There has been a lot of talk this week about a possible shakeup of the major NCAA conferences, most strikingly, the dissolution of the Big 12.
Nebraska and Missouri are courting invitations to join the Big 10, and the Pac 10 is looking to gobble up six remaining schools from the Big 12: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado.
If both of those scenarios play out, it will leave the remaining four schools of the big 12: Kansas, Kansas state, Iowa State, and Baylor in limbo.
As a long time Baylor fan and twice alumni (BA and Ph.D.), I have a vested interest in the outcome of the current discussions.
I came to Baylor as an undergraduate in the inaugural year of the big 12, 1996. It has been a roller-coaster existence for Baylor in this major conference. On the bright side, Baylor has performed very well in sports overall in the conference. In the last seven years, we are third in the conference with 28 regular season and conference tournament wins behind only Texas (55) and A&M (30). We have had national championships in Women's Basketball and Men's Tennis. Our Men's Basketball team is on the rise with its two tournament appearances in the past three years, a sweet 16 appearance this year, and the NIT championship game last year.
Yet, with all of this success, the one glaring problem is that of football. Come on, it is Texas. Since the league's inception in 1996, Baylor has not been able to muster more than five wins in a season or more than three conference wins in a season. We have racked up a 13-43 conference record. We are also on a 15 year bowl drought, last playing in the Alamo Bowl in a loss to Washington state in 1994. The inability of our football program to gain any meaningful ground since joining the conference has prompted some discussion among fans of moving to a less competitive conference, say the WAC or Mountain West.
That discussion goes something like this: would you rather stay in the big 12, a conference where we have been unable to compete in football and have failed to make bowl eligibility in 15 years, or would you rather play in a "weaker" conference like the WAC and have the opportunity to win conference championships from time to time and play in bowl games more seasons than not. The thought is tempting after watching our team get beat down season after season. Even in seasons when it appears that we have a good pre-season outlook, like this last season, something happens to shatter fans' hopes and dreams (like, tearing of Griffin's ACL this last year).
Yet, the flipside is the money. Baylor gets loads of money from the Big 12 and would suffer a tremendous pay cut in a move to a second tier conference.
Well, it appears like the decision might be made for us rather quickly. Baylor and the Texas state legislature are pushing for our inclusion in the Pac 10 invite at the expense of Colorado, but who knows the outcome. What I do know, is that a dissolution of the big 12 would mean a lost of many of our schools' major rivalries: Texas, A&M, and Tech most notably.
In an interesting proposal at Mark Osler's blog, Osler's Razor, he suggests the formation of a new conference made up of private schools with excellent academic records from the middle of the country yet who also have serious sports programs. He calls this a sort of "ivy league" of the country's middle states. The conference would include Baylor, Rice, TCU, SMU, Tulane, BYU, Airforce, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Duke, Navy, Army, William & Mary, UVA.