By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
After an incredible 2021 football season and the conference championship game, it’s safe to say the Big 12 looks to be in a good spot. There is something of a storybook ending to have the championship game feature neither of the soon-to-exit University of Oklahoma or University of Texas. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that the future of the conference looks very good across all sports. With fall sports nearing to a close, it’s clear to say Baylor and the rest of the Big 12 will be better off without OU and UT.
The initial reaction to the news of the departure back in late July had analysts and fans worried. When the moneymakers of the conference decide to abandon the rest of the bunch, it can pose serious issues even outside of athletics. The issues were resolved with the announcement of the additions to replace OU and UT. It was a great move at the time and seems to be even better now.
The Sooners have dominated football in the Big 12, there’s no doubt about it, with UT also being in the mix most years. Fortunately for the rest of the teams, the conference seems to be entering a new age. The 2021 football season showed an abysmal output from UT and a disappointing campaign from OU. To me, this is more of a reflection on the rest of the conference, and not those schools having a “down year.” For example, Baylor head coach Dave Aranda had former Sooner head coach Lincoln Riley’s number out on the field. To simply put it, he is a clear-cut kryptonite to Riley and his high-powered offense. Aranda, on several occasions dating back to his Louisiana State University days, showed he can slow down the offensive-minded Riley.
For UT, even with the second-best recruiting class in the conference for the season, the Longhorns failed to get a bid for a bowl game. Every year is a similar disappointment, and the only solution in their eyes is to blame their current coach and find a new one. The major benefit to having Texas was their big name and marketable appeal, whether fans like to admit it or not. However, competition-wise, the playing field remains super competitive without them.
What makes the new Big 12 even more interesting is men’s basketball. Brigham Young University and the University of Houston are both ranked in the AP Top 25. UH is also only one year removed from a Final Four run, where they fell to the eventual champion Baylor Bears (Yes, I will still bring it up). BYU put their team on the map with a huge victory over the University of Oregon earlier this season. The University of Cincinnati started the year 5-0, with an upset win over the University of Illinois. The University of Central Florida has a program that took a star-studded Duke University to the brink in the Round of 32 back in 2019. Big 12 hoops was already considered one of, if not the best conferences last season, with their only competition being the Big Ten. UT is a huge loss here, as they have a very loaded team year-in and year-out, but the input of teams will suffice.
The news of OU and UT leaving aged like fine wine for the rest of the Big 12. Do not fret fans, the conference is looking to seriously be better and I expect the competition to be legit. This is, and will remain, a Power 5 conference in all sports, and the future looks as bright as ever.