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Big 12 notes: More expansion confusion and Baylor-Texas bitterness

AP Photo/LM Otero

Bob Bowlsby was in Kansas City Tuesday for the Big 12’s men’s basketball media day. It was a week and a day since the conference’s board of directors voted (“unanimously”) against expansion and a week since a leaked talking points memo made the Big 12 look like it was as organized as a cat parade (again).

Meeting with a group of reporters who stepped away from hoops talk, Bowlsby was asked about reports that schools which had “applied” to join the Big 12 were upset that their resumes earned little more than a glance.

“That’s just not true,” Bowlsby said. “There was lot of discussions about schools and there was also lots of information shared prior to the meeting about schools.”

A week ago Monday, Bowlsby sat next to Oklahoma president and board of directors chair David Boren, who said this: “During the discussion of the broader question of expansion/no expansion, there was not any discussion or debate about particular schools.”

In Kansas City, Bowlsby said the board didn’t vote on individual schools and that the “no” vote on expansion was unanimous. The leaked memo, though, urged schools to say that the vote was unanimous.

While it is as challenging as deciphering Mandarin, here’s a best guess:

  • Bowlsby was the point man and met with the representatives of the 11 finalists. He likely reported his findings to the Big 12 presidents so they would have information prior to last week’s board meeting.
  • “Discussions about schools” might have taken place between Bowlsby and certain Big 12 presidents who wanted verbal clarifications or simply wanted to talk about certain schools.
  • Technically, the board didn’t “discuss or debate” School A vs. School B vs. School C. If there was discussion in the room, it likely centered on the overall issue of expansion and, with its rejection, what’s next.

Unfortunately, words matter.  The message from the Big 12 is being muddled by a lack of clarity. A lot of words were said last Monday, but instead of saying, “OK, this was our process and this was how we relied at our conclusion,” there was obfuscation. That’s a Big 12 word.

Pro tip: You’re dealing with reporters and the general public. If your message is foggy, it’s not a good message. If not for Baylor, the Big 12 would be in first last place in terms of public relations clumsiness.

Defining a rivalry

Baylor’s game at Texas Saturday comes with a side of animosity. The Bears are undefeated and ranked No. 8 – the sixth time in the last seven years Baylor has been ranked higher than the Longhorns.

“They’ve been having success,” Texas wide receiver Jacorey Warrick said this week. “But as far as us trying to catch up to them? No.”

That’s the kind of comment that make the nouveau riche Baylor fans bristle. They believe UT fans still consider them that former Southwest Conference school which is in the Big 12 thanks only to Texas politics. Plus, the conspiracy theorists in Waco blame reporters in Austin for breaking some of the stories regarding Baylor’s sexual assault scandal that led to Art Briles’ dismissal.

Furthermore, when Briles left most of the Bears’ 2016 recruiting class followed suit. Four of those players moved down I-35 to Austin.

05 December 2015: Texas head coach Charlie Strong enters the field prior to start of game against Baylor at McLane Stadium in Waco, TX. Texas scored a Big 12 upset. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire)

05 December 2015: Texas head coach Charlie Strong enters the field prior to start of game against Baylor at McLane Stadium in Waco, TX. Texas scored a Big 12 upset. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire)

Texas ended 2015 with a 23-17 upset of Baylor in Waco, but the Bears were down to a fourth-string quarterback. This season the Bears are hoping to make a run at the College Football Playoff and they’re favored by three points.

“They have a good, rising program. I’m not taking anything away from those guys. They work hard, just like we do,” Texas senior defensive tackle Paul Boyette said. “It doesn’t boil down to just giving them credit and (saying), ‘Oh, they’re the up and comers, we’re chasing them.’ It’s not about that. At the end of the day, this still is the University of Texas.”

The emotions ran so high that both benches emptied after a big hit on the sideline. Expect a similar juice level for Saturday’s game.

Quick slants

  • Bowlsby said that the Big 12 and its athletic directors have two conference calls scheduled this week to discuss next year’s Big 12 championship game. Two issues need to be resolved and Bowlsby hopes there are answers by the end of the week. The conference needs to select a championship site (candidates: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas; Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City; Alamodome in San Antonio) plus come up with a format to deciding the two teams that play in the game.
  • Kansas leads the nation in a negative category. The Jayhawks have committed 25 turnovers, most in the FBS. Kansas has lost at least three turnovers in five of its seven games.
21 November 2015: Kansas State Wildcats running back Charles Jones (24) is ursued by Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Brian Mills (25) in a Big 12 showdown between the Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/ICON Sportswire)

21 November 2015: Kansas State Wildcats running back Charles Jones (24) is ursued by Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Brian Mills (25) in a Big 12 showdown between the Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, KS. – Photo by Scott Winters/ICON Sportswire

  • Iowa State has lost to K-State 8 straight times, 7 of those by a TD or less. The 8 straight is the Cyclones’ second-longest skid against a Big 12 team. Iowa State will try to end that streak in Saturday’s “Farmageddon” game in Ames.
  • Kansas State has held its first four Big 12 opponents below their season scoring averages, 14.5 points fewer per game. Iowa State averages 23.7 points per game.

Trash talk

West Virginia defensive back Rasul Douglas on this season’s mindset:

“This was the goal. When we all got together in the spring and then in the fall, we all said, ‘This is going to be our year. Let’s go out. We were tired of being, ‘Oh, you only remember a few players on that team.’ We want to be remembered as, ‘Oh, that 2016 West Virginia team was good.’ That’s what we want to be. When you think about the U [of Miami], you think about those dynasties they had. That’s what we’re trying to be. And it starts here.”

Texas senior safety Dylan Haines on the Longhorns’ disappointing 3-4 record:

“In a place like Texas, coming here as a walk-on, I thought I was going to be a part of one of the greatest football teams in the nation. Obviously, that has not been the way things have been going, but that just falls back on the players. We have to go out and find a way to get it done.”

Oklahoma safety Steven Parker on how the Sooners’ lack of effort and preparation in practice might have led to the Sooners’ inability to slow Texas Tech’s offense:

“Even if it’s a leader we’re harping on it, we’re getting onto each other about it. We’ll look at effort. We count loafs and all that stuff as far as the defense goes. I wouldn’t say there is any panic whatsoever in our room. Pride definitely comes in, but that’s something else: pride is something that can be taken away but also something that can be given back.”

TCU coach Gary Patterson:

“We’ve lost to three good football teams. With the five teams we have left, we can win them all, or we could lose them all. So I told them, ‘How do you want this to go down?’”

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