Mitchell: A&M, OU & the Death of the Big 12
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops
Posted Sep 2, 2011

Can you hear it? That's the music slowing, slowing down… Does your school have a chair?

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb

I've been telling you this for nearly a month now, on radio from Virginia to Alaska to Hawaii, and I'm bulls eye right – the Big 12 is dead. And not just the Big 12 either.

This has nothing to do with a "Big Brother/Little Brother" tirade between Texas and Texas A&M; it's about one thing and one thing only: money.

With that in mind and as we've noted before, if you think A&M was upset with the Longhorns for their recent land grab, in terms of both money and broadcasting reach, how did you think Oklahoma felt? The Sooners have twice the CFB street cred the Aggies have, and three times the national reach.

And they're rightfully pissed.

Where does this stop?

Again, it doesn't stop with Oklahoma. The A&M negotiations might have been leaked given the intense passion that is the Longhorn/Aggie rivalry, but the folks at SEC headquarters in Birmingham have been fielding calls from many schools – and not just those in the Big 12.

Stop following the magician's distracting hands – stop listening to all the noise – and follow the money.

First, it doesn't matter if the imploding Big 12 is talking to BYU, or SMU, or any U – as long as Texas truly wants to be independent the Big 12 is dead. With the way it is hemorrhaging brands the last 15 months, the Big 12 is squarely in the middle of the three categories of Triage, "Those who are likely to die, regardless of what care they receive."

This is far deeper than just the SEC, A&M and Oklahoma. We've stepped off the ledge in the race towards four 16 team superconferences, and the music won't stop until we get there.

Actually, let's start calling this what it really is – it's not expansion, it's contraction. Culling the 120 FBS schools into 64 "Have's" and 56 "Have Not's". Which is long overdue...Buffalo has no place playing at the same level with Bama and USC...but I digress.

Why aren't more schools talking if it's so inevitable?

They're talking alright, just not to you – or most of the media for that matter. As noted above, the A&M situation was unique. Given how competitive everyone is about the remaining spots and exactly who's looking to go where (and rightfully so), most folks are playing this extremely close to the vest.

Millions of dollars, careers and the sports futures of many universities hang in the balance. As a result, many of my best sources have even gone radio silent, and virtually every key player involved is engaging in subterfuge. To whit:

On August 15, A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said theirs would be a "lengthy" decision making process…it lasted two weeks. Last season, Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany on June 1 said any vote on Nebraska was "months away". Nine days later, the Huskers were Big 10 bound.

By the time a school goes public it has very likely already made up its mind.

Who's calling who?

There's not a school in what's left of the Big 12 that hasn't called at least one other conference. Not. One. School. I'd imagine most of the Big East is also quietly dialing. I know of two.

They know what you know - the music's slowing down, and what few chairs are left are disappearing quickly.

As we've noted, you can expect to hear more announcements sooner than later for two reasons. First, as those chairs start disappearing, the pressure to move will intensify.

Second, if schools wait too long into this season to make a decision, they'll likely be stuck with a lame duck schedule in 2012, ala TCU this year. Utah, Colorado and Nebraska all made their decisions early and were able to play the next year in their new conference.

Who loses?

The Big East is also going away. It's too great of a leap to go from eight to 16 teams. Besides, it's four superconferences we're heading to, not six. The Big East's choice properties will be scooped up by the Big 10 and ACC.

After that, the sport (and its powerbrokers) need one of the remaining five BCS conferences to disappear, and that conference is the Big 12. This is why there will be no resurrection - the dominoes have started, and the Big Money needs the Big 12 to die.

If the Big 12 is around in three years it'll be a mid-major conference on life support, sporting such power football brands as Houston, SMU, Iowa State, and Baylor.

One other thing loses too – Independence. And with it, the Longhorn Network. But we'll save that column for another day.

Who goes where?

Oklahoma will end up in the PAC-12. We base this on the simple fact that in mid-August there was considerable chatter throughout the SEC, not just SEC HQs, that Oklahoma might join the fold. However, while the chatter remained strong about A&M, it has steadily dropped to a trickle regarding the Sooners.

They will end up in the PAC-12, likely with OSU – given that conference's penchant to pair schools from the same region. However, we note there is no financial reason to take OSU with Oklahoma - in fact, quite the opposite.

There is another school whose buzz has remained consistent among those SEC folks with whom I regularly speak and whose opinions I value. Indeed, that buzz is accelerating, and that university is Missouri.

Can you hear it? That's the music slowing, slowing down… Does your school have a chair?

Mitchell: 5 Reasons Oregon Falls to LSU
Mitchell: SEC Expansion...What Comes Next?
Mitchell: Bama/T-Town Menswear Controversy
Mitchell: A Final Look Back at SEC Media Days
Mitchell: Gators Will Go 0-fer In October
Mitchell: LSU Receives One Year Probation
Mitchell: Preseason All-SEC Team Problems
Point/Counterpoint: Why Hogs Will Win the SEC
Point/Counterpoint: Richt & UGA Need To Part Ways?
Point/Counterpoint: Oversigning & the SEC II
Point/Counterpoint: Oversigning & the SEC
Mitchell: Should Garcia Be Allowed Back?