Adding insult to injury.
Kicking them when they’re down.
Big 12 fans experienced a lot of the above when it came to light that Oklahoma and Texas were departing the conference for the SEC.
Much of the grave dancing came from Oklahoma and Texas fans in reaction to being made out as the villains of the conference, breaking bonds of trust and severing historical ties that go back more than a century.
Media Worked Overtime for AAC
But the majority of the grave dancing, on Twitter at least, came from two specific sources: the sports media and fans of the American Athletic Conference.
AAC fans can hardly be blamed, in some respects. Afterall, they were following the lead of ESPN.
Just hours before Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby went on the offense by hitting ESPN with a cease-and-desist letter and alleging that ESPN conspired with the AAC to have the AAC absorb the remaining eight teams, ESPN college football correspondent Heather Dinich tweeted that she expected the AAC to be aggressive.
Even after Bowlsby’s letter, the media kept at it, arguing in every way they could that the AAC was at least the equal to the Big 12 minus Texas and Oklahoma and perhaps it’s superior. Stewart Mandel of the Athletic penned an article arguing that the difference in viewership between the AAC and the remaining eight teams of the Big 12 was slim.
Mandel’s analysis was skewered in an article by Sam Bradshaw of Sic’Em 365, but as of this writing, Mandel’s article is still pinned to his Twitter account.
The narrative that bounced around in the national media echo chamber was simple: The remaining eight teams in the Big 12 had no market value and were essentially no better than or perhaps inferior to the AAC.
Understandably, this is something fans of the AAC enjoyed hearing, and they latched on to the idea that the AAC was now a predator that would swim into the school of little fish abandoned by its two big fish and take what it wanted.
On the face of it, however, the notion that the AAC could poach the Big 12 was always absurd. Even if several of the remaining eight members of the Big 12 would have left for the ACC, Big Ten, or Pac-12, what remained of the Big 12 would still have had some leverage over the AAC. With all eight schools remaining together, however, it was no contest.
Big 12 Gets Redemption
Now, the Big 12 has taken the head off the AAC by inviting its top three revenue earners, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF to join the Big 12 along with BYU, who tellingly never had any interest in joining the AAC, in a move that was somewhat obvious to everyone who wasn’t trying to wish the Big 12 out of existence.
In the quick lead-up to Big 12 expansion, fans of the remaining AAC teams began to play the guilt card on Big 12 fans. Their argument, in a nutshell, was how dare Big 12 fans grave dance on the AAC when they were just complaining about others doing the very same thing to the Big 12 just days before.
There’s a difference, however.
First, the Big 12 was facing death, and the national narrative was the Big 12 was worthless conference worthy of nothing more than being picked clean by the best of the Group of 5 conferences, the AAC and Mountain West.
Second, AAC fans were active participants in this narrative as they bought the ESPN narrative of the AAC’s superiority to the Big 12 hook, line, and sinker. They took to social media and kicked and danced. When the tables turned, Big 12 fans had every right to point out how much AAC fans had underestimated the Big 12.
Third, the Big 12 did what it had to do in flexing its muscle to decapitate the AAC. The Big 12 did not an act out of greed; it acted of need.
The SEC didn’t need Oklahoma and Texas. The Pac-12 may have needed the cover of the [use sarcastic voice] *Historic* Alliance, but the Big Ten and the ACC didn’t. The national media didn’t need to pile on the remaining eight teams of the Big 12 with misleading stories and obituaries.
There was no need by any of those parties to pit the Big 12 against the world, but they did it anyway. It was the Big 12 against the world, and the Big 12 proved that it had been underestimated.
Now, with the addition of the four news teams and possibly more teams to come, the Big 12 has gone from being a punching bag to being the coolest conference in college football.
All the other Power 5 conferences are either Death Stars (particularly the SEC) or stuffy suits. The Big 12 is the rebel conference turning tables and beating odds. The Big 12 is Han Solo in swim trunks saving college football from the Empire and keeping the sport fun.
The new look Big 12 will be the most competitive conference in college football. Just about every school will enter each season with a legitimate shot at winning the conference championship and making the playoffs.
While the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC will continue to be dominated by a handful of teams, the Big 12 will give college football some much-needed drama and diversity. America loves underdogs, and the Big 12 is now a conference full of them. America loves fighters who never give up, and that is what the Big 12 is now.
Yes, the Big 12 is America’s conference now: it’s the 1980 US Olympic hockey team and Valley Forge.
Moreover, there is no reason that Big 12 fans shouldn’t have every right to celebrate this dramatic turn of fortune. There’s a big difference between grave dancing and showing up with fireworks and champagne at your own funeral.