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  1. #1
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    Cool About conference divisions ...

    There is a large and very commonly believed misconception about the splitting of divisions within a conference. This is particularly true when people look back on the Big 12 with revisionist history and analyze that the league put all the strength and power in one division.

    "There are lessons to be learned from the Big 12, which shifted its power
    to the South division and made the league championship game weaker."
    - Adam Rittenberg, ESPN

    In my opinion, this couldn't be less true. In fact, if there was a strong division when the Big 12 was formed it was the north! Four Big Eight schools (Nebraska, Kansas State, Colorado, and Kansas) had just finished in the top ten in the nation, and all four of those would be in the new north division.

    I contend that the act of having geographic divisions was a contributor to the issue of south power, but not nearly as important as many other factors that led to a Big 12 football landscape that was rolling downhill to the south.

    Here's your quick history lesson:

    Three years prior to formation of Big 12 (1993-95) ...

    Nebraska (36-1) .973
    Colorado (29-6-1) .829
    Kansas State (28-7-1) .800
    Kansas (21-14) .600
    Missouri (9-23-2) .290
    Iowa State (6-24-1) .200
    TOTAL NORTH (129-75-5) .632

    Texas A&M (29-5-1) .853
    Texas (23-11-2) .676
    Oklahoma (20-14-1) .588
    Texas Tech (21-15) .583
    Baylor (19-15) .559
    Oklahoma State (10-23-1) .303
    TOTAL SOUTH (122-83-5) .595

    First 4 years of the Big 12 (1996-1999) ...

    Nebraska (45-7) .865
    Kansas State (42-7) .857
    Colorado (30-17) .638
    Missouri (24-22) .522
    Kansas (18-27) .400
    Iowa State (10-34) .227
    TOTAL NORTH (169-114) .597

    Texas A&M (34-17) .667
    Texas (30-20) .600
    Texas Tech (26-20) .565
    Oklahoma State (23-22) .511
    Oklahoma (19-27) .413
    Baylor (9-35) .205
    TOTAL SOUTH (141-141) .500

    Middle years of Big 12 (2000-2005) ...

    Nebraska (51-24) .680
    Kansas State (48-28) .632
    Colorado (42-34) .553
    Iowa State (39-35) .527
    Missouri (32-38) 457
    Kansas (26-44) .371
    TOTAL NORTH (238-203) .540

    Oklahoma (68-11) .861
    Texas (65-11) .855
    Texas Tech (48-28) .632
    Texas A&M (37-34) .521
    Oklahoma State (35-36) .493
    Baylor (19-49) .279
    TOTAL SOUTH (272-169) .617

    Last 4 years of the Big 12 (2006-2009) ...

    Missouri (38-16) .704
    Nebraska (33-20) .623
    Kansas (31-19) .620
    Kansas State (23-26) .469
    Iowa State (16-33) .327
    Colorado (16-33) .327
    TOTAL NORTH (157-147) .516

    Texas (45-8) .849
    Oklahoma (42-13) .764
    Texas Tech (37-15) .712
    Oklahoma State (32-20) .615
    Texas A&M (26-25) .510
    Baylor (15-33) .313
    TOTAL SOUTH (197-114) .634

    The first conclusion I draw from this historic data is how fluid (everyone has used that term so much in the past few weeks, I figured I would drop join the crowd) the situation is. If you learn nothing else from looking at the results of the Big 12 schools over the past nearly 20 years, know that things will change. The current snapshot of power and talent can, and more importantly will change.

    My point is that there are way too many factors (both macro and micro) that contribute to the successes and failures of individual schools. In the case of the Big 12 there are some macro themes that contributed to what is perceived as, and in recent history has been, south dominance. They will be no surprise to most of you.

    Pure geography and the societal desire to live, work and play in a warm climate might be the biggest. Other leagues such as the SEC (and now the Big Ten) do not face such this challenge whereas the Big 12 did and still does. Add in the fact that there are more quality athletes in southern states and it is not a difficult conclusion to see why warm weather schools are generally outperforming (outrecruiting) across the nation in football and other sports.

    Other league wide factors include the elimination of accepting partial qualifiers at the old Big Eight schools by Big 12 rules. Yes, I concede to the congressman from Nebraska that this did hurt the schools in the north as he predicted it would. Creating a smaller pool of elite athletes to recruit from by eliminating these athlete-students was critical in the drop in talent coming to the division.

    Resources, facilities, and money in general has also played a major role. The big boys with the big toys (and huge stadiums, populations, and pocket books) decided that they really needed to play ball around the turn of the century. It has been, and will continue to be an uphill climb for the 50,000 seat stadium club in low populated states.

    Given all these changes in the landscape of college football and the Big 12 Conference, I do not dismiss that micro decisions at individual institutions has almost as much to do with the changes in who was winning and losing. Leadership is critical, especially when you look at the changes in head coaches at particular schools. Will Texas and Oklahoma continue to be dominate when Mack and Stoops move on? Most think they will, but history does not guarantee it. Will Texas Tech continue to be so consistent without Leach? Only time will tell.

    The only thing you can be certain about is that things will certainly continue to change. That's the beauty of sport. The unknown results. Imperfect people playing imperfect games. It is a beautiful thing. I say this specifically to two different groups of people.

    The first group are the naysayers and doomsday prognosticators (this includes the pessimistic ISU fan) that are predicting undeniable stranglehold of the new Big 12 by OU and Texas. Let's play the games and see what happens over the next 5-10 years.

    The other group are those that think they can set up perfect divisions in the new Big Ten and Pac Ten. Trust me, you can't.


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  2. #2
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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Good post... I agree and things will change. It will be interesting to see how a 10 team Big12 works out.


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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by MookInLincoln View Post
    There is a large and very commonly believed misconception about the splitting of divisions within a conference. This is particularly true when people look back on the Big 12 with revisionist history and analyze that the league put all the strength and power in one division.

    "There are lessons to be learned from the Big 12, which shifted its power
    to the South division and made the league championship game weaker."
    - Adam Rittenberg, ESPN

    In my opinion, this couldn't be less true. In fact, if there was a strong division when the Big 12 was formed it was the north! Four Big Eight schools (Nebraska, Kansas State, Colorado, and Kansas) had just finished in the top ten in the nation, and all four of those would be in the new north division.

    I contend that the act of having geographic divisions was a contributor to the issue of south power, but not nearly as important as many other factors that led to a Big 12 football landscape that was rolling downhill to the south.

    Here's your quick history lesson:

    Three years prior to formation of Big 12 (1993-95) ...

    Nebraska (36-1) .973
    Colorado (29-6-1) .829
    Kansas State (28-7-1) .800
    Kansas (21-14) .600
    Missouri (9-23-2) .290
    Iowa State (6-24-1) .200
    TOTAL NORTH (129-75-5) .632

    Texas A&M (29-5-1) .853
    Texas (23-11-2) .676
    Oklahoma (20-14-1) .588
    Texas Tech (21-15) .583
    Baylor (19-15) .559
    Oklahoma State (10-23-1) .303
    TOTAL SOUTH (122-83-5) .595

    First 4 years of the Big 12 (1996-1999) ...

    Nebraska (45-7) .865
    Kansas State (42-7) .857
    Colorado (30-17) .638
    Missouri (24-22) .522
    Kansas (18-27) .400
    Iowa State (10-34) .227
    TOTAL NORTH (169-114) .597

    Texas A&M (34-17) .667
    Texas (30-20) .600
    Texas Tech (26-20) .565
    Oklahoma State (23-22) .511
    Oklahoma (19-27) .413
    Baylor (9-35) .205
    TOTAL SOUTH (141-141) .500

    Middle years of Big 12 (2000-2005) ...

    Nebraska (51-24) .680
    Kansas State (48-28) .632
    Colorado (42-34) .553
    Iowa State (39-35) .527
    Missouri (32-38) 457
    Kansas (26-44) .371
    TOTAL NORTH (238-203) .540

    Oklahoma (68-11) .861
    Texas (65-11) .855
    Texas Tech (48-28) .632
    Texas A&M (37-34) .521
    Oklahoma State (35-36) .493
    Baylor (19-49) .279
    TOTAL SOUTH (272-169) .617

    Last 4 years of the Big 12 (2006-2009) ...

    Missouri (38-16) .704
    Nebraska (33-20) .623
    Kansas (31-19) .620
    Kansas State (23-26) .469
    Iowa State (16-33) .327
    Colorado (16-33) .327
    TOTAL NORTH (157-147) .516

    Texas (45-8) .849
    Oklahoma (42-13) .764
    Texas Tech (37-15) .712
    Oklahoma State (32-20) .615
    Texas A&M (26-25) .510
    Baylor (15-33) .313
    TOTAL SOUTH (197-114) .634

    The first conclusion I draw from this historic data is how fluid (everyone has used that term so much in the past few weeks, I figured I would drop join the crowd) the situation is. If you learn nothing else from looking at the results of the Big 12 schools over the past nearly 20 years, know that things will change. The current snapshot of power and talent can, and more importantly will change.

    My point is that there are way too many factors (both macro and micro) that contribute to the successes and failures of individual schools. In the case of the Big 12 there are some macro themes that contributed to what is perceived as, and in recent history has been, south dominance. They will be no surprise to most of you.

    Pure geography and the societal desire to live, work and play in a warm climate might be the biggest. Other leagues such as the SEC (and now the Big Ten) do not face such this challenge whereas the Big 12 did and still does. Add in the fact that there are more quality athletes in southern states and it is not a difficult conclusion to see why warm weather schools are generally outperforming (outrecruiting) across the nation in football and other sports.

    Other league wide factors include the elimination of accepting partial qualifiers at the old Big Eight schools by Big 12 rules. Yes, I concede to the congressman from Nebraska that this did hurt the schools in the north as he predicted it would. Creating a smaller pool of elite athletes to recruit from by eliminating these athlete-students was critical in the drop in talent coming to the division.

    Resources, facilities, and money in general has also played a major role. The big boys with the big toys (and huge stadiums, populations, and pocket books) decided that they really needed to play ball around the turn of the century. It has been, and will continue to be an uphill climb for the 50,000 seat stadium club in low populated states.

    Given all these changes in the landscape of college football and the Big 12 Conference, I do not dismiss that micro decisions at individual institutions has almost as much to do with the changes in who was winning and losing. Leadership is critical, especially when you look at the changes in head coaches at particular schools. Will Texas and Oklahoma continue to be dominate when Mack and Stoops move on? Most think they will, but history does not guarantee it. Will Texas Tech continue to be so consistent without Leach? Only time will tell.

    The only thing you can be certain about is that things will certainly continue to change. That's the beauty of sport. The unknown results. Imperfect people playing imperfect games. It is a beautiful thing. I say this specifically to two different groups of people.

    The first group are the naysayers and doomsday prognosticators (this includes the pessimistic ISU fan) that are predicting undeniable stranglehold of the new Big 12 by OU and Texas. Let's play the games and see what happens over the next 5-10 years.

    The other group are those that think they can set up perfect divisions in the new Big Ten and Pac Ten. Trust me, you can't.
    Wow, Mook! Great post and a huge amount of research by you! Thanks!



  4. #4
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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Interesting historical numbers. Good work.

    This is based on overall record, and not just conference records? That might be the only difference in the statistical comparison as it applies to fluidity would there be a bigger discrepancy comparing North vs. South winning percentage and head-to-head with Big 12 games only?

    I think it's possible the recent South "dominance" will remain, but perhaps won't escalate, with NU out of the picture. Texas is likely to be The team, but as you said, much of the rest will have cyclical results.

    It looks like if you take NU and CU out and recalculated the last 5 years, the North's pct. is mostly a wash.

    Something I find intriguing (and didn't remember) is how both UT and OU went through some really down years in the '90s (relative to recent years).


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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Not too shabby for an Exercise Science major.




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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by cyclones500 View Post
    Something I find intriguing (and didn't remember) is how both UT and OU went through some really down years in the '90s (relative to recent years).
    And that really wasn't that long ago! They are both only one coach removed from being very average. That's why I just laugh at these people that are predicting that no one will ever challenge UT and OU. Over the long haul those giants will prevail, but there is nothing to stop them from dropping briefly or one of the little guys from jumping up a biting them in the arse.


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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by helechopper View Post
    Not too shabby for an Exercise Science major.


    Hey, be nice now.

    I spent 2 years in the College of Design before setting up camp in the Forker Bldg


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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Rumor in Lincoln is that Nebraska will be in same division as Ohio State and Hawks. Apparently Wiscy, Penn State and Mich will be in the other one. This would make it real tough on the Hawks. Hawks may have one year where they have to play both on the road in order to play the conference game in order to have a good bowl.


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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Nice work, Mook. You made some very good points.



  10. #10
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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Wesley View Post
    Rumor in Lincoln is that Nebraska will be in same division as Ohio State and Hawks. Apparently Wiscy, Penn State and Mich will be in the other one. This would make it real tough on the Hawks. Hawks may have one year where they have to play both on the road in order to play the conference game in order to have a good bowl.
    I could live with that. That seems a lot better than some of the others I have seen.

    Of course my preference would be ...

    Screw the bugeaters and hawk division
    Nebraska
    Iowa
    Ohio State
    Michigan
    Penn State
    Wisconsin

    Sacrificial lamb division
    Minnesota
    Northwestern
    Illinois
    Purdue
    Michigan State
    Indiana



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  11. #11
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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by MookInLincoln View Post
    That's why I just laugh at these people that are predicting that no one will ever challenge UT and OU. Over the long haul those giants will prevail, but there is nothing to stop them from dropping briefly or one of the little guys from jumping up a biting them in the arse.
    That's true.

    That's one of the things that bugged me about divisional play in the 12-team Big 12, as far as ISU's schedule was concerned. There was the view that OSU-Baylor-A&M was the "easy" one, and UT-OU-Tech was guaranteeing at least 2 (and probably 3) losses.

    Now, that made complete sense based on the results we had seen, but when OU & UT weren't as strong in the '90s, ISU was horrible. Put recent ISU teams against those teams, and who knows?

    I still would probably like to have OU-UT rotation split home/away in the new round-robin. But partly that's because it makes sense from home-game draw. Those will be high-profile opponents for a long time even if their programs dip a little over time.


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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Wesley View Post
    Rumor in Lincoln is that Nebraska will be in same division as Ohio State and Hawks. Apparently Wiscy, Penn State and Mich will be in the other one. This would make it real tough on the Hawks. Hawks may have one year where they have to play both on the road in order to play the conference game in order to have a good bowl.
    They got it half right. Michigan and Ohio State aren't going to be split up, and Gene Smith is on record saying that any divisional alignment that does that is a no-starter.



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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by TarHeelHawk View Post
    They got it half right. Michigan and Ohio State aren't going to be split up, and Gene Smith is on record saying that any divisional alignment that does that is a no-starter.
    Yeah, U-M & OSU would not be split UNLESS there is a non-division game that never goes out of rotation for every school, because I can't see that game being played every year. (That's when tradition suddenly matters, even though it didn't seem to matter in the context of expansion talk).

    I'd bet, though, if this expansion took place even 20 years ago, they might consider putting those schools in opposite divisions with the assumption they were likely to meet in the championship game 80 percent of the time.

    The most natural split is:
    West:
    Iowa
    Nebraska
    Minnesota
    Wisconsin
    Illinois
    Northwestern

    East:
    U-M
    MSU
    Purdue
    Indiana
    Ohio State
    Penn State

    Geography and rivalries are intact, and it seems like a fairly good power/tradition balance. East seems more top-heavy, but remember, U-M has sucked recently, and Penn State has been even more nationally marginal than Nebraska in the last decade.


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    Re: About conference divisions ...

    good history lesson and well presented - thanks. i'm not worried about our future with the leadership we've got in place right now. in my opinion, we've probably got the best leadership in place at ISU that I can remember. it'd be nice to come out strong in the new Big 12. we shall see......


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