With Texas and Oklahoma presumably off to the golden streets of the SEC – where stacks of cash rain from the sky but wins are difficult to find – the remaining eight members of the Big 12 are in a precarious position.
Will each be auctioned off to the highest bidder from the remaining Power 5 leagues and/or the AAC and MWC – or instead will they hunker down, huddle together, and weather the storm – retaining their union by adding new members?
Or will one of the programs go all “BYU” and bravely declare its independence?
While the first option seems the most likely – each of the eight marketing its wares to potential suitors – what if they instead attempt to keep the sinking ship afloat and remain a Power-grade entity?
Though programs such as Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, BYU, Boise State and SMU might be worthy partners and solid future members of a new-look Big 12, that approach – selecting the very best members from the Group of 5 teams – would only extend, perhaps ever-so-briefly, the life of what is a dying league.
This truth has nothing to do with the viability of each of the programs listed. Each (and others not mentioned here) could compete in a Power 5 conference, and each would bring their own unique set of assets to the table. It would also be intriguing to see how each performed up top (a la Utah).
The issue isn’t how “good” they are or how “worthy” they might be: the issue is anchoring the Big 12 in a way that makes it seem like it’s untouchable. So that the thought of dissolving it would seem as ridiculous as disbanding the Big Ten.
The only way to do that is to add two bluebloods back in.
Think about it this way – the Big 12 is a mall that opened in 1995 with all the most fashionable, desirable stores. Everyone lined up to go, every parking space was filled, and you couldn’t even walk through the throng of eager shoppers in the food court to get a corndog. It was like a glistening city on a hill.
Then, suddenly, Von Maur (aka Nebraska) and Lord & Taylor (aka Colorado) pulled out after the 2010 season and moved their locations respectively to the Big Ten’s mall north of town and the Pac-12’s shopping center due west. While the Big 12 (now Big 10, though the mall never rebranded) certainly missed the Cornhuskers’ and Buffaloes’ ability to attract customers (aka fans/ TV viewers) the slightly downsized league (now division-less) went on.
A mere two years later, in 2012, things got worse when two of the Big 12 mall’s bigger – though not biggest tenants – pulled up stakes and relocated to the glitzy SEC mall southeast of the city center: Dillard’s (aka Texas A&M) and Belk (aka Missouri).
While the high rents and stiffer competition made it more difficult for the Aggies and Tigers to make money, there was a lot more of it to go around.
This two-store exodus finally compelled the Big 12’s mall management to add a pair of retail partners, that as opposed to just boarding up the entrance and acting like it never happened (a la Nebraska’s exit). Belk (TCU) and JC Penney (West Virginia) set up shop in 2012 filling the empty spaces left behind by A&M and Mizzou.
Was it an apples-to-apples exchange? Not exactly, but no one seemed to care because the Big 12 mall was still the only local center to have Macy’s (Oklahoma) and Nordstrom’s (Texas).
What the Big 12 mall didn’t do from 2012 to 2020 was to continue to look for new full and junior anchors to facilitate its growth in both customer base and revenue. So, when the SEC mall (the most lucrative center in the nation) built two new gleaming anchor spots, Macy’s (Oklahoma, a well-appointed, successful store that welcomed all) and Nordstrom’s (Texas, a bougie store that sells the same merchandise for higher prices but still struggles with its bottom line) were all in.
Because…seriously…why would the Sooners and Longhorns – Macy’s and Nordstrom’s for the love of all that is right in the world – want to be part of a mall that was potentially dying while others were thriving?
In as much as this analogy explains what’s happened with the Big 12, it also points to what the remaining eight stores need to do to avoid either moving to another location or watching their mall die a slow, painful, death.
Think about it – UCF, Cincinnati, Boise State, Houston, SMU, and BYU are all quality stores that people happily frequent, but they’re more regionally orientated and simply don’t draw the number of customers as would a corporate national chain.
And we’re no longer living in a “mom-and-pop” retail culture. It’s a high stakes financial game that isn’t hyper-focused on tradition or customer service.
Yes friend, lots of folks are going out of business and it’s all about the Benjamins.
It amounts to only one way for the Big 12 mall if it wants to avoid weeds growing in its cracked parking lot and a 24-hour Fitness moving into its former Macy’s – add major anchor stores. Pluck them – as other shopping centers have done successfully – from the other big malls.
Though stealing Arizona and Arizona State from the Pac-12 mall is a good mid-level move, the Big 12 must couple that type of grab with a bigger steal. It must consider going after lead-stores rather than partner stores. It’s a coup that must be as historic as Texas and Oklahoma leaving in the first place.
The Big 12 must shock the world by stealing the likes of a USC and UCLA or a Clemson and Florida State.
And if you think that sounds ridiculous (because it kind of does) you get the point – the Big 12 pulling itself out of a tailspin, long-term, post Texas and Oklahoma – would be a miracle.