You've surely seen the myriad solutions on offer. Play a championship game without expanding. Mandate Power-5 non-conference games. Ban FCS games. Add BYU and Cincinnati or Cincinnati and Memphis or Boise State and Central Florida or Tulane and North Dakota State or -- good gravy people, you've lost your minds.
In the face of all this, we're going to offer a Modest Proposal. We're going to solve all the Big 12's problems in one fell swoop. The conference strength issue, the championship game issue, the travel issue, all of it.
Cozy up to LSU.
Hang on, don't close the window yet. There's madness to this method.
You don't have to strain yourself much to find evidence that LSU suffers a great deal of displeasure with the way things are run in the SEC. Follow enough LSU fans on Twitter and you're going to see them complaining about the conference. Pay attention to the news and you'll see their administration barking about how the SEC did them dirty again. There's a vast conspiracy against Mike the Tiger, starting with the SEC offices being right outside Nick Saban's office door, and Louisiana will be more than happy to educate you if you'll just listen.
And many of the things LSU fans and staffers grumble about with the SEC are things which the Big 12 is psychotically obsessed with avoiding. For 15 years, the conference shunned the idea of permanent rivalries. The conference offices are in Dallas, but whereas Birmingham believes itself to be a suburb of Tuscaloosa as far as football is concerned, Dallas is a more egalitarian locale full of TCU and Texas Tech and Oklahoma and... yes, even LSU people. Most importantly, while everyone thinks of conference networks as a massive money spigot, our own Panjandrum has put forth the very solid theory that the advent of streaming actually works in the Big 12's favor in the long run -- especially insofar as the dispersal of third-tier rights goes.
You know, the broadcast rights that become of absolutely critical importance to a baseball-mad fanbase come springtime.
Long story short: in many ways, Louisiana State is the SEC's answer to Nebraska, with Alabama playing the role of Texas. LSU tends to want different things than the program which they perceive to be running the show, and every few months it starts itching like a ringworm infection.
Armed with this simmering cauldron of mild discontent, the Big 12's answer is obvious. Louisiana State, in any permutation of 12 teams one might imagine, is at the very least the second-best fit imaginable. There's a built-in rivalry right there for the making, as LSU-Texas every year would be appointment television. The Sabine River Shootout would be huge.
Of course, this would both necessitate and solve the problem of divisional play. LSU would be a part of a South Division including the four Texas schools. Here's where things get a little sticky with our plan, but we have devised a solution. No matter who the 12th team is, Oklahoma joins the North, and the conference finally does adopt protected rivalries.
"But wait," you cry, "you just pointed out that this was one of LSU's beefs with the SEC!"
It's true. But LSU has a problem with this not because they don't like it, but because they don't like their rival. Alabama gets to play their hated enemies from Tennessee. Auburn and Georgia get to continue their annual throwdown. LSU gets Florida, about whom LSU couldn't care less.
Imagine now, if you will, LSU getting to play West Virginia every year. Ponder it. Roll it around on your tongue. Envision Louxiana heading for Morgantown every two years, and rusty Broncos and Suburbans full of moonshine shuttling to Death Valley the other years.
You're now completely on board with this concept, aren't you?
So what happens next? The gravy. If you get LSU, do you understand what school you just exponentially enhanced your chances of luring to the dark side?
Here, now, a handy table to show you our evil plan. Permanent rivals are across from one another.
|YOUR NEW BIG 12|
|NORTH DIVISION||SOUTH DIVISION|
|Iowa State||Texas Tech|
|Kansas State||Texas Christian|
|West Virginia||Louisiana State|
You could swap Texas Tech and Baylor if you wanted, but everything else there is absolutely perfect. Moving the Oklahoma schools north makes the north division immediately salty; there won't be any of those mid-2000s seasons where the north champion goes 5-0 against the division while the other five teams battle for bowl eligibility. You've got the Red River Rivalry, you've got the drunkest road trip ever, you've got OSU-Arkansas -- which you might not perceive as a big thing if you've never gone shopping in Tulsa on a Saturday -- and you've got Purple-on-Purple Violence.
Is this something that could actually happen? We'll be honest. It's very doubtful. The SEC has existed for a long time with very few defections; only three in over 80 years and two of those were teams that just couldn't compete in the conference anymore. There's a cultural cohesion to the league which inherently promotes bonding, and as grouchy as LSU folks get over perceived snubs and dirty tricks, they do love the conference.
But the seeds are there. You can't grow a garden without watering them. And the most compelling reason why at least pursuing this solution is something the Big 12 needs to at least consider is pretty simple.
It's probably the one thing the entire Big 12 would agree on if the possibility presented itself. With the history of this conference, that's probably the most important consideration.