Let’s skip the foreplay and go in dry:
The Big 12 is playing football this fall. It surprised some, and it should not have. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been on the record for months saying that not only would the Big 12 play, but that they would have a full season — and indeed, would be bumping up the beginning of their season.
Nothing done by administrators in Columbus or Ann Arbor or Tucson or Eugene mattered, in the end. And, really, given the regional nature of the virus, the dozens of separate state-level responses, the already endemic spread, and the multifarious conference testing and sheltering protocols in place, should it have?
The answer from the Big 12 was a resounding no. Facts on the ground did not warrant deviating from a course that they began traversing a month ago. In fact, Bowlsby said what I did in my piece on Monday — what we knew 60 days ago is worthless today.
So, here’s your Big 12 football schedule for the Fall of 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us begin with some mood music...
For a few hours of speculation (and to the seeming delight of some), it seemed as though the buckle in America’s Meth Belt may actually capitulate to the pressure put on by click-chasing sportswriters, a cynical and craven Big 10, and the latter’s pawn on the Left Coast.
But, really, why did we ever think that?
The Big 12 is not a conference of equals; it is not 12 constituent parts made stronger by their cohesion.
No, the Big 12 is what it has always been — Texas and Oklahoma playing overlord to seven other vassal institutions. And when it comes to who’s paying the bills and calling the shots, Mama Sooner and Daddy Longhorn, the chilluns’ don’t get a meaningful seat at the grown-up table.
Whether the Big 12 would participate in Fall sports is, and always was, a decision to be made by the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma.
The Texas Longhorns are the most valuable franchise in college football, being worth $1.1 billion dollars, with annual revenue nearing $200 million. The Oklahoma Sooners are the 7th most valuable college football “franchise,” worth $880 million dollars, and an annual revenue of approximately $180 million. (Alabama is 3rd, being worth $1 billion dollars, and joining the real UT and Ohio State as the only members of the billionaire club).
So, when the Big 12 presidents met last night to decide on whether or not to kick the decision over to the Athletic Directors, what happened today was always going to be a fait accompli. And it was a coup that bought the rest of the country significant political cover, if we’re being honest.
There is the other piece of this puzzle that we cannot lose sight of either — that Bowlsby and the other administrators listened to their student-athletes. Now, whether that was in good faith or not can be contested. It could be just as cynical as the Big 10 hiding behind 50-year-old data to shy away from liability. But, the fact they actually paid lip service to the wishes of the players who engage in the sport cannot be overlooked. And, in this era of nascent labor tension, that alone is worth incalculable goodwill among players, alumni, and recruits.
Just as interesting, we now get to speculate if this wasn’t all a giant “F You” to the Big 10 in the first place.
Judging from the recalcitrance of our independent-minded westerners throughout this process, the ACC putting a science smack-down on the Big 10, and Greg Sankey’s snarky reply to the Big 10 suddenly deciding that new data existed, we can draw the conclusion that the appearance of Kevin Warren lying to his peers was very much substantiated.
This leaves a power vacuum now. A very real power vacuum that Jim Delaney most certainly would not have let be created. So, in this power play of political dominance, Kevin Warren and the Big 10 have abdicated the role of ubermensch.
Greg Sankey, like his predecessors Mike Slive and Roy Kramer, now swings the biggest pair of hairy low-hangers at the urinal.
And you can thank a Texan for the paradigm shift we literally watched unfold in just 24 hours.