Although the controversy will never end regarding college football conference supremacy, when the various rankings are released, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is most frequently seen at the top of the list.
It has been that way for the past decade, at least. The SEC promotes what is generally considered to be the most brutal conference schedule from top to bottom in both divisions of competition.
The Arkansas Razorbacks have the battle scars and bruises to prove it.
No doubt, Arkansas puts a dangerous and talented football team on the field, year after year. Yet, in the framework of the SEC, the best of teams in the college landscape would not fare much better if they had to muscle such a schedule as Arkansas. Squaring off against competition at Georgia, Florida, LSU, Alabama, etc., doesn't give conference members any respite.
Beginning with the coach Houston Nutt era, the Razorbacks have had three winning seasons in conference within the SEC: 1998, 2002, and 2006.
The Razorbacks posted a 7-1 winning schedule in conference play in 2006, which included the thrilling overtime win against the Tide. Nevertheless, for 12 seasons, Arkansas teams have endured 9 non-winning conference records.
Is this something to be ashamed of? Hardly.
At this juncture, however, the Arkansas administration and faithful fan-base need to ask if this is a world they are willing to live in perpetually.
The SEC environment will pretty much be this way for the foreseeable future, and beyond.
Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com recently reported June 17, 2010, that, "Multiple sources in the Big 12 told Orangebloods.com , Arkansas has put out feelers about a possible move to the Big 12 to reconnect with former Southwest Conference rivals like Texas and Texas A&M. Those sources said Arkansas currently doesn't have the votes among the Big 12 schools to join the league. But those sources said they would need to see how the television money would work if adding a school or two to know if they'd vote for expansion."
Given Brown's high batting average during the recent expansion events, I would have to give this report some credibility.
The prospect of a Big 12 move by Arkansas is at least on the radar and is a consideration for the program.
Given that Arkansas is arguably in the most powerful and successful conference, there is still plenty of room to explore why Arkansas would consider such a transition.
Why would Arkansas leave the money and security of the SEC for the Big 12?
First of all, when considering the last century of football played by Arkansas, their associations with Texas, Texas A&M, as well as Texas Tech are extensive. Restoring those traditional rivalries has an aesthetic appeal. Social histories cannot be underestimated.
Second, Arkansas would do well to move into a Big 12 North division recently vacated by the Cornhuskers. This would be an ideal circumstance for the Razorbacks given the power vacuum created by this loss.
The path to a North Division championship and a berth in the Big 12 championship game, while still arduous, is likely a more plausible route for the Hogs. Of course this scenario is dependent on division structure in the Big 12 remaining unaltered.
Third, a transition to the Big 12 makes the idea of a national championship more accessible for Arkansas.
While I am certainly not trying to disparage the strength of the Big 12 Conference, Arkansas' chances of coming out of the Big 12 North, winning the Big 12 Championship Game, and finding a spot in the title game are much greater than their current alignment in the SEC.
Arkansas Athletic Director has recently stated that the Razorbacks have "no interest" in joining the Big 12.
Well, right now, of course they don't.
That's how conference expansion speak goes. Unless the deal is ready to move, you pledge undying allegiance to your current conference affiliation. Missouri did it with slightly less than absolute fervor and look at the aftermath of acrimony that has resulted.
If television money can be guaranteed at an acceptable level, Arkansas to the Big 12 makes sense in many ways.
I'd keep my eyes on this possibility.