The main sentiment I’ve gathered from average college football fans is that the remaining eight Big 12 teams left over from the aftermath of the conference realignment ordeal are basically the rejects of the Power Five conferences. Teams that, now that Oklahoma and Texas are jumping ship, will be desperately begging for any conference to take them in and keep them relevant.
While this narrative makes little sense in regards to every remaining Big 12 team, the one that confuses me the most is Oklahoma State. An athletic program that ranks fourth in the country in total team national championships (first outside of the state of California) is somehow being looked down upon by fans across the country as the scraps of the Big 12 who deserve to be, in some instances I’ve seen, in a Group of Five conference?
Not only would Oklahoma State become a Group of Five juggernaut across all sports they compete in, they would instantly become one of any Power Five conference’s most valuable schools in regards to athletics.
The Cowboys also have the fourth-most Big 12 championships since the conference was expanded in 1996, with 82 behind Texas, Baylor and OU.
Now, you’re probably arguing that football is the driving factor in these decisions as it drives the most interest and makes the most money; that OSU can be great in other sports but it’s football that is keeping them out of joining a major conference.
To that, I invite you to take a look at Oklahoma State football by the numbers over the last decade.
Since 2010, the Cowboys have the twelfth-most wins in college football with 101, only one win behind both Notre Dame and Stanford and ahead of teams like Auburn, Florida, Penn State, Texas A&M, Florida State and the SEC’s highly sought after addition, Texas. That number is also the second-most in the Big 12 behind only Oklahoma.
College football fans outside of the Big 12 also seem to forget that OSU has posted a ten-plus win season six times in the past decade, more than programs like Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn. So why, again, is Oklahoma State viewed as a bottom-of-the-barrel P5 program that relied on Oklahoma and Texas to survive as long as it did?
The reason for this is due to the fact that OSU has had a few mediocre football seasons in a row, going 7-6, 8-5 and 8-3 the last three seasons. Naturally, recency bias leads fans to believe that those numbers are indicative of the program as a whole and ignore the last 10 to 15 years. However these are years that saw Oklahoma State as a consistent top-15, maybe even top-10, college football program.
Luckily, the remaining Power Five conferences know of OSU’s athletic pedigree more so than the average fan. The Cowboys will have plenty of offers to join other conferences and undoubtedly improve whatever conference they end up in, assuming the Big 12 does go under. Whether it’s the Big 10, the ACC or the Pac 12, Oklahoma State will be fine.