The frenzy of rumors, posturing, threats, back room dealing, TV contracts, excitement, dissent, anger and fear swirled last summer into a massive dust storm we called “conference realignment.”
The analogy of dominoes falling was often used. “If the Big XII collapses, what will happen to the Pac 12, or the Big East?” “Which teams will end up where?” “The ACC?” “Where will Texas go?” “Super Conferences?” “Where will that leave us and our cherished relevance?”
The dust swirled for months, driven by the winds of money, greed, envy and fear. There were more questions than answers. Seemingly everything was up in the air. On June 30th, 2012, the final particles of dust from the 2011 storm will finally settle.
What will be revealed is a new monster in college football.
Debate between fans from Missouri, Texas A&M, and other Big XII schools has been fierce. Were they heading to greener pastures or walking into a death chamber by entering the SEC? Were they hurting the Big XII by leaving or were they hurting themselves by killing century-old rivalries? Or both? These questions are up for debate and are, in large part, a matter of opinion. In time, the wisdom of the decisions by Mizzou and A&M to leave will be revealed.
There is, however, one prediction that can be backed by strong, empirical data: In the sport of football, the Big XII will be a better, more competitive conference from top to bottom after losing Missouri and Texas A&M, and bringing West Virginia and TCU into the fold.
To illustrate this fact, I have pulled data from 1996 (the first year of the Big XII conference) through today (sorry Aggies, but a national championship in 1939 does not improve your competitive standing today.) So I present to you the facts from the 15 years of the Big XII. Do with them what you will. I had heard bits and pieces of these facts in arguments and discussions over the past year, but when compiled and compared, they are staggering.
Total winning percentage:
Conference winning percentage:
Mizzou: 48% (ranks them 8th out of 12 teams)
A&M: 50.8% (ranks them 7th out of 12 teams)
Mizzou: 0 championships, 2 appearances
A&M: 1 championship, 2 appearances
WVU: 6 championships
TCU: 7 championships
It is true that the Tigers and the Aggies played in the Big XII all 15 years. West Virginia played in the Big East, which has been softer in football. TCU has spent time in the WAC, CUSA and MWC during the 15 year span. So the stats are not great for an even comparison, although they do illustrate that WVU and TCU have been playing some winning football. The conference statistics also support the following statement:
The Big XII is replacing two teams historically found in the bottom half of its standings with two teams who have traditionally been the best in their respective conferences.
Oh, but the conference disparity! Can’t you just hear the Missouri fans talking about how they would dominate in the Big East? Luckily, there are some more inclusive statistics I found…
Top 25 finishes:
Keep in mind, teams from conferences that are perceived as “weaker” have a harder time getting ranked in a subjectively-voted season ending top 25. In other words, a 3 loss TCU is far less likely to be ranked than a 3 loss Mizzou or A&M. Despite this significant disadvantage, WVU and TCU are brining 16 top 25 finishes to replace the 9 that Missouri and A&M had in the same period.
Top 10 finishes:
Replacing 1 with 6, a 500% increase!
“Yes, but many of their wins came against inferior competition in their weak conferences!” Ok, let’s look at inter-conference games that are supposed to be competitive…
Mizzou: 9 bowls: 4 wins, 5 losses (loses include juggernauts Colorado State and Navy)
A&M: 11 bowls: 2 wins, 9 losses (whoa, a .22 winning pct)
WVU: 14 bowls: 6 wins, 8 losses
TCU: 13 bowls: 9 wins, 4 losses (they sure do match up well with teams from “better conferences”)
Just to recap, the Big XII is replacing teams who have won 6 bowl games in 15 years with teams who have won 15 bowl games in 15 years. MMMKay, got that?
BCS performance: The ultimate measuring stick for “elite” status in college football…
Mizzou: 0 appearances, 0 wins
A&M: 1 appearance, 0 wins
WVU: 3 appearances, 3 wins (defeated CHAMPIONS from Big XII, SEC, ACC)
TCU: 2 appearances, 1 win (defeated CHAMPION from Big 10)
Draw whatever conclusion you wish from the data. The question of conference strength is valid. However, there is also no question that Mizzou and A&M performed below the mid-line of the Big XII during their stay. Combine their conference records and they lost more games than they won. They also performed poorly on the national stage against competition from other conferences and usually finished the season unranked despite being in a highly respected conference.
Both Mizzou and A&M had some great accomplishments during their run in the Big XII. But WVU and TCU had more, and they had them more consistently over the same span. They are usually ranked in the top 25 at season’s end. They have BCS experience and success, 6 top 10 finishes between them, and are perennial contenders for conference championships – frequently winning them. And both are thriving presently. Neither Mizzou nor A&M can claim those statements. Now WVU and TCU will be moving into one of the most successful conferences of the BCS era and will get all the recruiting advantages that go along with it. If TCU recruited kids who could win 11 games and crash the BCS from a non-BCS conference before, who will the recruit now?
Seeing West Virginia and TCU on the schedule this fall first struck me as a novelty. Now I believe we may have created a monster. This isn’t going to be business as usual in the Big XII. An in depth examination of past performance points towards a clear prediction of the future: WVU and TCU are going to be a lot harder to beat in football than Mizzou and A&M were.
Our new teams are good, with a long history of success on the national stage and winning conference championships. Thank you to Missouri and A&M for stepping aside to make room at the table for two historic winners. Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun season.