I had a good laugh after taking this picture at Big 12 Media Days last year.
There on stage stood the majority of the conference’s football coaches in different outfits, not exactly sure what to do in front of a big media crowd. Behind them was a hired announcer with a microphone, excitingly telling everyone to take out their cameras because, as he put it: “It’s rare you have the chance to get all 10 coaches in the Big 12 together for a picture.”
Incredibly rare considering all 10 coaches weren’t even up there. If you look close, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville bailed on the event. We were later told he was playing golf at a Red Raiders function.
Still, I had a new camera in my right pocket, so I took it out and snapped the bad boy you see above. Glad I did, because it provides a perfect snapshot of everything that was wrong with the Big 12 back then.
Former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who stepped down under considerable fire a few months later, didn’t have control of the conference. There were rumors Texas A&M wanted out (turned out the Aggies were already tunneling under the fence), Missouri wasn’t exactly happy either (the Tigers are now in the SEC with A&M) and everyone was angry at Texas because of The Longhorn Network, and then … this.
Beebe couldn’t even arrange for all 10 of the Big 12′s coaches to show up for a picture.
Making the moment even more embarrassing, the photo-op came in the middle of an over-the-top presentation that began with Beebe walking on stage with the theme music from “The Natural” blaring behind him.
Instead of addressing the problems that existed within the league, the Big 12 tried to impress onlookers with a ridiculous show of smoke and mirrors. It didn’t work. The league almost crumbled.
The conference has come a long way since then, of course. Lengthy, mega television deals have been signed, granting of rights have been agreed to, a new commissioner has been hired, The Longhorn Network is no longer hated, The Champions Bowl looks like a trendsetter and TCU and West Virginia are thrilled to be the new kids on the block.
There was even talk this summer of ACC teams wanting to join the Big 12, and rumors persist of Notre Dame coming on board in some fashion.
Oh, and the conference looks poised for a great football season.
Things appear much, much better than a year ago.
Now is the time to prove how much better.
Big 12 football coaches and players from across the conference are returning to Dallas for the league’s media days, and Bob Bowlsby will be directing it all. For his sake, let’s hope his moment in the spotlight goes better than Beebe’s.
What ideas does he have for the Big 12? How does he plan to lead a conference that has lost four members in the past two years and lacks the kind of unquestioned unity you find elsewhere? What will it take for him to continue strengthening the conference?
They are tough questions, but not nearly as tough as what was asked last summer.
As long as he addresses them the way Chuck Neinas did during a transitional period, and members continue to compliment the Big 12′s current trajectory, the conference will be in much better hands than it was the last time everyone assembled in Dallas.
Maybe this time they will be ready to take a good picture.