Moving from the SEC to the Big 12 would align Arkansas more geographically for recruiting. A quick glance at the Razorbacks’ spring roster reveals 31 players come from Big 12 states while just 19 call an SEC state home. Players from Arkansas were excluded from the list.
Geographical alignment would also be a benefit for games in the Big 12. The shortest drive to an SEC game for Hog fans from Fayetteville is 401 miles to Oxford, Mississippi, and the longest is to the Swamp in Gainesville, Florida—a trip of almost 1,000 miles, one way.
Want to travel to a Big 12 game? Getting to Oklahoma State will only take five hours from Fayetteville. Round trip. Texas Tech is a bit further, but the down and back trip is just slightly longer than the one way travel to Gainesville.
This geographical alignment will also make life just a little easier, and less expensive, for those teams that don’t have private air transportation to their games like the big revenue producing sports.
A Sense of Home
Have the Hogs ever felt like they belonged in the SEC? Many Razorback fans have expressed frustration with their “sense of belonging.”
To say SEC membership is steady is an understatement. The last change before South Carolina and Arkansas joined the conference was in 1966 when Tulane left the league. The other ten teams have been together since 1932. This is a conference with plenty of long-held traditions and a couple of decades of membership don’t automatically make you “one of the gang.”
Would moving to the Big 12 make Arkansas feel any more at home, though? The Razorbacks have been in a conference with the Texas mafia before. They were always the outsider.
Would it be different with Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma representation in the conference? Did you just watch how Texas pulled all the strings recently?
If Arkansas was in the Big 12, it would be second fiddle to not only the state of Texas, but also Oklahoma. It would also still be nearly impossible to identify a single game on the UA schedule that would have as much meaning to the opposition as it does the Pigs.
Here is the trade you make: You give up playing the likes of Florida, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Auburn to take on Texas and Oklahoma. There is more strength at the top of the SEC and playing football in the Big 12 would generate many more opportunities for success. This is not a poor reflection of the talent on Arkansas’ roster or Bobby Petrino’s coaching. It is just that much tougher to play in the SEC every week.
Basketball fans will find just the opposite. Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Baylor would all have been great teams in the SEC last year. Outside of Kentucky and Tennessee, it is hard to say that any SEC program looks really good right now.
Remember the earlier note about all of the SEC being together since 1932 with the exception of Arkansas and South Carolina? The new Big 12 has not been in place for a month yet.
Here is another issue to watch with the Big 12. Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma are receiving special consideration under the new arrangement. The SEC treats Vanderbilt just like Alabama when it comes to the distribution of television funds. If you give one set of schools an economic advantage, this will equal a competitive advantage over time.
It might not show up in football and basketball, but the favored schools will have instant access to greater funds to hire better coaches and improve facilities for other sports within the athletic department. While all is fair in love and war, it should be a little more balanced when it comes to the distribution of cash generated by all of the conference.
The Big 12 is a league in trouble still. It might be taking a breather right now, but the problems that drove Nebraska and Colorado away are still there.
So, will Arkansas make the leap? While the hearts of Razorback fans might want to return to the days when they played Texas on an annual basis and a chance to face the Sooners every fall, it is hard to imagine they would walk away from the stability and clout the SEC has in college athletics. That said, did you ever think you would see Nebraska in the Big Ten?