The new-look Big 12 Conference created a new scheduling quirk which some coaches love, and some love to hate.
With the departures of Nebraska and Colorado from league, every team in the new 10-team conference will play each other during the 2011 football season.
The new schedule will provide a true conference champion, a plus among coaches, but eliminates one non-conference game and the high-profile Big 12 championship game.
How long the new format will remain in place is unclear.
Texas A&M is on the verge of leaving the conference. And regardless of whether the Aggies stay or go, the league could add more teams, changing the landscape once again.
In Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville’s opinion, the round robin format won’t be around too long after the 2011 season.
“I’m just guessing, I would imagine it won’t last long,” Tuberville said. “Hopefully we’ll have more teams.”
Tech’s second-year coach has probably been more outspoken about the league than anybody.
He was reprimanded shortly after the departures of Colorado and Nebraska in 2010 for saying he didn’t know how a 10-team league would last. A&M’s desire to leave would seem to indicate Tuberville had a valid point.
He was asked again during the league’s media days in late July about his feelings one year later, and Tuberville stood by his comments.
“I said a few things last year, and, of course, I believe that,” he said. “I wish we still had Nebraska and we still had Colorado. I think it was a very good conference. But it still is.”
Tuberville went on to say how excited he was about having a “true conference champion,” the byproduct of playing every team in the league.
But he’ll miss the conference championship game, something he resisted when he was coaching in the Southeastern Conference.
“But once you get in that game and get it going and then see the ramifications of the money and the notoriety that you get, it’s good for everybody involved,” he said. “I had a chance to coach in that a few times when I was in the SEC, but it’s hard to get there.”
But perhaps the teams most affected by the round-robin format are the remaining schools that formerly represented the Big 12 North Division.
Texas Tech is accustomed to playing the likes of Oklahoma and Texas every year. Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State are not.
The new format was certainly not the best news for Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, who now must rebuild his program against far stiffer competition.
“When I took the job and I looked ahead to 2011 I knew the schedule was going to be rough anyway,” Rhoads said. “And we had Utah on it as well as Connecticut and Iowa. So the fact that we’ve added a Big 12 game and replaced Utah on that certainly doesn’t make it any simpler, and it won’t be that way as we move forward with the new nine-game league schedule.”
Kansas State fans might be happy about getting to play Texas every year.
The Wildcats have had the Longhorns’ number in recent history, owning a 5-2 record since the formation of the Big 12.
Still, coach Bill Snyder isn’t looking forward to facing Mack Brown’s Longhorns every year.
“Things just kind of fell into place in several of those ball games that we’ve played with the University of Texas,” Snyder said.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has been politicking for a round-robin schedule for some time, and one now finally fell in his lap. He thinks it will help the league tremendously.
The biggest benefit, he said, will be the rivalries that are promoted as fans familiarize themselves with the teams they’ll see every year.
Gundy pointed specifically at the opportunity for his Cowboys to play Missouri.
“I think that each team competing annually against each other will help stimulate some rivalries within our league,” Gundy said. “I think the fans will look forward to playing Missouri and Missouri fans will look forward to playing Oklahoma State. And when you did it once every two seasons or two years in a row with taking a two-year break, I don’t think it worked and it wasn’t effective.”
Kansas coach Turner Gill agreed.
“And now, you know each other,” Gill said. “The teams, how they are, what they do, and get to know the players even better, opposing teams, and even more deeper in the scheme. So I think all that’s a plus in the Big 12 conference, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Tuberville and the Texas Tech coaching staff know nothing of Kansas or Kansas State, two teams the Red Raiders didn’t play last year, Tuberville’s first season.
He’ll have one less week to prepare for the Jayhawks than he would in previous years since the nine-game conference schedule cuts out a non-conference game.
“We’ll see how it works,” Tuberville said. “I think everybody is sort of up in the air about it because we play one less non-conference game where you schedule it through the season. Not that it would be an open date, but it would be a time where maybe you could play a few more players.”
Texas A&M may determine whether the round-robin schedule is still used next season.
Their departure could lead to either the expansion of the Big 12 or its dissolution.
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