With the introduction of NIL to college sports, along with the transfer portal, there’s been a lot of concern that the perceived “small schools” in the Big 12 won’t be able to keep up. Fans are worried that their schools will be left behind. It’s understandable, I get the concern, but I think it’s misguided, and a bit negative.
No, I’m not a fan of Tyrese Hunter having one good season at Iowa State, and jumping ship to Texas. But I also wasn’t a huge fan of the star players always choosing between the blue bloods, and the new rules give the smaller schools a chance to compete.
How Has the Past Treated the New Big 12 Schools
While the original Big 12 was fun, you also never saw the smaller schools get a chance at the national title in football. Sure the late 90s could’ve seen Kansas State get there, especially if they beat Texas A&M in the 1998 Big 12 title game. Kansas could’ve gotten in if they beat Missouri and Oklahoma back in 2007. In 2008, Texas Tech went 11-1, and didn’t even get a shot at a BCS game. Fast forward to 2011 when Oklahoma State was out after losing a Friday night game to Iowa State in overtime, after having their school suffer a tragedy that morning. The Cowboys went on to crush Oklahoma in the last game of the regular season, however the BCS decided they’d rather have an all-SEC rematch instead, rewarding Alabama who only put up 6 points at home.
Then, if you thought the four-team playoff would help, you would be wrong. In 2014, Baylor and TCU were two of the best teams in the nation, and were both kept out at 11-1, TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 after beating Iowa State 55-3.
If you want to point at incoming Big 12 school Cincinnati making the College Football Playoff last season you can, but they had to run the table, go through Notre Dame and a one-loss Houston, and have everything else break right to even get the No. 4 seed.
In 2020 BYU went 10-1, flying across the nation on a few days notice to play Coastal Carolina, and had to settle for the Boca Raton Bowl. One season later (2021), they’d go 10-2, dominate the Pac 12, and be forced to settle for the Independence Bowl. Quite frankly, most of the new Big 12 schools have not been given a fair shake.
Can Big 12 Schools Compete in NIL?
Short answer: Yes. Slightly longer answer: Without a doubt.
The proof is already out there, Iowa State just landed five-star recruit Omaha Biliew, Texas Tech landed five-star Elijah Fisher. Texas Tech has already announced a $25,000 per year NIL deal for 100 football players, and the women’s team has landed the same for their players from the Level 13 Agency. While Boone T. Pickens may be gone, his family, and that money isn’t. TCU and Baylor are both extremely well-funded programs, especially in comparison to their school size and alumni base. Kansas State certainly has a valid point to be concerned, but even they’re going through a $100 million dollar stadium renovation. Sure Nijel Pack transferred out, but they also haven’t lost Deuce Vaughn. There’s certainly money at Kansas State and a large alumni base to fund them as well.
Some Texas Tech fans thought the reason McCullar and Shannon left for Kansas was because of NIL money. If that’s true that points really well for KU, but it’s not. Both those guys left, because they needed a change of scenery, and a new system to help them make the NBA, heck Tech even just landed the aforementioned Elijah Fisher.
NIL has been going on forever; it just hasn’t been visible. Let’s not forget that at one point back in the 1980’s, five of the nine Southwest conference schools were on probation, and that’s just the five that were caught. This just legalizes it for all schools and fan bases to compete. Gone are the days of needing big money boosters, even average alumni or fans could have a hand in helping their teams.
There’s a reason Nick Saban isn’t happy with NIL, and it’s not because he’s deeply concerned with the integrity of college sports. Sure, Lane Kiffin said we basically just “legalized cheating”, but I’m not so inclined to take the complaints of a man with as many NCAA violations as him too seriously. Ryan Day of Ohio State said to keep his team intact would cost $13 million, a tough moment for Ohio State, I know. In other words, they don’t believe they can pay that, and some of the talented players on that roster will go elsewhere. What NIL is doing is making it tougher for the Blue Bloods, and giving the Iowa State’s of the world a chance to capitalize. Sure the Blue Bloods will have an inherent advantage, but NIL will narrow that gap.
The Transfer Portal
As I noted earlier, I’m not a fan of Tyrese Hunter transferring to Texas after one season, and wish that would be revised a bit. Nigel Pack left Kansas State basketball, which is of course a huge blow, but then they landed Adrian Martinez to be their new starting QB. West Virginia just landed J.T. Daniels to be their QB in Morgantown, Texas Tech’s offensive line was brutal last season, so they were active in the portal to retool there.
Look at basketball, where Texas Tech has essentially lived in the portal as of late. Sometimes players need a change of scenery or someone like Adonis Arms uses it to climb the ranks from JUCO to becoming a starting point guard in a Sweet Sixteen. The portal will give teams a chance to retool and work on their roster, instead of relying on getting a freshman up to speed, when he just may not be ready yet. For every Nijel Pack that leaves, an Adrian Martinez comes in.
This is Good for the Big 12
While it’s tempting for Big 12 fans to look at people and programs they’ve been railing against NIL, as allies, they’re not. Big 12 fans have been lied to about NIL, and the transfer portal. It’s not a hindrance it’s an opportunity. Sure the Blue bloods hate it, it’s not because they’re looking out for you, it’s because they’re looking out for themselves, therefore it helps you.
The landscape is changing, and for the new Big 12 it’s changing for the better. Time to adapt or die. Big 12 schools have adapted before, and I have complete confidence they’ll do the same here.