Do you remember that commercial that comes on during the NCAA Tournament? It talks about how all these student athletes go on to have careers outside of sports. The motto is along the lines of, “Winning in something other than sports.” It’s kind of catchy, gets stuck in your head. Well, I got another one for you. “The Big 12 continues to win championships in something other than football”.
The somethings other than football are still pretty darn cool, with Baylor thrashing undefeated Gonzaga in the finals of the NCAA Tournament as the most recent example. It was a performance for the ages, a championship that not only went against the perceived odds, but also a story of a team banding together and fighting adversity as a collective, not once, but twice.
How about Sooner softball? They are the most dominant program in the sport right now, and it appears like they may not drop a game this year. The Sooners men’s and women’s gymnastics teams have been even more dominant, if that is even possible. Oklahoma State has the best wrestling program of all time, and over 30 titles to show for it. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State golf are currently two of the top 3 programs in the country. The Big 12 is well represented in terms of winning championships in almost every sport.
But in football, Oklahoma and Texas are the only programs that have won more than two national titles. OU won their last title in 2000, and Texas in 2005. Twitter did not exist yet. That’s right, there are no tweets about Vince Young running to the corner, or about OU taking mercy on the Noles and kneeling in the end zone to give them their only two points.
The reality is, the Big 12 needs to get it done in the most popular sport, and they have yet to do so. Texas had another crack at it in 2009, but after Colt McCoy’s injury, their fate was sealed against Nick Saban and Alabama. Oklahoma has been within reach of a championship seven times since their last and have come up short, every time. TCU was robbed of an opportunity in 2014, and Oklahoma State of theirs in 2011. I suppose you could make a solid argument that both Kansas and Oklahoma deserved a chance over LSU in 2007 as well. However, at the end of the day the Big 12 has not worn the most prestigious crown in over 15 years. In a conference that is full of football schools, they sure have had fun succeeding elsewhere.
Iowa State and Oklahoma hold the keys to the Big 12 hopes of winning a championship this season, with star studded rosters full of All-American candidates and future NFL draft choices. The Big 12 had one of the best bowl season performances with a 5-0 record, but missed the College Football Playoff. The Sooners and the Cyclones were both able to roll their opponents NY6 Bowl contests.
But in 2021, Brock Purdy must take the next step in his ability to compliment the ‘Clones elite rusher in Breece Hall. In Norman, the Sooners return one of the nation’s best rushers in Kennedy Brooks, who opted out of football last season, and Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler, who is the current Heisman favorite.
All the ingredients are there for both teams to make 2021 that special season that would not only be great for their program, but a huge image boost for the Big 12 Conference. While all the other sports having national success is outstanding, capitalizing on the gridiron would certainly be a big perception changer moving forward for this conference.
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