Welcome to the 2025 college football season, the first in three decades that will not include a Big 12 championship race.
Thanks to the generosity of Marty McFly, who loaned me his silver DeLorean from Back to the Future days, we’ve been able to jump-start the flux capacitor and do a little time traveling to see how the next wave of the college athletics realignment era unfolds.
It’s mind-numbing, really, that we’re about to witness the first Big Ten football race that features Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan in one division with Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State in the other. Man, we’re talking about some heavyweight names butting heads on a weekly basis to earn their spots in Indianapolis to settle the league championship.
I guess this is what administrators at Texas and OU envisioned long ago, when they began the process of removing themselves as Big 12 members because league administrators never could agree on meaningful moves to establish the stability needed for the league to survive for the long haul.
Here’s hoping that this year’s debut of the Big/Pac-20, the conglomeration of Big 12 and Pac-12 survivors in the lone Power 5 conference exclusively comprising schools located west of the Mississippi River, will be a long-term solution for TCU.
Goodness knows, the school did its part to stay relevant with facilities upgrades and quality coaches while carving out its niche in the Big 12. Who can forget the year TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon stunned the world and won a Big 12 tournament title in his second season in Fort Worth? No one saw that coming.
Just like no one envisioned today’s struggles in the football program after such a long, successful run under former coach Gary Patterson. But it’s been hard to keep things humming at the same level after Patterson’s retirement following this third, and final, Big 12 title in the 2022 season.
Maybe new coach Andy Dalton can be the guy to take the Horned Frogs back to the Rose Bowl. He won one as a player and all signs point to TCU needing to do something memorable during the revolutionary, five-year “transition window” of the Big/Pac-20 before the league is reduced to its eventual 16-member configuration.
Yes, the process has a Hunger Games feel to it. But under the latest mandate by College Football Playoff executives, all Power 4 leagues must consist of only 16 teams by the time the eight-team bracket is set for the 2030 playoff field.
At least TCU and Texas Tech made the Big/Pac’s initial cut that led to today’s stark financial realities facing football programs at Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oregon State and Washington State, among others. In retrospect, it’s kind of ironic that Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard foreshadowed the school’s eventual dilemma in that 2016 interview with KXNO radio.
Shortly after the Big 12 shot down its last realistic shot at expansion, thereby starting the countdown toward the league’s demise, Pollard told the station: “The Big 12 exists because we’ve got Texas and Oklahoma in the room. If we take Texas and Oklahoma out of the room, we’re the Mountain West Conference, and we’re gonna get $3 million.”
The upside: Iowa State could win this year’s Mountain West football title if the Cyclones’ defense can slow the Boise State offense in the anticipated championship-game matchup. The downside: This year’s new television rights deals, which funnel most funds to Power 4 leagues now that the Big 12 is out of business, guarantee only $2.5 million per season to each of the Mountain West’s 16 members.
For perspective, the $2.5 million figure equates to Texas A&M’s average monthly stipend from the lucrative SEC Network. Thanks to the negotiating skills of noted booster T. Boone Pickens, Oklahoma State will be sharing in those SEC proceeds as part of the league’s expansion to 16 members.
Once OU opted to stick with Texas and move to the Big Ten, the SEC offered a safe haven for OSU to secure a foothold in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa television markets. The SEC also needed to balance the addition of West Virginia, its other fresh Big 12 import, for scheduling purposes.
So the Power 4 conference title races should be fascinating in 2025, with the possibility of schools from the Lone Star State securing all four of the automatic berths reserved for conference champions in this year’s CFP playoff field: TCU or Texas Tech (Big/Pac), Texas (Big Ten), Texas A&M (SEC) and Houston, a new addition to the ACC.
Imagine that: Football teams from TCU, Texas Tech, Texas, Texas A&M and Houston all powerful enough to be in the mix for the same national title as representatives from four different leagues. Just imagine how strong and long-lasting a conference featuring all five of those schools would be if …
Upon further review, scratch that last thought. We’ve already lived through 1995 and know what becomes of the late, great Southwest Conference. It’s too bad the Big 12 seems to be charting a similar course toward an unsustainable future as it wobbles toward 2025.