Most years, the opening weekend of a new college football season would’ve dominated the talk at the weekly Big 12 football coaches teleconference.
But that was not the case Monday.
Conference realignment was the hot topic, and the Big 12 coaches offered a glimpse into just how messed up this whole thing really is.
In a span of less than 30 minutes, five coaches chimed in with different viewpoints on the situation that threatens the existence of the Big 12 for the second time in 15 months.
Some, such as Kansas University coach Turner Gill, talked with confidence about the bright future of the league.
“I’m not too concerned about it,” Gill said. “I have faith in our commissioner and faith in our presidents and chancellors here at our institutions. I believe the Big 12 Conference will be standing strong at some point in time. How it all shakes out, I don’t know, but I do have confidence that there will be a Big 12 Conference.”
Others, such as Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, answered the question of OU’s place in all this without mentioning the Big 12, no doubt a bad sign for conference aficionados.
“I’m for whatever our president and athletic director feel is best for the University of Oklahoma,” Stoops said. “As long as we get to play, I’ll go play wherever they tell me I need to go play. I’ve got great faith in them, so for me to say what I prefer wouldn’t be at all right to do.”
One problem. Last year, when all of this was happening to the Big 12, right before Colorado and Nebraska bolted, Stoops had a lot to say.
He talked openly about the conference’s future, its ability to add new teams, if desired, and Oklahoma’s place in the puzzle. He said he saw how Oklahoma would “be pretty attractive” to any conference, given the Sooners’ TV draw, BCS track record and seasonal sellouts at their 80,000-plus-seat football stadium.
Stoops’ relative silence this time around seems to be a bad sign for the league. He did make one final, telling statement before hanging up.
“It seems (super conferences are where) the world is going,” he said. “So be it.”
While the Big 12’s football coaches sounded like a group divided Monday, several at least agreed that they were surprised to see the league again facing such an ordeal so quickly.
“I did not think it would come up again,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “I thought it was over for at least 10 years. We were told last year we could join any league in the country if we wanted to. We’ve been told we could go independent, so there’s going to be something really good for Texas at the end of this. Our school will be OK regardless of what happens, and that’s not the case for everybody.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder echoed similar thoughts, though not with the same confidence as Brown.
“Just understand that Kansas State will persevere through whatever takes place,” Snyder said. “Whatever it is, we will still land on our feet and be stronger because of it. We can’t afford to get caught up in the politics of what’s taking place in our conference.”
It’s not so much that they can’t afford to, it’s that they may not be asked to. This time around, the decisions are being made by presidents and chancellors. Even the league’s athletic directors have found their voices weakened in this round of realignment talk. With that in mind, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville spoke out about the need for leadership.
“I think we need to get a grip on everything,” Tuberville said. “Obviously, in our league with people leaving and thinking about leaving, there’s going to have to be some tough decisions made. We just need somebody to step out in front and help make all of these decisions. As coaches, we worry more about the games because we have little say-so in terms of conference alignment and goings and comings. I’m more concerned for college football as a whole as anything else in the times we are in right now.”