Since we are so close to Halloween and about to be inundated with images of the dead coming back to life, it's pretty appropriate to be talking about the Big 12.
Only 45 days ago, most college insiders thought the conference was on life support with a death blow coming from the Pac-12 in the in the form of invitations to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas...
But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.
Texas, considered the genesis to all the recent conference shuffling, played peacemaker and kept the conference together along enough to stave off mass desertion. In fact, the Big 12 should be in a position shortly where other major institutions look to call it home for years to come. TCU is now a member.
Louisville will be a member if they want from what I'm told. West Virginia still has a chance, but may need to bring some dance partners to gain entry. Granted, the conference lost Nebraska, Colorado and probably Missouri, but the replacement pool of candidates gives the conference a greater "footprint"(the newest catch phrase in college sports).
Boise State and BYU are extremely attractive for a number of different reasons, and combining their entries along with Louisville and West Virginia balances out the invitations to two west and two east of the traditional Big 12 boundaries, but still only one time zone away each from the central US...
Assuming that Missouri heads to the SEC, the Big 12 has a real opportunity to secure their long term future right now with a quick strike of invitations over the next 2 months.
Add Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Boise State, BYU and Air Force as full members and allow Texas to go independent in football, provided they get Notre Dame to join as an independent in football as well.
Notre Dame, on the other hand is thought to be asking Texas to come to the ACC under the same auspice. Notre Dame and Texas agree to play 5 games each year(one neutral site) among the 14 full time members, as well as annual game against each other.
I think of Notre Dame playing every odd year on Thanksgiving Friday night at Cowboys Stadium, while Texas comes to Soldier Field in late October of even years.
It makes the league an extremely attractive television conference to say the least, and also allows Texas to fully develop the Longhorn Network. Comcast/NBC keeps their deal with Notre Dame intact.
The Big 12 imposes a $25 million penalty for any school, including Texas and Notre Dame, from leaving the conference. That is the same deal that I think the ACC would take to get the Irish and the Longhorns.
To visualize it from a football and non-football perspective, here is a likely divisional setup:
For all other sports, a very convenient 4 pod system would work:
East - West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, Notre Dame
North - Boise State, Air Force, BYU, Iowa State
Central- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State
South - Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor
For basketball, each team plays home and home within its pod and once against each other school in the conference for a total of 18 league games. For baseball and softball, the schools in the East & North pods would have the benefit of playing games in Oklahoma and Texas in late February.
For soccer, the southern teams could play north in September. And remember that the Longhorn Network would be broadcasting a massive amount of Olympic sports that would have no coverage otherwise.
The bowl committees would rush to cut new deals with the Big 12, since several of the new members travel extremely well like West Virginia, Boise State, BYU and of course, Notre Dame..
Chuck Neinas, interim Big 12 Commissioner, has the chance to to secure his conference's future for years to come with one quick strike that ends the threat of the Pac 12 poaching any further, enhances the academic reputation of the Big 12 with Notre Dame and Air Force, and creates perhaps the best conference for television in America.