Tuesday, December 3, 2013

wiki update --- the origins of the Big 12

I sometimes get really hacked off with Wikipedia and feel compelled to write some stuff.  I wrote the USFL stuff, the CIS stuff, and today I hugely rewrote the origins section of the Big 12 as best I could.

I want to save it here before some wiki Nazi butchers it.


A lot of factors laid the groundwork for the formation of the Big 12.

The last days of the College Football Association

On June 27, 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma that the NCAA's television plan for selling it's members sports content and disbursing the funds violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.
As a result, individual schools and athletic conferences were freed to negotiate contracts on their own behalf. The Big Ten and Pacific-10 conferences sold their rights to ABC.
Most of the rest of the Division I-A football programs (what is now called the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision) chose to sell their rights together through an organization called the College Football Association to ABC and CBS. The primary function of the CFA was to negotiate television broadcast rights for its member conferences and independent colleges.
By 1990, the television landscape had changed and a number of the stronger programs saw opportunities for better deals outside of the CFA. Notre Dame left the CFA and sold their home game broadcast rights to NBC.[3]
When the Southeastern Conference invited the University of Arkansas and the University of South Carolina to join the conference in 1990, it created shockwaves across the CFA. The other conferences in the CFA correctly assumed the SEC made these additions to create a better TV product with the idea of leaving the CFA.
The SEC represented one of the more valuable assets in the CFA. It seemed likely if the SEC departed, the other conferences could have quite a difficult time securing TV deals with good exposure.
After Arkansas' departure from the Southwest Conference, the SWC and Big Eight Conference recognized they were in a poor position in this new era of conference TV deals. Both had markets of approximately the same size --- about 8.5% of the nations TV households. The SEC had a much larger share of the nation's TV audience.
In February 1994, the Southeastern Conference announced that they would be leaving the CFA and negotiate independently for a television deal that covered SEC schools only. This led The Dallas Morning News to proclaim that "the College Football Association as a television entity is dead".[4] In 1995, the SEC and the Big East broke from the CFA, signing a national deal with CBS. More significantly, this change in television contracts ultimately would lead to significant realignment of college conferences, with the biggest change being the dissolution of the Big Eight and the Southwest Conferences and the formation of the Big 12.

The twilight of the Southwest Conference

For decades the Southwest Conference was one of the most dominant football conferences in America. In terms of football, it was seen as a peer to other elite conferences like the PAC-10, Big 10, SEC, and Big Eight.
Then pro football came to Dallas and Houston. Football attendance at Rice, SMU, TCU, and Houston collapsed. For over two decades, the SWC membership struggled with the issue. The three programs with the strongest fan support, The University of Texas, The University of Arkansas, and Texas A&M resented having to play less lucrative games in conference against very small crowds. The big three began to voice their frustration.
In response to these pressures, the SWC schools with the smaller budgets felt a more pressing need to win to keep fans coming in. They began paying top players to come to their schools. In the 1980's most of the SWC schools spent some time on probation for rule violations. SMU was given the death penalty for their rule violations.
As sanctions began to sap the quality of play in the conference, the conference made a lot of financial rule changes, including allowing home teams to keep their gate revenue (Gate revenue was a much larger portion of operating funds in those days), to attempt to appease the big three. These efforts didn't satisfy the big three.
Eventually Arkansas left for the Southeast Conference, a more financially sound conference.
The Southwest Conference could not find a replacement it's membership would agreed upon. With UT and Texas A&M unhappy, no help on the way, and no meaningful concessions left to give, it began to look like the conference might be in trouble.

Predatory Conferences

Arkansas leaving the legendary Southwest Conference and Penn State joining the Big Ten created a sense of fear in most of the conferences in the CFA.
Missouri had shown interest in Big Ten membership after Penn State joined.[5] Around 1993, the Big Ten explored adding Kansas, Missouri, and Rutgers, or other potential schools, to create a 14-team league with two divisions.[6]
In the early 1990s, Texas had advanced negotiations with the SEC. UT's leadership abruptly terminated negotiations when it became clear that the SEC did not share Texas's views on the need to strive for academic excellence among members.[5]
Texas then looked westward and had discussions with the PAC-10, a conference with similar academic views. The PAC-10 wanted to add UT and the University of Colorado. For some reason, it never occurred.
Some reports state the Stanford refused to vote to admit UT. (The PAC-10 required unanimous votes for expansion.) UT's leadership at one point stated they had a standing offer from the PAC-10. One report stated that the offer was changed to UT and Texas A&M. It does not appear that there was ever PAC-10 support for that idea. This change allegedly upset the leadership at Colorado and drove them to take a more active role in the survival of the Big Eight.
(Colorado's Chancellor James Corbridge was also the Big Eight chairman. He was very involved with the TV negotiations for the new conference and the integration of the Texas schools.[8])
The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma's leaderships both looked favorably on the idea of being in the same conference, but it was not either school's only option. Former Kansas State University president Jon Wefald has voiced fears that if UT had joined the PAC-10, there would be no way for the Big Eight to ramp up their TV payouts in order to retain the University of Oklahoma. The Big Eight feared OU would join the SEC for more lucrative TV payouts.[9]

Negotiations with Texas and the Southwest Conference schools

The Big Eight had been in pursuit of some kind of alliance with the Southwest Conference since Arkansas's departure destabilized that historic conference.
The Big Eight and SWC members saw the potential financial benefits from an alliance to negotiate television deals, but a true alliance of 16 teams which would retain the seven other SWC schools was not viewed as optimal by UT. For years the Big Eight could not interest UT in a merger. Without Texas to ensure the retention of Oklahoma, the Big Eight wasn't interested.[9]
There were reports at the end of 1993 of discussions of the Big Eight potentially adding BYU and only half of the SWC, with SMU, TCU, Rice, and Houston being "priced out" of the new conference.[10]
The Big Eight began negotiations with ABC and ESPN for a new conference that would feature football powers Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas.

Texas politicians prevent Texas from joining the Big Eight on their own

In Texas, word leaked out that UT & Texas A&M were close to leaving the SWC for other conferences; UT to the Big Eight and eventually Texas A&M to the SEC. Texas state senator David Sibley, a Baylor alum and member of the very powerful Senate Finance Committee, approached UT Chancellor Bill Cunningham and asked him pointedly whether UT planned to leave the SWC on it's own for the Big Eight. Cunningham tried to change the subject. Ultimately he did not deny it.
Sibley approached LT Governor Bob Bullock, a Tech and Baylor alumn and probably the most feared and powerful man in Texas politics at the time. They put together a cabal of Tech and Baylor legislators who worked to threaten Texas and Texas A&M's access to the state of Texas's Permanent University Fund.
Bullock called together a meeting of cabal legislators as well as UT's and Texas A&M's leadership on February 20, 1994 [11] and a deal was worked out. A&M was convinced not to pursue membership in the SEC (LSU was prepared to sponsor the Aggies) in return for Bullock finding the votes to approve the construction of Reed Arena. Baylor and Texas Tech would join the Aggies in coming with UT into the new version of the Big Eight.[5]
(Texas's Governor Ann Richards, a Baylor and UT alum, is often credited with getting Baylor included, but while she was informed she was conspicuously absent from February 20 meeting[5] and there are no investigative reports out there that confirm her active involvement. Richards' own former Chief of Staff, John Fainter, is on record saying "She just was not involved to any great degree in working that out...I'd have to say she was informed, but she wasn't pounding the table or anything like that." Richards was aware of the public perception of her involvement and the thought amused her.[10])
At the time of the deal, Texas politicians denied any coercion took place. Over the years, Texas based investigative reporters looking into the formation of the Big 12 consistently challenge that notion. The idea that the Bullock and the state government coerced A&M to join and forced UT to take Tech and Baylor to the Big 12 has constantly been downplayed by UT's leadership of the time,[12] but a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article from February 24, 1994 quoted then Baylor President Herb Reynolds in thanking Bob Bullock and the other politicians for Baylor getting into the Big 12. Despite Baylor's strong credentials for inclusion, clearly Reynolds felt the politicians did play a key role in getting the Bears and Texas Tech into the new conference.[13]


On February 25, 1994, it was announced that a new conference would be formed from the members of the Big Eight and four of the Texas member colleges of the Southwest Conference.[14][15][16] Though the name would not be made official for several months, newspaper accounts immediately dubbed the new entity the "Big 12".[17] Charter members of the Big 12 included: Baylor University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Iowa State University, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University–Stillwater, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and Texas Tech University.
Three months after formation, the schools of the new conference officially selected the conference's name: the Big 12 Conference.[16] Athletic competition in the conference commenced on August 31, 1996. Although at the time of its formation the Big 12 was composed of the old Big Eight plus the four Texas schools, it regards itself as a separate conference and not an enlarged Big Eight. As such, it does not claim the Big Eight's history as its own.
Seven cities were considered for the conference's headquarters including:Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City (the former headquarters of the Big Eight), Lubbock, Texas, Oklahoma City, and Omaha, Nebraska before locating in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.[18]
From the conference's formation until the 2010–11 season, the Big 12 was split into two divisions for football. The Oklahoma and Texas schools formed the South Division, while the six northernmost schools formed the North Division.

One last gasp by the PAC-10

The PAC-10 would eventually vote to unanimously offer a slot to UT and Colorado at the end of 1994, but UT turned them down outright [19] and the CU Regents also rejected the offer in a conspicuously lopsided 6-3 vote,[8][20] opting to stay in the new Big 12.

Immediate plans for future expansion

The four Southwest Conference schools were not the only candidates the Big Eight members considered. After the Big 12 was founded, there were leaks in 1994 that the conference also had a plan for a 14 team membership in order to secure a larger share of the nation's TV audience than the SEC, something much of the conference leadership felt might be vital for it's future TV negotiations.
Reports were confirmed that Brigham Young University and the University of New Mexico, then in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), were actively being considered for membership in the new conference and if the conference should then decide to go to 16 schools, the University of Louisville and Memphis State University would be favorites to fill those slots.[21] In anticipation of the possibility of expansion to 14 by 1996, the new conference trademarked not only the name "Big 12" but also the name "Big 14".[22] The idea was that BYU and New Mexico would raise the conference footprint to 20% of the nation's TV households while also giving the northern division another football powerhouse in BYU. Articles of the day suggested support for the idea was not uniform among Big 12 schools and many quotes suggested such an expansion was only a future possibility.
In an odd action taken by a key member of a candidate school being considered by a much more lucrative conference, UNM's athletic director Rudy Davalos --- former athletic director at the University of Houston --- questioned the logic of the Big 12 adding UNM in the media. Davalos also publicly expressed a commitment to the WAC in the same article.[21] It is possible that factions in the Big 12 were pushing for a different 14th member. There was also talk that the addition of BYU might be opposed by Baylor and a few other schools. TCU's AD at the time, Frank Windegger was told by collegues that TCU was discussed as a package deal with BYU, with the idea even going to a vote --- but the expansion vote was narrowly defeated.[23]
Ultimately the conference chose to stay at 12 members. BYU's athletic director Clayne Jensen told the press that while the addition of BYU could likely pay for the Cougars' admission as the conference's 13th member, it appeared no other candidate school made financial sense to come in as the 14th member.[22] It is unclear whether that statement was truly the sentiment of the leaderships at the dissenting schools in voting down the admission of BYU with a partner or whether the statement was designed to soothe BYU's jilted fan base.
The greater influence held by the schools in the southern division would later be cited repeatedly as a key component in Nebraska's eventual decision to leave.


  1. ^ Sandomir, Richard (1991-08-25). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Notre Dame Scored a $38 Million Touchdown on Its TV Deal". New York Times (nyyimes.com). Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  2. Jump up ^ Maisel, Ivan (February 12, 1994). "SEC OFFICIALLY LEAVES CFA; BIG EAST WILL FOLLOW SOON". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved August 25, 2012. 
  3. Jump up ^ "Missouri Interested In Jumping To The Big Ten". January 16, 1993. Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  4. Jump up ^ Sherman, Ed (1993-12-10). "Kansas, Big 10 a good fit?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b c Mark Wagrin (September 14, 2005). "THE DEMISE OF THE SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE". mysanantonio.com. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  6. ^ Jump up to: a b ELLIOTT ALMOND (December 23, 1994). "Colorado Votes to Stay in Big 12 : Colleges: Pacific 10 Conference is rebuffed in attempt to expand.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  7. ^ Jump up to: a b http://espn.go.com/blog/big12/tag/_/name/bill-cunningham
  8. Jump up ^ John Robinson (december 6,1993). "BYU BEING COURTED BY BIG 8, SWC?". Deseret News. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  9. Jump up ^ http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/sunday-commentary/20130830-money-power-and-politics-at-ut.ece
  10. ^ Jump up to: a b BRIAN DAVIS (Wednesday, August 30, 2006). "How Baylor got into the Big 12". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  11. Jump up ^ . Fort Worth Star-Telegram. February 24, 1994 http://www.killerfrogs.com/msgboard/index.php?showtopic=140917&p=906835. Retrieved December 2, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. Jump up ^ "Politics played big part information of Big 12". The Deseret News. February 28, 1994. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  13. Jump up ^ "Texas Giants Merge With Big 8". The Nevada Daily Mail, via Google News. Associated Press. February 27, 1994. 
  14. ^ Jump up to: a b "Presidents Decide on Name: Big 12". Lawrence Journal-World, via Google News. Associated Press. May 13, 1994. 
  15. Jump up ^ "Politics played big part in formation of Big 12". February 28, 1994. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  16. Jump up ^ Van-Wagenen, Chris (1995-11-11). "City Dangles Incentives to Lure Big 12 Office". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. p. 1A. 
  17. Jump up ^ http://articles.philly.com/1994-12-22/sports/25856028_1_pac-10-texas-tech-big-eight
  18. Jump up ^ Doug Tucker (December 23, 1994). "COLORADO REJECTS PAC-10 OFFER, STAYS IN BIG 12". Deseret News. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  19. ^ Jump up to: a b Burch, Jimmy (February 24, 1994). "LATEST RUMOR: BIG EIGHT TARGETS Y., NEW MEXICO". The Deseret News. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  20. ^ Jump up to: a b Burch, Jimmy (February 28, 1994). "'Big 14' would need 2 BYUs". The Deseret News. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  21. Jump up ^ DAMIEN PIERCE (November 27, 2005). "Breakup still stings the TCU faithful". The Fort Worth Star Telegram. Retrieved December 2, 2013.

update:8/1/15 --- several of my links aren't numbered right. I am not sure what happened there.  I straightened out the links about Ann Richards.  They are actually direct links to the right articles now.  One of these days I'll unsnarl the rest.

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