It was the most anticipated schedule since Elvis’ coat went on tour.
The Big 12 finally released its 2012 football schedule on Tuesday – most of it, at least – to the relief of schools and scores of sportswriters. Don’t forget the fans. They’re they ones who apparently crashed West Virginia’s website briefly on Tuesday.
The primary news was the school finally extricating itself legally from the Big East. Call it the legal version of all those switchbacks in the state’s noted mountain landscape. The delay built anticipation. The schedule release itself could have been sold as a prime-time event.
(I just put an idea into a marketer’s mind somewhere but moving on …) To put Tuesday’s developments in perspective, the Pac-12 and SEC released their schedules in late December and early January. The delay also means it's a sellers’ market, if you’re a football bottom feeder willing to yourself to the highest bidder. There is talk of I-AA schools (FBS) with openings on their schedule getting $800,000-$1 million to come get their butts beat by a BCS school.
Either the Big 12 or Big East was going to get screwed by where West Virginia ended up. Turns out it’s the Big East – although $20 million richer – that is looking for an extra non-conference game for its teams now that the Mountaineers have left. That could change if somehow Boise State is able to get to the Big East in 2012.
That’s why the simple release of a football schedule became an economic mystery.
Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas promised a Feb. 1 deadline. It came and went with only TV partners getting a copy. Somehow Texas Tech’s schedule slipped out early on Friday. Apparently forgotten was the fact there are people – some call them fans – trying to schedule and budget in order to see some of those Big 12 games. They will do so knowing that Oklahoma still had two holes in its schedule, although there are indications contracts could be signed shortly.
In a weird piece of realignment fallout, West Virginia paid the Big East that $20 million for the right to go to Ames, Iowa. That’s another way of saying that Iowa State is the Mountaineers’ closest opponent now that it is in the 10-team Big 12.
“We had a great legal team,” said Oliver Luck, West Virginia’s AD.
Hooray for that. Courtroom prowess replaced proximity in the mad realignment dash long ago. The Big East and whatever Conference USA/Mountain West calls itself in the future are spread coast to coast. Texas AD DeLoss Dodds continues to work on Notre Dame forming some kind of non-football alliance with the Big 12. Never mind that the closest Big 12 school for the Irish is two states away.
Louisville desperately wants into the Big 12. BYU still might be a possibility in the future. The Big 12 could get to 11 easily in 2013. The problem is finding a 12th team that is a good fit. So Tuesday’s announcement is one of those clip-and-save moments. It’s a 10-team Big 12 for now. There are still some holes in the schedule but at least we have a working model.
Back in November Big 12 officials flew out to Morgantown for a reception welcoming the Mountaineers as a replacement for Texas A&M or Missouri. Not sure which. It doesn’t matter. TCU is also in after a slightly shorter dalliance itself with the Big East.
Point is, the unification of Big East defector and the Pure Prairie League didn’t become reality until Tuesday. Time for another reception?
“As you may be aware the Big 12 is a very stable conference,” Luck added.
We’re not but that’s not the point right now.
The highlights …
--The “new” Big 12 kicks off Sept. 15 with TCU playing its first Big 12 game at Kansas.
--Each team will have a double-bye, the function of 12 games being played in a 14-week college football calendar in 2012.
--The first beer served in a Big 12 game since Colorado was a member will be Sept. 29 when Baylor visits for West Virginia’s conference opener. We’ll let that issue breath a bit as you consider alcohol-serving state school vs. Baptist flagship.
For now, call it the Lawsuit Bowl. Five months ago Baylor was threatening to sue the SEC over its “poaching” of Texas A&M. West Virginia had sued the Big East to get out of the conference (and were sued right back).
--Eight of the 10 teams will be in action on the last day of the season (Dec. 1). That’s a brilliant piece of scheduling making it more likely that the Big 12 title will be in play the same weekend as the SEC, ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten play conference title games.
Last year, Oklahoma State clinched the title on the last day of the season against Oklahoma. Robert Griffin III more or less clinched the Heisman Trophy on the same day after beating Texas.
--The conference's showcase game -- the Red River Shootout -- is Oct. 13 the week after Oklahoma plays at Texas Tech and Texas hosts West Virginia.
In case you’re counting this is the third different lineup for the Big 12 in three years. This time it just might work – at least until Notre Dame says yes. Just don’t put a deadline on it.