• negotiated a new deal with ESPN that was expected to be finalized by the end of this summer and, including the existing deal with Fox, is estimated to be worth $2.6 billion over 13 years;
• reached an agreement with the SEC to match its conference champ with the Big 12's winner (excluding a team that has been chosen as one of four national playoff teams) in a bowl game on New Year's Day beginning with the 2014--15 season;
• and attracted the highly respected Bowlsby, formerly the athletic director at Stanford, who took over as commissioner from Neinas on June 15.
Take a bow, Chuck. Ever think about running for president?
So it's goodbye to A&M and Missouri, hello to TCU and West Virginia. And, at least for 2012, those additions are upgrades on the football field, as both newcomers enter the season as Top 25 teams and conference title contenders.
Fans in Big 12 country know the Horned Frogs well. Those fans may remember TCU serving as the popular Homecoming opponent in the latter days of the Southwest Conference; few wins were as guaranteed then as those over the boys from Fort Worth, Texas. But then, starting in 1998, coach Dennis Franchione turned the program around, and defensive whiz Gary Patterson raised it another level. And now the Frogs play a swarming D and are 47--5 over the last four years, including three top seven finishes in the AP poll.
The Mountaineers may be less familiar to Big 12 fans, but Oklahomans can tell you about them. West Virginia whipped the Sooners 48--28 in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, and that was before the school in Morgantown lured away Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen before the 2011 season to install his high-scoring attack. The Mountaineers' pass-first-ask-questions-later scheme will fit right in with the offensive pyrotechnics of the Big 12.
The arrival of TCU and West Virginia has made the chase for this year's conference championship even more unpredictable than usual. But that does not preclude a little gazing into the crystal ball. So here goes, our top 12 predictions for the Big 12 in 2012.
12. WITH COACH Charlie Weis and transfer quarterback Dayne Crist bringing a new culture to Kansas, the Jayhawks will at least double last year's win total of two.
11. ANOTHER NAME program will be shocked by Iowa State (beware, West Virginia), joining Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma State as teams that have fallen to the Paul Rhoads--led Cyclones. And Rhoads will be one of the most popular names mentioned for big-time coaching openings in December even though he just signed a 10-year deal to stay in Ames.