There are conferences like the SEC and ACC that are well-defined by where they sit geographically. Then there’s the Big 12 where no one knows where it is, and there’s an even greater uncertainty on the horizon with never-ending expansion talk. Schools range from Texas — the Big 12 is technically stationed in Dallas — that stemmed from the Southwest Conference all the way to West Virginia. Because a thousand mile gap makes for quite the unified conference, doesn’t it?
While the conference is a bit disjointed, the 10 schools have all made a nice home for themselves and some have gone as far to become the town themselves. Now it’s time to throw them all under the microscope to crown the Big 12’s best college football town.
The Big 12 has a pretty good uniformity as far as size of the towns go. There are a few outliers in the heart of Texas, though, as Fort Worth and Austin are both blossoming metroplexes. So TCU competing with four major sports teams and a handful of college programs throws the Frogs out of the running. Texas can make a good argument considering Austin is one of the best college towns in the country, but as far as football goes, the Horns have seen better days.
More on that point, the state wears burnt orange by default. Go to the two other Texas schools, Baylor and Texas Tech, you’re bound to see a good few people toting Texas gear. As a student in Waco, I can attest that as much Baylor paraphernalia there in the town that prides itself as being a smaller Austin, there’s a good amount of UT gear. It doesn’t help that there’s a divide between the school and the city.
Having the conference’s best stadium complete with “sailgating” on the Brazos River helps the Bears’ cause, but being a private institution with hiked ticket rates push the green and gold out.
Tech is also poked fun of being the forgotten child in the middle of nowhere in Lubbock. There’s really some great support for the Red Raiders, especially with the potential that Kliff Kingsbury’s team has right now. It’s pure Texas, so football runs through its veins, but that also means high school sports get to share the headlines.
That’s it for the Lone Star state. Moving over to the step-child of the conference, Morgantown is one of the most picturesque locations in the Big 12 and the fans are some of the nicest around (but really know how to paint the town red after a win), but its proximity of West Virginia makes it a real drawback.
Iowa State is in a similar predicament located in the midwest. Despite an extreme lack of success, the Cyclones have some passionate fans that make sure to fill Jack Trice Stadium. That support has helped Matt Campbell’s new program upend powers like Oklahoma State in the past. The town itself also has some great atmosphere, but being separated from the conference and as a lower-tier school doesn’t help the Cyclones’ cause.
Similarly, Kansas has a great home in Lawrence but the Jayhawks’ lifeblood is the basketball team. On the other hand, Kansas State has had more success as of late, and Manhattan lives up to its billing as The Little Apple. It’s always fun to think that the Wildcats can draw a crowd equivalent to the city’s population. It should certainly be up there with the best in the conference if the small city atmosphere is your thing.
That leaves the state of Oklahoma where you get two towns on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Though, this isn’t to call Stillwater a bad host for Oklahoma State (Cowboys fans can really get rowdy), there’s little to offer beyond the campus. By process of elimination, that leaves Norman as the conference champion to match the conference title it won in 2015.
It’s a town that bleeds crimson and has been for decades. Bob Stoops has kept the Sooners thriving for almost two decades now. It’s a rare occasion — besides some upsets in 2014 — the Sooners drop any game in the Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium filled to the brim with 83,000 fans. Gameday experiences are truly top-notch, and just a short drive from Oklahoma City, if Norman doesn’t give you your fill like Austin or Fort Worth does, you’re never too far from attractions beyond the Sooners.