Old ties die hard.
The Big 12 has almost rallied today, showing that the Zombie Conference is harder to kill than one might think. It's hard to just end a long-time partnership because college sports is all about those traditions and long ties.
Look at the schools which have left the Big 12. Nebraska's relationship with Texas has always been dysfunctional at best, and the new Big 12 killed the old Big 8 ties. that conference was really OU and Nebraska, and once they stopped playing every year, Nebraska felt less and less tied to the Big 12, enabling them to leave. A&M was an SWC refugee, and they've also endured about a decade of Texas propaganda that A&M isn't really Texas' rival. When A&M felt discontent, it was easy to rationalize severing the Big 12 ties, as the tie was never that strong.
But now? Now we're getting to the hard cuts. Oklahoma is playing footsies with the Pac-12, but seem to have opened the door to staying in the Big 12. Leaving the conference might mean ending the Red River Rivalry, and that is a cut that would hurt Oklahoma. OU is looking back before walking out the door.
OU making demands means that Texas can give in to those demand.
Which means this is an opportunity for Texas to save the Big 12.No school, other than Baylor, has gotten worse press during conference realignment than Texas. When teams leave the Big 12, somewhere among the reasons is "Texas". Texas opened the door for realignment last year when it openly flirted with other potential suitors. And no school has been more open about its determination to follow a course of naked self-interest.
I think the criticism has wounded Texas a bit. Obviously not crippling, but no one likes to be cast as the villain and Texas has made it easy to fit them with the black hat. Texas has been rumored to have had conversations with every single conference, and there is bound to be some wounded feelings in all of these discussions. Especially as Texas keeps picking up their ball and going home.
Texas has slowed their realignment train, but it's also because conferences have slowly moved on from Texas. Texas is like the ultimate luxury good, it would be wonderful to have, but it certainly isn't a need. The Pac-12 would likely still welcome Texas, despite being spurned last year, but I think now it would have to be on the Pac-12's terms, not Texas'. The conferences are slowly deciding to move on and not wait for Texas.
However, the events of the last view days give Texas a wonderful chance to change the narrative from Texas the Destroyer to Texas the Savior. All while serving the best interests of Texas because it really does seem that the best conference for Texas is the Big 12.
OU wants you to fire Dan Beebe? Sure, you should've done that last year. But do OU one better, instead of waiting for the Big 12 to get picked off by each conference, aggressively expand. Right now. Be the first conference to go to 16.
The Big 12, once A&M is gone, is down to nine teams. The slowly dwindling numbers is encouraging schools like Mizzou to look elsewhere, not to mention OU. the only way to save the conference is to keep OU, but it's not enough to merely survive: it's far better to actually get stronger.
West Virginia is suddenly scrambling for a conference in the wake of the rumored rejection by both the SEC and the ACC. The Big 12 shouldn't just add WVU, they should add five of the Big East refugees: West Virginia, TCU, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Louisville.
That gets the conference to 14, so the Big 12 should make the biggest possible impact by becoming the first super-conference, and extend invitations to BYU and Boise St.
You can't replace a traditional power like Nebraska, but Colorado was a pretty lousy program and can be easily replaced. A&M is a hard team to replace, but WVU is of similar quality over the past decades and TCU brings back an old SWC rival.
More importantly, Texas could rightfully argue that it has saved the "Forgotten Five" of Iowa St, Kansas St, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Kansas. None of these schools were all that comfortable with realignment, and this would keep all of them in the BCS money.
Texas could even give up a concession or two, which really wouldn't cost them much. Agree to equal revenue sharing of Tier One rights. Not because it's the right thing to do, which incidentally it is, but because it will make the conference more attractive to the Big East refugees and it will encourage a bit more loyalty among the Big 12 rank and file. Besides, given the sweet LHN cash, the Tier One shared media rights is a pretty small portion of Texas' overall revenues. Give up about $5 million a year for stability (not to mention the Red River Rivalry).
Also, the new Big 16 would be arguably stronger than the Big 12 was. And Texas could claim to be its architect. They would have saved no less than 11 programs from irrelevance (the Big East refugees, the Forgotten Five, and Boise).
After a year of bad press, Texas could cast itself as the ultimate good guy in conference realignment. It would also be a bold and decisive move, while also preserving tradition. Instead of the Big 12 slowly withering on the vine, it could be reborn as a more stable and powerful version of itself:
The first superconference.
Just thinking out loud.