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Does the New-Look Big 12 Have a Recruiting Problem Without Oklahoma and Texas?

Jul 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark speaks to the press during Big 12 football media day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a few years, I felt great after leaving Big 12 media days last week. I didn’t feel uncertain about anything, and I am confident in the direction that the conference is headed with Brett Yormark leading the way.

Of course, not everyone feels the same as me. On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman wrote an article talking about the Big 12 when it comes to recruiting. He didn’t agree with Brett Yormark’s comments at media days.

Yormark said, “I’m not sure they (Texas and Oklahoma) have carried recruiting. They haven’t been in the championship game for a couple of years now and all the other schools have done an incredible job. I love Texas and Oklahoma, don’t get me wrong. I have great relationships with them, but our schools are doing an incredible job in recruitment. Look at TCU’s run last year, and 80 percent of our teams made a bowl game last year. Everyone is in a great place.”

 

The article goes on and talks about a few different things and I would like to respond to a few of the highlights. The good news is you can see my response for free because we aren’t asking you for a credit card number, unlike The Athletic who would be asking for one by now. If not for a staff member having a subscription, I would have never read this article. And after reading it, I really wished I hadn’t.

Wasserman was quick to point out that Texas and Oklahoma have combined to sign 23 five-star prospects since 2014, compared to just two for the rest of the conference. He also tallied up the total four-star prospects as well. To nobody’s surprise, Texas and Oklahoma had more than the rest of the conference.

He also said that Brett Yormark deflected the question by bringing up the last two seasons on the field. Call it whatever you want, but you can’t call it untrue. Texas and Oklahoma have been recruiting top-ten classes for forever. Yet since 2014 (CFP era), TCU is the only Big 12 team to win a playoff game and play for a national title. Yes, the Sooners dominated the conference for a while but none of those Oklahoma teams won a playoff game mostly because they didn’t have a respectable defense and won games by outscoring everyone. As for Texas, nobody has done less with more since 2010 yet he wants to sweep that under the rug and act like that doesn’t matter. Well, it kind of does.

 

Ari: “You have to have top-tier talent on your roster to be a consistent heavyweight in this sport. TCU’s run a year ago was the exception, not the rule.”

If TCU was the exception, then they are one hell of an exception. Think about this for a second: since 2014, there have been nine national championship games. Only seven teams have had the opportunity to play for a title. That list includes Oregon, Ohio State, LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, and TCU. Four out of those nine games have been won by 20 or more points. Yes, that’s right, TCU, Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State have lost title games in recent years by more than 20 points. Hell, remember when Alabama lost 44-16 to Clemson five years ago in the national championship game?

If you want to say TCU and Oregon aren’t consistent playoff contenders, that’s fine. And you are right, there was a gap in 2022 because Georgia was the best team in college football, without a doubt. Is there truly a consistent heavyweight in college football today outside of Georgia and Alabama? Maybe Ohio State? That’s three teams.

Look at the SEC, if Alabama isn’t winning the conference, then Georgia is. Since 2014, the only other team besides Alabama or Georgia to win the SEC was LSU, who won a title back in 2019. Forget about conferences, we are talking about two teams dominating the sport over the last three years. Go ahead and point out the Big 12 if you want, but you’d better be pointing fingers at everyone else too.

 

Ari: The numbers are already out of whack with Oklahoma and Texas in the league. What’s it going to look like once they depart?

TCU just signed a top 20 class for the 2023 cycle, and even Texas Tech signed a top 30 class this past year. If you look at the current classes in the Big 12 for 2024, there are several teams that are getting higher-profile guys. UCF is a new school in the Big 12, yet, they have the most four-star commits in the conference with five. Texas Tech has four, and even Kansas has a trio of four-star players committed. It may take a couple of years, but these schools (especially the newcomers) are going to get better players. While they may not be signing top ten classes every year, they will still have talent.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, the more talent you bring in the better your chances are to win it all. However, not every highly-ranked player pans out. In the transfer portal era, those four- and five-star kids aren’t always willing to wait their turn for playing time. So, they transfer to different schools that will give them a better opportunity, which we’ve seen time and again in the Big 12.

Also, results on the field do matter. We can talk about recruiting until we are blue in the face, but having a ton of talent on paper means nothing unless you can win with that talent. Just look at the teams in the SEC, like Texas A&M and Florida. What have those schools accomplished in the last ten years? I could name several schools in the Big 12 that have done more than teams that stack talent like the Aggies and Gators. If you want to just focus on recruiting that’s fine. Let some of those teams hang a banner, because they will never win anything despite being more “talented.” Instead of focusing on schools that are wasting “talent” by doing less with more, we are hating on schools for doing more with less because they aren’t recruiting well enough in your opinion.

Lastly, I want to say that I am growing tired of the Big 12 hate. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t wait for the hit piece on the Pac-12 or the ACC, but I won’t hold my breath on that because I know it won’t happen. It’s not surprising though, considering the fact that Stewart Mandel is your boss. I still remember all those hit pieces he wrote about the Big 12 a couple of years ago. What I am most upset about is the fact that one of our staff members wasted money on a subscription, because we could have used that money to buy some beer.

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