The 2019 edition of Big 12 Media Days is now over, and while the event wasn’t the biggest thing in college football this week (thanks, SEC!), there was nothing small about the venue. Jerry World put out the red carpet for the Big 12, and there were plenty of big storylines too.
There are four new head coaches in the conference
Fully 40% of the teams in the Big 12—Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia—will be kicking off their 2019 campaigns under new leadership. Of the four, only Les Miles has previous Power 5 experience, a fact he underscored by wearing his BCS Championship ring to Media Days.
But where the ring made an impression of sorts (and prompted this response from Chris Klieman), Miles emphatically did not. Reading out of a notebook and often appearing confused and sometimes speechless, Miles was so obviously awkward that some in the media wondered out loud if the coach was alright. Miles didn’t exactly cover himself in glory answering questions about Pooka Williams’ one-game suspension either.
At Texas Tech, Matt Wells is taking over from Kliff Kingsbury and is bringing a different vibe to Lubbock. Where Kingsbury was famously laid back, Wells is intense and determined. He handled his media appearance like a veteran, but that’s not really the job. With men’s basketball, baseball and track all showing Lubbock how it’s done, Wells’ challenge is to raise Tech football back to the prominence the sport enjoyed under Mike Leach. Easier said than done.
Not much is expected of West Virginia this season. With both Dana Holgorson and quarterback Will Grier gone, the ‘Eers are supposed to bring up the bottom of the conference and miss the post-season. For his part, however, Neal Brown isn’t focused on any expectations fans or media might have for the program. Instead, he described the team as a work in progress and counseled patience, a virtue much needed for a program that has almost nobody returning from last season.
The Big 12 will have its own streaming channel on ESPN+
Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby took to the podium and was immediately bombarded with questions about the thing that the Big 12 apparently cares about the most: not offending Texas with “Horns Down.”
All your statements about Texas and thin skin are a priori valid, but if you were looking for clarity from the commissioner, prepare for disappointment. Bowlsby essentially punted and Big 12 officials later shrugged and added the ever-so-useful “it depends.”
Of more significance, Bowlsby announced that eight of ten schools in the conference will now have access to a streaming channel, Big 12 Now, on ESPN+. Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State will feature in the first year of the network, with Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU, and West Virginia added in the second year, Oklahoma and Texas, however, will continue to have their own independent third-tier rights. Because of course they will.
All Sam Ehlinger all the time
So. Texas has a star quarterback, and his existence has somehow thrown the Big 12 off its usual axis, or maybe this is just a course correction as the conference once again learns to bow in the general direction of Austin.
Either way, Ehlinger was somehow the biggest story at Big 12 Media Days. He drew the biggest press crowd, got the biggest laughs, and landed the most saltiest remarks. During the offseason, Ehlinger has come in for criticism from high school rival Baker Mayfield, and then, bizarrely, from Terry Bradshaw who noted that Ehlinger “ain’t that good.”
For his part, Ehlinger shrugged it off as “outside noise,” and the hype machine continued on its way.
Rules, Rules, Rules. Now in OT.
As always, the rule changes announced at Big 12 Media Days focused on player safety and improving the quality of the game. The biggest change is to the overtime rules. Under the new rules, after four OT periods, the teams will just go for 2-point conversions. This rule change seems to be a direct response to last season’s 7-OT game between Texas A&M and LSU.
Other safety-centric rule changes include elimination of the two-man wedge on kickoffs, and blindside blocks being ruled illegal.
Mike Gundy won Media Days
Mike Gundy spoke first at Big 12 Media Days. Mike Gundy is the dean of Big 12 coaches. Mike Gundy has a fabulous mullet. In short, Mike Gundy is better than you.
Here’s a smattering of Gundy-isms. Because he’s 40 and he’s a man.
On his hair:
I hope Mike Gundy never retires pic.twitter.com/Dwtpx5tr7J— CFB Home (@CFBHome) July 16, 2019
Mike Gundy cracking a joke about the #Sooners and their recent QB history. #Big12MediaDays #okstate #Big12 @CoachGundy @CowboyFB @OU_Football @LincolnRiley pic.twitter.com/NSCnVP7YQM— Nathan Thompson (@NathanDThompson) July 15, 2019
And finally, on farming:
Knew Mike Gundy had a farm but didn't know this ... #OKState pic.twitter.com/MG0BV9C2tN— Nate Feken (@TheGreat_Nate) July 15, 2019