Big 12 Football History: 1996 Season

old school big 12 logo

Today, we are starting a new series titled “Big 12 Football History.”

We aim to travel back in time and see how this conference has grown and changed over the years, through several trying periods and leadership changes.

It has been a long 26 years, but the conference is as strong as ever, and about to add four new members in 2023. But how did we get here?


How It All Started

The Big 12 Conference was actually founded in 1994 when the eight members of the Big Eight Conference invited four Texas universities from the Southwest Conference to join them and form a 12-team conference.

Here is a look at the two conferences before the merger happened (Original Big 12 Schools in BOLD)

Big Eight Schools – Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State

Southwest Conference – Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech

The conference didn’t actually begin to play until 1996, when Texas Tech and Kansas State faced off in the first-ever Big 12 sporting event (No. 21 Kansas State def. Texas Tech 21-14) in Manhattan, KS.

The original conference was split up into two divisions, the Big 12 North and the Big 12 South. The North consisted of Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Nebraska, while the South was made up of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech.


1996 Football Season

The Nebraska Cornhuskers were in the prime of their dynasty in 1996 when the Big 12 started conference play, and it showed on the scoreboard for most of the season. NU outscored opponents 43-13 on average that year and finished the year 11-2. Their first loss came against No. 17 Arizona State in Week 2, losing 19-0 but the Huskers wouldn’t lose again in the regular season after that.

However, a matchup with 7-4 Texas in the Big 12 Championship proved to be too much for Tom Osburne’s squad, as they were upset by the Longhorns, 37-27.

Texas finished the year 8-5 after the Big 12 Championship win and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State, where they were throttled by Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions, 38-15.

Colorado finished as the No. 8 team in the country that season, going 10-2, including wins over No. 9 Kansas State and No. 13 Washington.

Here is a look at the final standings, courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

Kansas State93.75062.75028.315.913.133.7121917
Iowa State29.18217.12528.536.5-3.364.73
Texas Tech75.58353.62526.919.39.504.17
Texas A&M66.50044.50029.321.45.652.151313
Oklahoma State56.45526.25022.129.7-3.50-0.13

1996 National Awards

Texas Tech’s Byron Hanspard won the Doak Walker Award that year, given annually to the nation’s top running back.

Hanspard carried the ball 311 times for 2,000 yards on 6.4 yards per carry in 1996, helping lead the Red Raiders to a 7-5 record.

Iowa State’s Troy Davis had an even better season in ’96 and somehow didn’t win the Doak Walker or the Heisman Trophy.

Davis amassed 2,185 yards and 21 touchdowns on a whopping 402 carries and, because Iowa State was just 2-9 that year, Davis finished second to Florida’s Danny Wuerffel in Heisman voting.

Davis’s 2,185 rushing yards in the 1996 season still ranks eighth all-time on the single seasons rushing yards list.

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