2021-22: A Banner Year for Big 12 Athletics
Every year there are opinions about the best conference in Division I collegiate sports. This past season proved no doubt that the Big 12 reigned as the best.
League members claimed eight national championships and were runners-up 10 times more than any conference this past year in identical sports for the 2021-2022 athletic year.
All eight of the league’s national titles were claimed over three months.
Big 12 Teams Taking Home National Titles
Texas won the NCAA men’s indoor track and field championship in March, two weeks after capturing the Big 12 title, its second straight win. The Longhorns also won the conference’s women’s indoor championship for the fourth year in a row. UT also dominated the Big 12 men’s and women’s outdoor events weeks later. The men won the league’s outdoor track and field championship for the second straight year, and the women extended their streak to three in a row. The men and women placed second at the NCAA Outdoor championships.
It was no surprise that Kansas won the Big 12 men’s basketball title. The Jayhawks defeated Texas Tech in the conference title tilt. Six teams (KU, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, and Iowa State) received bids to March Madness, but Kansas went all the way to claim the championship. The Jayhawks rallied from a 16-point deficit to down North Carolina 72-69 in the championship game, and for the second straight year, a Big 12 team won the national championship. Baylor won it in 2021.
Equestrian is a sport that consists of less than the complete number of Big 12 members (Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor) and includes Fresno State as an affiliate member. That’s it. The Cowgirls won their eighth conference crown and followed it with their first national championship weeks later.
Likewise, women’s gymnastics only has four members (Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Iowa State) and includes Denver University, also an affiliate member. The Sooners claimed their 13th league title and ninth of the last 10 meets. They went on to win the national championship a month later, their fifth title in the last eight years (not counting 2020 when Covid-19 canceled everything sports).
Texas took home the top hardware in rowing in the Big 12 and nationally. The Longhorns swept the conference competition over regular league members Oklahoma, Kansas State, Kansas, and West Virginia. Alabama and Tennessee also compete in conference rowing as affiliate members. UT then won its second consecutive national title two weeks after capturing its sixth straight Big 12 crown.
Oklahoma captured the league’s title in men’s golf by two strokes over Oklahoma State, three shots over Texas, and 11 over Texas Tech. All four teams went on to qualify for the NCAA tourney, along with Kansas, which placed sixth in the Big 12 tournament. The Sooners tied Vanderbilt and North Carolina atop the leaderboard in stroke play competition. The Cowboys, Longhorns, and Red Raiders all qualified for the quarterfinals along with OU.
One-half of the eight-team quarterfinals was filled with Big 12 representatives. All but Texas lost in the quarters, and the Longhorns rolled to the championship beating Arizona State for their fourth title in school history.
Oklahoma and Texas twice vied for a national championship in less than three weeks. The Longhorns defeated the Sooners for the women’s tennis title one month after both teams met in the Big 12 tournament, which UT won.
Softball was an exceptional year for Big 12 softball. The Sooners went wire-to-wire as the nation’s No. 1 team. OU lost three games, and the Sooners avenged each to a second straight national title and sixth overall. Oklahoma dropped its first game of the year to Texas during the regular season. Oklahoma State stunned the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship Game to claim the conference crown. OU, OSU, and Texas qualified for the Women’s College World Series, and all three made it to the final four. The Longhorns knocked out the Cowgirls in the semifinals to reach the championship series. The Sooners lost to UCLA in the semis but retaliated with a victory to bounce the Bruins from the tournament.
OU and Texas met for all the marbles. The Sooners had already defeated Texas in the second round of the CWCS. They swept the Horns in the best-of-three final in Oklahoma City.
Saluting the Other Big 12 Champs
The conference also was full of surprises. Let’s begin with football. Oklahoma had won six straight Big 12 Championships and was favored to claim No. 7. Oklahoma State was picked to place third, and Baylor was picked to finish third. Both beat the Sooners during the regular season. The Cowboys and Bears met in Arlington for the league title. Baylor was seeking revenge for losing to OSU on October 2.
The Big 12 Championship Game wasn’t decided until the final play when Baylor stopped the Pokes a half-yard short of the goal line. The Bears walked away with a 21-16 victory.
The Big 12 also had a fantastic postseason by winning five of seven bowl games: Texas Tech (Liberty), Oklahoma (Alamo), Kansas State (Texas), Oklahoma State (Fiesta), and Baylor (Sugar).
Another surprise came in soccer. West Virginia was the preseason favorite but finished sixth. TCU picked to place second and won the regular season and the conference’s postseason tournament. The Horned Frogs and Texas, which finished second in the league, were the only teams to make the NCAA tournament. The Longhorns lost the opening round, and TCU made it to the Round of 16 before getting knocked out.
Oklahoma’s baseball team was selected to finish sixth in the conference, but the Sooners hit their prime in May and won the Big 12 postseason championship. They continued their assault by capturing a regional and super regional on the road, rolled into Omaha, and placed second in the College World Series. Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, and Texas Tech also received bids to the 64-team tournament field.
Oklahoma State swept the conference’s men’s and women’s cross country meet. Iowa State made a surprise showing at the NCAA meet by placing third in the men’s category and ninth in the women’s division. OSU finished third in the men’s category.
A decade ago, the Missouri Tigers won the Big 12 wrestling championship before the university bolted the conference for the SEC. The Tigers’ wrestling team rejoined the Big 12 as an affiliate in 2021 and picked up where they left off, claiming the league’s mat title again. Mizzou also was the preseason favorite to take the crown.
Texas was the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 volleyball championship. Volleyball only crowned its champion from the regular season. The Longhorns lost only once–to Baylor. Seven teams qualified for the NCAA tournament (UT, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia), but the Longhorns went farthest, losing in the quarterfinals.
The Bears were favored to capture the women’s conference basketball crown, and they did claim the regular-season title. Texas upset them in the championship game. The Longhorns and Bears received bids to the NCAA tournament along with Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Kansas State. Texas made the deepest run to the Elite Eight.
Oklahoma is the only school that competes in men’s gymnastics, and the Sooners compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. They finished second in the MPSF and runners up at the national meet.
In men’s tennis, No. 2 seed Baylor upset No. 1 TCU in the Big 12 title game. The Horned Frogs were not only the top seed in the league but ranked No. 1 in the country. Baylor was ranked fourth. Both teams were KO’d in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
Texas reigned supreme for the conference’s swimming and diving championships in both men’s and women’s categories, and both finished runners-up at the national meets. The Longhorns men won the conference for the 26th straight year edging TCU and West Virginia, the only other schools to compete in aquatics. The women captured their 10th straight league title over TCU, West Virginia, Kansas, and Iowa State.
Texas won the Big 12 women’s golf tournament for the fourth time in the last five tourneys. A total of seven teams qualified for the NCAA regionals (UT, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas Tech, and Iowa State). The Longhorns were the only team to reach the NCAA finals, and they finished 13th in stroke play.
In one year, the Big 12 will add four more teams: Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston. A chance for the league to put up another banner year on the national scene.
So, there you have it. The Big 12 Conference reigned supreme in 2021-22.
I rest my case.