DALLAS — Two years ago, the Big 12’s annual football media days were a circus.
The controversial Longhorn Network was about to launch. Texas A&M and Oklahoma were disturbed that the evil Longhorns were going to show high school games on their new toy/national network.
The Aggies were tired of playing the role of little brother.
Bob Stoops seemed sour.
Gary Pinkel acted like his usual cross self.
It was one big happy family! That is what the league wanted everybody to believe at least.
When I arrived in Dallas two July’s ago, I felt pretty good about the league’s future. When I left Dallas two years ago, the Big 12’s implosion seemed like more of a “when” than an “if.” I could see it during press conferences. I heard chatter in the hallways. In genearl, folks seemed uneasy. Too many parties weren’t happy with the way things were going and as a result, it just didn’t feel right.
Today, the Big 12 will launch its 2013 version of the event and for the most part the league appears to be sitting on solid ground. What’s the point of all of this you ask? After all, media day is always the unofficial start to the college football season. We should be hashing out actual football topics today.
I know. I know. Just relax because this is an actual football topic.
On Sunday, two pieces that I stumbled upon got me thinking about how things were, how things could have been and most importantly, how things are today.
The first was an article from Texas’ SB Nation site that interviewed prominent realignment blogger, “Frank the Tank.” Within the interview, “Frank” labeled the SEC as realignment’s biggest winner as far as conferences are concerned. He named the Big 12 as realignment’s biggest loser. But that is beside the point.
Frank went on to mention Rutgers as the biggest individual winner as far as how this all played out. That is hard to argue with too. That is a program that went from nearly being wiped off the face of big-time college athletics’ radar to receiving an invitation to the richest league of them all. You know, just because of all of those diehard Scarlet Knight fans in New York (heavy sarcasm there people).
But up next, doesn’t Iowa State have to be on a very short list of schools that benefited from the way this all played out? Sure, the 12-team league was better for the Cyclones in football. Many fans (and coaches) long for the old days of playing four non-conference games and missing Oklahoma and Texas in the same season. But if you’re being realistic, the league was going to shuffle and nine-game conference schedules are going to be played by pretty much everybody going forward.
Think about what all has gone down since media day, 2011.
— Thanks to the ACC’s recent grant of rights agreement, the Big 12 now appears to be very safe for the near future.
— Iowa State’s new football facility is now legitimately one of the best in the country and making a heck of a lot more money to boot.
— Paul Rhoads is still the lowest paid coach in the league, but he’s received a couple of raises since then.
— As a whole, excitement about Iowa State football as at an all-time high. The university announced the student season tickets had sold out a week ago. The general season ticket number will likely be record setting and the Cyclones enter 2013 as a bowl program in three of the last four years.
I’ve outlined the past and the present. Now to that whole “what could have been” aspect of the conversation.
“We had the tiger by the tail and we were holding on for dear life.”
That’s what Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard told me in June (read the entire interview here).
Now, here’s a quote that Pollard gave the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson from a story in Sunday’s paper.
“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether so-and-so has $3 million more, or Texas has $100 million more,” Pollard said. “I know this: I know that our staff and our coaches now have the resources they need to be competitive. ”
There you have it. I’ve seen and heard a lot of this from Pollard lately.
“Our coaches now have the resources they need to be competitive.”
Let that quote sink in. For decades, that has been an excuse in Ames. That is no longer the case.
On Aug. 31, look around Jake Trice Stadium and take everything in. Appreciate it.
If the Big 12 had blown up a few years ago, Iowa State football still would have existed in some way, shape or form. But things would have been a heck of a lot different. If it was in some watered down Big East, a new league or even (a major long shot) another BCS Conference.
Things have changed a lot over two years and for now at least, they have changed for the better at Iowa State.
*** Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech will take the stage today in Dallas. Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby will kick things off at 9 a.m. with a press conference.
*** Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Iowa State will meet the media on Tuesday. Paul Rhoads’ press conference is scheduled to begin at noon.
*** Today’s meetings are taking place at the OMNI in downtown Dallas. Take a stab as to what other major conference is going down? No guesses?
There’s nothing like mixing hundreds of sportstwriters and Mary Kay reps. Could you come up with a worse combination?
Keep CF up on your desktop today and tomorrow. For up to date nuggets from Dallas, follow me on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams.