates that an SEC with its 14 current teams plus OU and Texas could generate up to $1.3 billion by fiscal year 2024-25. That’s about $70 million per SEC school that year under Berkowitz’s guidance that the SEC distributes 85-90% of its revenue to the schools.

Texas A&M might hate Texas and Missouri might hate mediocrity, but who in America doesn’t love wealth beyond their wildest dreams? Certainly nobody running big-time college athletics, where everlasting financial security is always the prime directive.

The Aggies and Tigers are in this lot. They won’t just stay in an SEC including OU and Texas, they’ll offer a toast at the reception, Reveille in the corner chewing her meatier bone.

Berkowitz’s handy work from 2019 showed the Big Ten netting a record $759 million during fiscal year 2018. Nebraska cashed a $50 million distribution check.

In May of 2019, the Big 12’s hope was for revenue to climb toward mid-$40 million by the end of its media rights package in 2025. The Big Ten was already beyond that.

Nebraska is as aware of that as Texas A&M and Missouri are aware of the SEC’s future windfall. The Huskers, like the Aggies and Tigers, aren’t making a dash from that kind of cash.

Colorado would have a decision at least. The Pac-12 suffered daily migraines with Larry Scott as commissioner, financial and otherwise.

The Buffs might feel better now that George Kliavkoff has replaced Scott. At any rate, they should feel better about a Pac-12 featuring USC than a Big 12 without OU and Texas.

The Buffs should feel better about the Pac-12’s market position with USC when it comes to the next round of media rights negotiation, with the caveat that feeling better is relative after what the SEC has done.

As the landscape stands right now, woe is the Big 12’s position. If it wants to survive post-OU and Texas, it must do something beyond standing pat, adding Group of 5 schools or adding mid-pack Power 5s.

The Big 12 could bring back Nebraska, Texas A&M, Colorado and Missouri and give the future a go. If only that future was based in reality.

Featured video: Who are the all-time best football players from the Big 12?

Tulsa World sports columnist Bill Haisten names his top 12 from the Big 12 era.

guerin.emig@tulsaworld.com

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Sports Columnist

I'm the proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the OU Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.

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