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Bob Lutz: Losing A&M is the Big 12 wound that won't heal

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, August 31, 2011, at 4:50 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Sep. 1, 2011, at 1:41 p.m.

As your parting gift, Texas A&M, you receive a one-year subscription to the Longhorn Network, the 24-hour channel that airs nothing but Texas-related sports. It's the least we could do to acknowledge your 15-year participation in the Big 12.

Oh wait, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds is willing to throw in a pair of burnt orange cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat with the Longhorns' logo front and center. How magnanimous.

We certainly wish you well as you embark on your trip to the Southeastern Conference, where a bunch of mean and nasty Southerners await your arrival and can't wait to knock you around on the football field.

You thought Big 12 football was tough? Wait until you get Alabama, LSU and Florida on one schedule. But we respect your decision, acknowledge your successes (although it's been a while since you had any in a major sport) and would like you to write occasionally.

OK, now on to what happens to Big 12 football from here.

This is, after all, Texas' conference. Yes, some of it also belongs to Oklahoma, which has the muscle to at least stand next to the Longhorns.

After that . . . not much.

Now that Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M have left or are leaving the conference, who is left to throw haymakers at the Big 2?

Nebraska has had some iffy seasons of late, but the Cornhuskers had an even more impressive football pedigree than Texas and one that is on par with OU. The Huskers, though, made it clear they didn't want to put up with what they perceived as a tipping of balance in the conference, with the Longhorns being the big tipper.

Colorado enthusiastically skedaddled to the Pac-12.

And now A&M is on the verge of departure.

It leaves a conference OU and Texas can dominate for years, provided the conference can stay together. Which of the remaining seven schools can consistently challenge those behemoths for football championships?

Oklahoma State? Yeah, maybe this season. Maybe next. But has Oklahoma State ever sustained greatness? Or even goodness?

Texas Tech? Uh, no.

Baylor? Get serious.

Missouri? The Tigers have a good football program but haven't made it past that yet.

Iowa State? See Baylor.

Kansas? Look at the Jayhawks' history. You tell me.

Kansas State? Though the Bill Snyder days are still going, the BILL SNYDER DAYS!!! are long gone.

Without Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M and their football programs, the Big 12 has become a watered-down, barely BCS-viable football conference.

Statements coming from the league office in Dallas, and from various university presidents and athletic directors across the Big 12, would have you believe that a plan is in place to react to A&M's departure.

I wonder.

Rumors swirl that Notre Dame could be coming on board. My feeling is that you'll see a team from the University of Neptune playing in the Big 12 before you'll see Notre Dame.

Could the Big 12 convince Arkansas to exit the SEC as A&M is entering? Another theory that most likely holds no water.

I suppose Brigham Young could make some sense, although something tells me the Cougars would rather take their national profile to the Pac-12 to be closer to a few natural rivals.

The suits in the Big 12 office assure fans that the conference is, while one member after another jumps ship, being proactive in finding suitable replacements.

Sorry, but it's not easy to find suitable football replacements for Colorado and Nebraska, both of whom have national championships on their resumes, and Texas A&M, which has everything it needs in facilities, tradition and fan base to be regular in the Top 25.

The Big 12 is seriously weakened. Perhaps that's the way Texas and Oklahoma want it. It sure looks as if their routes to BCS bowl games, potential national titles and mountains of cash is much clearer.

At least until the Big 12 implodes once and for all, which looks more and more likely with each passing former conference member.

If the Big 12 reaches out to an SMU or a Houston to fill the void left by A&M's departure, it should be regarded as applying a Band-Aid to a gaping wound.

The conference is scrambling as the inevitable tide toward 16-team super conferences continues. Some day the Big 12 should be the first to the 16-school party.

The problem with that is that finding schools to come to the Big 12, a geographically-strapped conference without much room to grow, will be difficult.

The SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten are in the best positions to expand and already have done so. The Big East and ACC are in a holding pattern much like the Big 12, hoping to hold on to members in a fast-changing world.

Hold on. Nobody has any idea where this is going.

Check sports columnist Bob Lutz's blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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