Column: Big 12’s embarrassing Monday sets conference back for future


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If you’re Bob Bowlsby, you can’t be feeling good about your conference’s prestige after the Big 12 laid a huge egg Monday.

The West Virginia Mountaineers, Texas Longhorns, and Oklahoma Sooners suffered bad losses in their respective bowl games, and that’s putting it nicely.

It sent a negative message as the conference headlined an ESPN triple-header with no Big 12 school coming out victorious.

West Virginia hung with the Texas A&M Aggies for a half, but the former Big 12 member took advantage of a 17-point burst in the third quarter to escape with a win over the Mountaineers in the Autozone Liberty Bowl.

Texas A&M’s 45-37 win wasn’t an “embarrassment,” especially considering WVU starting QB Clint Trickett officially retired from the game after suffering too many concussions prior to the postseason.

However, the two schools the Big 12 hung its hat on for years looked completely lost and completely out-of-place against the likes of the Clemson Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Tigers suffocated and buried the Sooners in a 40-6 win for Clemson in Orlando, Florida.

Former OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables, now in charge of the Tigers’ defense, soaked in a huge bowl victory while Oklahoma looked defeated from the get-go in an ugly Russell Athletic Bowl for Bob Stoops and Co.

The Texas Longhorns looked no better. They lost to the Arkansas Razorbacks, 31-7, in the Advocare Texas Bowl. Charlie Strong’s first year as the Texas head coach concluded with a 6-7 record, and the Horns only put up 59 yards of offense on Arkansas.

It was odd. It was heartbreaking. It was everything the Big 12 didn’t need going forward.

This is a conference with two playoff-caliber teams, but they were both snubbed of a College Football Playoff bid.

There certainly may have been an argument before, but now Baylor and TCU’s “statement wins” over Oklahoma don’t look impressive one bit. Baylor’s loss to West Virginia is still a bit baffling. And Texas proved they are a less-than-mediocre football team at best.

So what does this do for the Big 12? Not much good.

The whole “conference depth” argument becomes harder to make when the league can’t compete with teams outside of the league.

Now, of course, match-ups are everything. Teams get bad draws, some don’t care to show up, but at the end of the day, perception is critical in today’s college football.

While it’d be fine and dandy if everything was truly settled on the field, the way the media sways and influences big decisions will make it tough on the Big 12 to recover and it doesn’t look like Bowlsby is prepared to expand.

So, Baylor and TCU desperately need to win their respective New Year’s bowl games. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt Oklahoma State to upset Washington and for Kansas State to grab a win over one of the Pac-12’s best.

The Big 12 needs to clean up its image. If the two small private schools from Texas want respect, they have to give a reason to earn it.

They, also, need to find better teams out-of-conference to play, and this goes for everyone in the conference.

If OU and Texas are going to continue to be “down,” you’re not going to beat out the Buckeyes and Seminoles of the world with Southern Methodist and Buffalo on your September slate and a few blue blood programs with name recognition.

The Big 12 doesn’t appear to be in any rush to add any new teams, and who could blame them? There aren’t many options out there that provide them with a quality athletic program that can potentially bring in more money for the conference in an attractive, unexplored market.

You really want to be the best? Then you have to act like the best.

As bad as Texas and Oklahoma have been, they still go out and find marquee out-of-conference opponents. However, they may wish they could take a few off with the problems each school is having with staying competitive.

It’s a new day in college football, and green and purple appear to be the new crimson and burnt orange. Monday’s Big 12 debacle may not have as much of an effect on the conference if the others show up to play and win their bowls, which the conference oh so desperately needs to stay relevant.