Big 12: 2011 Big 12 media days

Video: Texas A&M RB Cyrus Gray

July, 28, 2011

David Ubben talks with Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray at Big 12 media days.

Video: Missouri S Kenji Jackson

July, 28, 2011

David Ubben talks with Missouri safety Kenji Jackson.
The Pac-12's desire to make its own network -- and in the process prevent the creation of the Longhorn Network -- was a factor that kept Texas in the Big 12.

And now, with the Pac-12 set to make an official announcement Wednesday about its network, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the Austin American-Statesman that it all but eliminates the possibility of future membership for the Longhorns.

"I think you could certainly imply that, with the news that we're going to announce tonight," Scott told the newspaper. "The Longhorn Network would be certainly a huge impediment."

Scott reiterated his recent comments that future expansion was coming, but it's unlikely now that Texas would be a part of it.

More on the Pac-12 Network and the prospect of broadcasting high school games in the news story here.

What a difference a play makes

July, 27, 2011
DALLAS -- One play could have changed the entire Big 12 landscape in 2010. Iowa State took a Taylor Martinez-less Nebraska team into overtime and scored what looked like a game-tying touchdown … until the Cyclones faked the extra point.

Paul Rhoads
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswirePaul Rhoads and Iowa State were a play away from making noise in 2010.
Reserve punter Daniel Kuehl had a wide-open Collin Franklin, the Cyclones' leading receiver, in the back of the end zone, but short-armed the pass on a wind-swept November day in Ames, allowing Nebraska's Eric Hagg to come down with a game-clinching interception.

"It's a call that I relive and a play I relive every week," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "There's not a week that goes by that I don't think about the play and what it could have created for our football team and our football program."

And not just for the Cyclones, who would have been bowl-eligible with the win. It also would have put Iowa State in the Big 12 North Division drivers' seat and sent Nebraska to the Big Ten without so much as a share of the Big 12 North title. Instead, Missouri would have represented the conference against Oklahoma.

Rhoads, though, has repeatedly emphasized he'd do it all over again.

"And as the game went along, it was a play I studied and certainly was there," he said. "That's the name of the game, when it's a play like that, the final play of a game or the first play of the game, you have to execute to be successful."

Iowa State was playing with a limping quarterback, a limping top receiver and a center in Ben Lamaak who left the game twice with an injury. One play was the best way to decide it.

The Cyclones lost a game on that day, but Rhoads, perhaps the Big 12's most underrated coach, earned a whole new legion of fans with the gutsy call gone wrong.

"The fallout was positive," Rhoads said. "If anything, from players to fans to most people I talked to they thought it was a right call -- gutsy call, but the right call -- and would have given us an opportunity to really springboard our program, I feel."

Big 12 notebook

July, 27, 2011

Iowa State: Iowa State had one of the nation's toughest schedules in 2010, and that won't change in 2011 with 11 of the Cyclones' 12 games coming against BCS teams. That included nonconference games against in-state rival Iowa and reigning Big East champ UConn. That schedule will lighten up in the future, though, a welcome sign for the ISU faithful.

"My wife likes our job, and I sort of do, too," Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads said. "A change is in place in 2012 and beyond to get away from that challenging of a schedule."

Kansas: The 2010 season was a long one in Lawrence, but the early steps to a more promising future may begin in fall camp, thanks to increased competition. That stemmed from a calculated move by Turner Gill to redshirt 15-16 freshmen, which he thought would benefit the program in the long term, even while his program suffered through a trying 3-9 season. This year, he'll add 25-26 more freshmen to the program.

"This year we got competition. That's what we didn't have last year at positions," he said. "When you've got competition at just about every position, you're going to improve your play of your football team."

Kansas State: The Wildcats are 5-2 against Texas in Big 12 play, including wins in the past three meetings. In the new Big 12, the two teams will play every season, but coach Bill Snyder balked at the idea of looking forward to seeing the Longhorns every season.

"We've just been fortunate, fortunate that our players play extremely hard. Fortunate that … things just kind of fell into place in several of those ball games that we've played with the University of Texas," he said. "I assure you that we don't have anybody's number. … I just hope we can compete this year with them."

Oklahoma: It's been over two months since Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box's death, and though the initial shock and grief is over, he'll still be felt in the Sooners program for the 2011 season and beyond.

"I don't know how I [got through] it, to be honest with you. And I think the players, more than anything, really, I think, leaned on each other, us as coaches leaned on them," Stoops said. "There's no words that truly can describe how you hurt and how the players hurt. Austin was a great, great spirit in the locker room. … He was a friend to everybody, and he's one of those special characters, a young person that everybody loved to see."
Texas Tech

Texas Tech: Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville received a reprimand from the Big 12 last summer for saying "We have a 10-team league right now, but I just don't know how long that's gonna last, to be honest with you."

That was a radio interview, but this time around at Big 12 media days, Tuberville stuck to the Big 12 script.

"I said a few things last year. And, of course, I believe that," he said. "I don't know what the future is, but I don't think there's any doubt we can sustain with 10 teams and we can make the best out of it and even become a stronger conference maybe than what it was."

Tuberville, though, left with one last quip.

"That's a political answer, right? I worked on that," he said.
DALLAS -- After navigating his way through his first season in the Big 12 in 2010, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville knows what the Red Raiders will have to do to be better.

"It's all about depth and speed on defense," Tuberville said. "You don't really have to worry about size. You worry about quickness and speed. I've always believed in that anyway. That's the type of defense I've been around."

Tuberville's first Texas Tech defense was one of the worst in his long coaching career. A former defensive coordinator at Miami and head coach at Ole Miss and Auburn, Tuberville built his best teams around stingy defenses.

But largely because of injuries and suspensions, the Red Raiders were woefully inept on defense in 2010. Texas Tech finished No. 118 nationally in pass defense (293.8 yards per game), 114th in total defense (456.3 yards) and 93rd in scoring defense (30.9 points).

The Red Raiders never had a full complement of players on defense in 2010. Senior cornerback LaRon Moore missed the first four games because of a broken leg; junior defensive end Scott Smith was suspended for the season after four games; and end Aundrey Barr missed the final nine games with a knee injury.

Tuberville hopes the addition of former TCU defensive backs coach Chad Glasgow, who is installing the Horned Frogs' vaunted 4-2-5 scheme as the Red Raiders' new defensive coordinator, will help shore up some of Tech's defensive problems.

"With the type of players that you play against and the formations [you face in the Big 12], you have to run a lot of nickel defenses," Tuberville said. "You play Oklahoma, you play Texas A&M last year, they just run you down. It kind of reminds me of defenses I've been part of when we've had good success. That's how you win championships; it's not with anything else other than the speed on defense."

Video: High expectations for Sooners

July, 27, 2011

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops talks to ESPNU about the Sooners expectations in the Big 12 this season.

Snyder weighs in on rules change

July, 27, 2011
DALLAS -- Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson opened up a presentation on Monday morning with one of the most infamous plays of the college football season in 2010: The Bronx Salute. Adrian Hilburn's salute to a group of Kansas State fans that had traveled from the Little Apple to the Big Apple drew a flag, leaving the Wildcats 18 yards from a 36-all tie instead of 3, and an eventual loss.

Wildcats coach Bill Snyder, however, isn't complaining, though the example has been used as an incorrect interpretation of the new celebration rules preparing to hit college football this fall.

"There was an awful lot of media attention paid to it, talk shows, etc., etc., across the nation. So that perhaps had some impact on [the change]," Snyder said. "But it certainly wasn't anything that I said or -- it happened. And what do we say? It is what it is or it was what it was."

The new rule allows for points to be taken off the board for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the field of play, and though Anderson and his officiating brethren insist they'll be erring on the conservative side -- both in the scope and location of the celebrations -- Snyder is asking for just one thing: consistency.

"When you get outside of the conference, play with officials that come from a different conference, you're not sure if you'll have the same continuity," Snyder said. "The best way for it not to be an issue is to make sure that your youngsters don't do anything that would threaten the letter of the rule itself."

How to do that? What else? Discipline, Snyder says, a trait his teams over the years have ultimately become known for.

"It's hard sometimes because every football coach in the country will tell you -- and you would feel the same way -- that if you were coaching that you would want young people to be passionate about the game and play with great spirit and emotion because it is that kind of a game. And when you do that, you know, sometimes you just show your joy, and it's strictly that," Snyder said. "It's not trying to demean anyone. It's just joy of accomplishing something on the field. And to get penalized, really it's kind of a hard thing for young guys."
With Colorado and Nebraska out of the Big 12, Texas A&M has taken center stage this summer as the program and fan base that is most discontent with the current situation in the Big 12.

On Monday, Texas A&M officials told me that 60 percent of the Aggies fan base would support a move to the SEC, up from an estimated 30-40 percent last summer when the Aggies had a reported invitation to the conference boasting college football's past five national titles.

Tuesday, though, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe disagreed with that sentiment.

"I don’t know where he’s getting that from, that’s not the sense that I have from those folks," Beebe said when I informed him of the Aggie observation, one I sensed myself and agreed with.

Beebe reminded the few reporters in attendance that the issue of Texas A&M leaving for the SEC has come up time and time again, but the decision has always been the same.

"That issue has been around that institution for a long time, but thankfully, the coaches, the administrators and others are adamant about wanting to be in the Big 12," Beebe said. "[Texas A&M athletic director] Bill Byrne expressed that yesterday."

Beebe warned several times on Tuesday of programs that left a conference for various reasons but left their natural, historical and geographic rivals behind. In the process, he noted that Colorado, which has 50,000 more alumni in the Pac-12 footprint than in the Big 12 footprint, went to a league that better suited its "orientation."

I asked Beebe for a prediction of what the A&M program would look like in 10 years if it had chosen to leave for the SEC at the same time Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12.

"They would be saying that 80 percent of our people would want to stay in the Big 12," Beebe said. "We made a bad decision."

Big 12 Media Days: Best of Day 2

July, 27, 2011
Another successful day at the Westin Galleria on the new, shorter Big 12 Media Days. Here was the best of Day 1, and now for Tuesday's top moments.

Best one-liner: Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech

Tuberville, surely mindful of the reprimand he received last summer after he questioned the Big 12's future publicly, was asked a similar question and had his response ready.

"I don't know what the future is, but I don't think there's any doubt we can sustain with 10 teams and we can make the best out of it and even become a stronger conference maybe than what it was," he said.

But he couldn't resist once he finished.

"That's a political answer, right?" he asked, drawing laughs before he stepped off the dais. "I worked on that."

Best accessory: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

Lewis showed up to Big 12 Media Days with his brand new Big 12 Championship ring, the lone Sooner player to bring it to Dallas from Norman.

"I was going to wear all three of them, but I decided to just bring one," he said. "I didn't want to blind anybody."

Best dressed: Texas Tech

The Red Raiders take home the overall title for the second season in a row, narrowly edging out the Kansas State players with the Powercat-embroidered blazers.

Texas Tech players, coaches and media staff were all suited up, complete with Double T logo lapel pins.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma coach Bob Stoops
AP Photo/Matt StrasenCoach Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma contingent made a unique entrance into Big 12 Media Days.
Best entrance: Oklahoma

The Sooners ascended the escalator for the morning interview session into a throng of cameras and reporters, as well as TV cameras. No other team faced that kind of attention throughout the day, as the national championship contenders took their turn during media days alongside four other teams picked to finish as the Big 12's bottom four teams.

According to Bill Haisten at the Tulsa World, at one point during the coaching one-on-ones, Stoops was surrounded by 29 reporters while no other coach had more than five firing off questions at them.

Best Star Wars reference: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

Asked if the Sooners needed 5-7 Texas to have a better year in 2011, Lewis replied, "Does Obi-Wan need Darth Vader?" Lewis, who was also shilling for his own television network throughout the day, was asked about the comments later in the day.

"Of course we're the good guys!" he said.

Biggest eyebrow raiser: Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech

Tech fans couldn't have enjoyed hearing Tuberville admit his reasons for canceling a game with TCU. Asked if there was any truth to the perception he couldn't win it right now based on the team's current construction, Tuberville admitted there was "a little bit of that as a coach."

"That's really probably not the type of team we want to play right now. Not that we didn't want to play them. It was obvious that we had somebody had to go in that slot where they were at, you know, pretty much fit what we needed to do," he said.

Tuberville did say the Red Raiders eventually "need" to play what he called a "natural game," but for now, it won't be happening.

Most underrated interview: Kelechi Osemele, LT, Iowa State

I hadn't had a chance to meet Osemele until Tuesday, but I was impressed, and I'd expect his coaches (past, present and future) would all agree. His physical skills are obvious, but he was engaging, funny and any time a player drops a "cognizant" in an interview, it's probably going to be a good one. Osemele didn't attract as much attention of some of the conference's bigger names in attendance on Tuesday, but he should have.

Best salesman: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

Rhoads opened his time at the dais with a reminder of the impressive upgrades on the way at Iowa State, including a new indoor facility, big scoreboard and sound system. The sound system and scoreboard are expected to be ready for the 2011 season, and the indoor facility will follow in 2012, giving Rhoads another recruiting tool to help put his 2012 class together.

"The video scoreboard wasn't something I had in mind [when I took the job], but very quickly got thinking that way after the opening game of 2009. The sound system was well beyond it's time," he said. "And the environment of Jack Trice Stadium is really going to be enhanced by this new video board as well as the audio component of it, which I think is maybe just as important. Having moved into our current facility back in 1996, when we moved from the Big Eight to the Big 12, and knowing what was in place there, yeah, I knew sooner rather than later we were going to need a brand-new football facility. And I'm very appreciative that Jamie Pollard and the administration saw that way as well."

Video: Big 12 Day 2 wrap

July, 27, 2011

For more from David Ubben and Mark Schlabach from Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, click here.

Video: Texas Tech's Seth Doege

July, 26, 2011

David Ubben talks with the quarterback about the responsibility that comes with being a starter.

Video: Kansas' Steve Johnson

July, 26, 2011

David Ubben talks to the linebacker about his path to becoming a starter.

Video: Oklahoma's Travis Lewis

July, 26, 2011

David Ubben talks with the linebacker about the Sooners' previous championships and expectations entering the upcoming season.

Video: Kansas State LB Arthur Brown

July, 26, 2011

David Ubben talks to Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown.