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Time for the Big 12 to learn from and embrace SWC history

Part 3 in a series on the Big 12 and the College Football Playoff

Once upon a time, there was a legendary college sports league known as the Southwest Conference.

Made up primarily of the most recognized schools in the state of Texas, along with a group of interlopers from Arkansas, the conference was skilled in many sports but was primarily known for football. The height of the conference likely came in the 1960s when it trumpeted three national championship teams, topped off by Texas and Arkansas squaring off on the last day of the 1969 regular season for the conference and national championship all in one.

The conference is long gone now, and with it, passion for college sports has dwindled in the state – especially in the cities who’s schools did not get into the mighty Big 12 conference that was spawned from the SWC’s death. The nine schools that most prominently made up the SWC have now been scattered among five conferences, with the likes of SMU, Houston and Rice struggling to stir up spirit with their schools stuck in leagues with few if any natural territorial rivals to generate buzz over.

Many people at the time and since have wanted to blame the conference’s end on SMU and the fallout of its football program receiving the first repeat violator “death penalty” in history. Another argument was that the league was brought down from the fact that half its membership was made of small, denominational private schools that had no chance of ever competing for the championship and spots in a major bowl game.

Yet here we are with TCU and Baylor having supplanted the big state schools to become the standard-bearers of Big 12 football.

Truth be told, greed killed the Southwest Conference. Texas bolted the SWC for the chance at bigger TV contracts and paydays and convinced Texas A&M and Texas Tech to go with them. They balked at Houston joining them (likely a vindictive swipe at the Cougars’ actually competing for the high school talent in Houston) and instead threw then-governor Ann Richards a bone in allowing her alma mater in Waco to come with them.

That’s not to say the big boys in Austin are alone in being greedy. Greed combined with envy and hatred toward Texas has threatened to wreck the Big 12 just like it wrecked the SWC. Four of the original Big 12 teams, three of whom were part of the old Big Eight, have taken their ball and gone elsewhere, complaining about UT’s unfair advantage and driven by the allure of being part of a “superconference.”

And the result? The cumulative conference record of those teams since their departures is 55-61. Colorado has been an abysmal 4-32 in the Pac-12. Nebraska has the best mark at 22-10 in the 14-team Big 10, and that still couldn’t save Bo Pelini’s job. None of the four schools has won a conference championship in their new homes.

Just think, if Texas A&M hadn’t gotten butthurt over Texas big TV network, they might have dominated the Big 12 for the two years they had Johnny Manziel. Now, they are likely stuck as an also-ran in the SEC West. Meanwhile, TCU gladly jumped at the opening and simply beat out Texas and the rest to become champions. TCU’s record against the unfairly-playing Longhorns since becoming conference foes again: 2-1 with both wins coming in Austin.

The penis envy has simply never stopped even after the SWC folded, as schools continue to search for places where the grass looks greener, rivalries and passion of the fans be damned. They continue to treat their fans, students and alumni like sheep that will simply get as fired up to play the like of LSU and Mississippi State like they did for Texas and Baylor, putting up the excessive amount of money it takes to travel to those places as opposed to the simple highway journeys a rivalry road trip used to take.

The plan to make the Big 12 a powerful superconference didn’t work in the long run. So maybe it’s time to go back.

The idea of expanding the Big 12 again is just folly when you really think about it. Who will possibly come? The departures the conference has endured suggests no major state schools will accept. SMU and/or Houston would make sense, but it’s highly doubtful Texas will accept them.

So perhaps the conference should just settle on its current membership and drop the conference name that makes no real sense. What’s the point of having a number in the title if there is always going to be conference-jumping anyway?

And the new name they should consider? An old familiar one sounds pretty nice. After all, six of the current Big 12 members have SWC history. (Yeah, were you aware Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were founding members?)

It perhaps is time to restore the name of the Southwest Conference, and hopefully help restore the glory of that conference’s history – without repeating the mistakes that brought it down to begin with.


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