Obvious Man being obvious, the Big 12 (as we've known it these past 15 years, at least) is dead. That being said, I don't believe that this means the Big 12 won't rise again, in one form or another. The following scenario is based upon a few assumptions, which I will outline briefly, before digging in on how this could happen.
- Texas is very interested in somehow maintaining the Big 12;
- Oklahoma is gone, taking Oklahoma State with them;
- Missouri has very little interest (not none, but very little) in slumming academically in the SEC;
- Kansas State and Kansas would prefer staying in a geographical contiguous conference;
- Baylor and Iowa State have very limited options otherwise;
- BYU would prefer membership in an AQ conference to independence. After all, it's not like "Independence" is going anywhere should the new-look Big 12 fail.
We begin this discussion with seven schools in what remains of the Big 12: Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Iowa State. First, let me state that I think that those 7 schools alone are not untenable as the core of a BCS conference. Compare them with the current Big East football configuration: West Virginia, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Rutgers, and Connecticut. Is anyone really going to argue that the latter group is head-and-shoulders better than the former? Or any better at all? So, it is from that base of 7 that we begin to rebuild. It does not take a lot of work build back to a football conference that is tenable.
The first step is to add a school that would jump at the chance to join an AQ conference: Houston. They would become the 8th member of this conference, and would do it gladly. They offer above-average football, serviceable basketball, and easy travel for non-revenue sports. Rating the level of difficulty of getting this step accomplished on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put it at a 1. The Cougars would be at yes quicker than the new commissioner (Beebe must go, as a kind of "Step 0", if you will) got the question out of his mouth. The time horizon for this step is immediately upon receipt of OU's withdrawal letter.
The second step could possibly be a longer time-horizon, and so is more fluid in nature. What happens is that the "New Big 12" would approach BYU with a membership invitation, offering them a spot as the 9th member of the conference. In my view, BYU accepting this invite would be a no-lose proposition for them. If the Big 12 eventually implodes, they go back to independent status, no harm done. Honestly, I don't see the level of difficulty of this step being terribly high, though it's significantly higher than getting to yes with Houston. I'd rate it at maybe a 6. If we got to yes with them, we'd need to bundle them with a school in their regional footprint as travel buddies. They could be easily paired with either Boise State (not my preference, but they'd be a pretty easy "get") or Air Force. Nevada might be another option that no one's really talking about, but that wouldn't suck in either of the major sports.
The other option would be exploring how to extricate TCU from their Big East obligation. This would be significantly more difficult, however, and would put the Big 12 squarely in "black hat" territory in the conference realignment game. Not that I care so much about the whole black hat/white hat thing, but the above moves I contemplate do not do any harm to a fellow BCS conference, so that's something to at least consider.
So, after the second step, we would be at the following schools: Texas, BYU, Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, and Boise State/Air Force/Nevada/Some other school (perhaps TCU). Is anyone really going to argue that the current Big East is a better football conference than those ten schools? And if we get to ten, and prove stability, then I think that schools in our conference "footprint", like Cincinnati and Louisville, would be more likely to take our calls, and a (current) pipe dream like Notre Dame might become less of a pipe dream. In other words, getting back to 12 (or more) would become quite a bit easier at that point.
So, tell me why this wouldn't work. The more I look at it, the more feasible it seems, and the less I feel like it's inevitable that we end up in a conference like the Big East. What say you?