At one time, the Big East was cool, not only in basketball, but football.
WVU featured Jake “The Snake” Kelchner and Darren Studstill in 1993, losing only in the Sugar Bowl. Later, of course, there was WVU’s Pat White and Steve Slaton and later yet Geno Smith and Tavon Austin. Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick was an on-field sensation, and “Beamer Ball” was a thing.
Yet the gem of the Big East in football was the University of Miami, which was a full member from 1991 to 2004.
When the Hurricanes decided to leave for the ACC, along with Tech, the football side of the league started to crumble. Syracuse and Pitt bounced. WVU later did as well to the Big 12.
The point is league “bell cows” like UM are important. As in very. When it was announced that Texas and Oklahoma were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, one could feel the punch to the league’s gut.
It was staggering, a la the blow felt by the Pac-12 when the Big Ten swallowed up USC and UCLA (and eventually Oregon and Washington).
Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably know the Big 12 landed (for now) on its proverbial feet while the Pac-12 disintegrated before our very eyes.
Standing at 16 teams soon with Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah taking the place of UT and OU in 2024-25, all seems well.
I keep wondering though which Big 12 teams – if any – will become bell cows. Colorado has certainly caused a stir with Deion Sanders as its coach. What other possibilities are there to be “gems”? Arizona? BYU? TCU? Baylor? Kansas? Houston? WVU?
All, I’d submit, have a lot of work to do.
So I’m not surprised Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is continuing to “work” the phones. Reports say he’s now (again) engaging in talks with Gonzaga to possibly become a basketball-only member.
The reason, many say, is to bulk up the Big 12 in basketball so much that at the end of the decade Yormark can separately take football and basketball to market. He’d snap the current deals in two.
According to reporter Matt Norlander, Big 12 leaders have a lot of questions and a 75 percent “yes” vote is both needed and in doubt to accept the Zags.
(Side note: If they are brought into the Big 12, I promise it will be billed as “unanimous.” As the old Atlantic 10 commissioner Ron Bertovich once told me, there’s never an invitation unless it’s accepted and it’s always unanimous – even if it really wasn’t.)
Anyway, my sense too is WVU and other schools are leaning against the move. It would wreck the all-for-one-and-one-for-all, tidy full membership roster that’s set. Also, and I don’t know how to say this politely, but have you ever been to Gonzaga? I have. And you can’t get there from here – wherever you may be.
All that written, I don’t think what Yormark is doing is a bad idea. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to explore bringing Gonzaga, a basketball power, into the Big 12.
The reason: The league will always need bell cows, whether it be football or basketball. In basketball, the Big 12 has Kansas as a blue-blood team. After that, I guess you can give Arizona a nod. And then there’s…
You get what I’m driving at, right? The more gems the better – especially in these days of constant expansion.
WVU fans saw the Big East football crumble after Miami left. It’s not dumb for Yormark to be proactive in this case.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.