Big 12: big 12 green day 090317

The Big 12's best and worst uses of green

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

St. Patrick's Day is as good as any other day to determine which decisions qualify as money well spent --  as well as those that do not.

Here's a list of three appropriations I think help Big 12 schools and three that aren't as smart.

GOOD MONEY

  • Bob Stoops' contract: Sure, he's making more money than almost any coach in the nation. But he's been able to lead a renaissance in the sport's athletic department that harkens back to the Bud Wilkinson era. And he's been the Big 12's most consistent winner with six conference championships in his tenure. To me, he's a bargain -- even while making more than $6 million per year after bonuses in 2008. 
  • Bo Pelini's contract: It's hard to think of any coach as being underpaid. But in the grand scheme of things, Pelini's current $1.1 million yearly contract would seem to do so. He's steered the Cornhuskers back into relevance in the Big 12 North and appears to have them pointed that way for many years. For that matter, he might be a good bargain even with a sizable contract hike.  
  • Mega Scoreboards at Big 12 stadiums: Sure, they are garish. But Texas started a revolution among Big 12 schools with the creation of "Godzillatron," the massive high-definition scoreboard that makes watching a game at Royal Memorial Stadium almost like watching it from your living room. Texas A&M, Oklahoma and now Nebraska have soon followed with their own versions. These scoreboards keep spectators entertained and still provide revenue for their schools. Sounds like a good match to me.

BAD MONEY

  • Out of state recruiting budgets for Texas schools: There's a reason why the lobbies at some Dallas and Houston high schools resemble a college coaching clinic on some days during the recruiting period. The Texas area is one of the most fertile in the nation and the backbone of all the Big 12's recruiting. It makes little to no sense for Texas Big 12 schools to even consider venturing outside the state for players. They can find nearly anything they want close to home.
  • The addition of "The Zone" at Kyle Field: Sure, the extra seats are beneficial for certain big games and look nice on television. But along with the Aggies' recent downturn, all of those additional seats have served as an anchor to the school's season-ticket market.
  • Bill Callahan and Steve Pederson's contract buyouts at Nebraska: Even with Bo Pelini's quick turnaround of the Cornhuskers' football program during his first season, the Cornhuskers will end up paying more than $5.325 million over the next several years to their deposed former athletic director and football coach. That's a lot of personal-seat licenses and luxury box revenue -- especially in these challenging economic times.

The Big 12's greenest units

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
1:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Every team is green someplace. Here are the specific areas of the most inexperience for each Big 12 team.

Baylor offensive tackle: The Bears need to break in two new starters after losing Jason Smith and Dan Gay.

Colorado defensive line: Help is needed along the defensive front where the Buffaloes lose starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, starting defensive tackle George Hypolite and starting nose tackle Brandon Nicolas.

Iowa State defensive line: Coach Paul Rhoads desperately wants somebody to emerge on the defensive line where the Cyclones lose starting defensive tackle Michael Tate, starting defensive end Kurtis Taylor and top backup defensive back Travis Ferguson.

Kansas linebackers: Even as Mark Mangino is contemplating going to a two-linebacker base defense because of the Big 12's spread offenses, he still needs to find those two players. The Jayhawks lose starters James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen at the position from last season.

Kansas State quarterback: Josh Freeman departed for the NFL early, leaving Carson Coffman and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas to compete for the starting job. It's not a pleasant introduction back to football for returning KSU coach Bill Snyder.

Missouri skill-position players: The Tigers need a quick infusion of playmakers after losing quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. All of them arguably were the greatest players at their respective positions in Missouri history. Blake Gabbert will receive first look at quarterback and Andrew Jones will work at tight end. It could take several players to fill in for what Maclin did.

Nebraska quarterback: It will be tough for the Cornhuskers to replace all that Joe Ganz did for them, both as a playmaker and a leader at quarterback. Zac Lee will get the first shot, along with freshman Cody Green and redshirt freshman Kody Spano. Maybe the Cornhuskers really could use former Miami quarterback Robert Marve next season.

Oklahoma offensive line: The departure of starting center Jon Cooper, tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker means that Sam Bradford will have an inexperienced group protecting him next season. Trent Williams moves to left tackle and Bob Stoops likes his incoming talent, if not its early work habits.

Oklahoma State defensive tackles: The Cowboys ranked last in the conference in sacks last season and lost starting defensive tackles Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham. It will mean that new defensive coordinator Bill Young will need somebody to step up in the trenches to help shore up that weakness.

Texas defensive line: The major question dogging the Longhorns' national title hopes will be rebuilding a defensive front that loses All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive tackle Aaron Lewis and defensive end Henry Melton from last season.

Texas Tech offensive line: New quarterback Taylor Potts will be relying on a retooled offensive line protecting his blind side after left tackle Rylan Reed, left guard Louis Vasquez and center Stephen Hamby all departed from last year.

Texas A&M running backs: The Aggies' offensive backfield will need to restock players: Michael Goodson left school early to declare for the NFL draft and fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Nick LaMantia are gone. Look for Cyrus Gray to get most of the work this spring with heralded freshman Bradley Stephens arriving in the summer.

Good luck important for these Big 12 coaches and players

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Luck is part of football success, sometimes as important a part of winning as corned beef, cabbage and green beer are to St. Patrick's Day.

Here are several Big 12 coaches and players who could stand to benefit from an extra four-leaf clover or two to improve their good fortune this season.

  • Dan Hawkins, Colorado: No Big 12 squad faced more injuries last season than Hawkins' Buffaloes. Losses in the offensive line to Ryan Miller and Maxwell Tuioti-Maxwell and Rodney Stewart's broken fibula helped cripple the Buffaloes' title hopes. Another similar run of injuries could put Hawkins' job in jeopardy.
  • Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: A veteran offensive line helped power Bradford to the Heisman Trophy last season. How much different will it be in 2009 with four new starters along the offensive line? Bradford hopes he won't have too much green in the form of grass stains on his jersey from opposing team's hits, as his young protectors must grow quickly into their new roles.
  • Art Briles, Baylor: The only coach in the conference who makes green part of his game-day garb could use some good fortune to hope nothing happens to Robert Griffin. If Griffin can stay healthy and productive, the Bears can contend for a bowl berth. If not, it will be another long season in Waco.
  • Jordan Shipley, Texas: Injuries have cost him two seasons of eligibility. When healthy, he plays like one of the most explosive wide receivers in the nation. He will be particularly important this season as Colt McCoy's veteran receiving threat and a potential kick-return menace every time he touches the ball. Just ask Oklahoma.
  • Barry Turner, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers' top pass-rushing weapon sustained a broken leg in the second game last season and missed the rest of the season. His return and good health could provide a much-needed outside pass-rushing threat for the Cornhuskers and take some of the double-team pressure away from massive defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Big 12 fans are envious of other conferences, too

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
10:32
AM ET

Posted by ESPN's Tim Griffin

Big 12 supporters can be just as green with envy about other conferences as individual institutions can be.

Check out this list of what makes Big 12 supporters envious of other conferences.

  • The Big 12 is envious of the Southeastern Conference for its head-to-head success in bowl games. The SEC whipped the Big 12 twice last season with convincing triumphs by Florida over Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game and Mississippi over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. That pushed the SEC's bowl dominance over the Big 12 to 15-9 in the history of the Big 12, including 9-3 since 2003. The discussion about better athletes in the SEC, particularly on defense, has also gotten old for Big 12 partisans as the conference's offensive reputation has zoomed. All of that talk about the SEC's superior speed and athleticism has stuck in the craw of the heartland like an overcooked onion-fried hamburger.
  • The Big 12 is envious of the Big Ten because of its media markets. Both conferences are located in flyover states. But the Big Ten has more major media hubs covered in places like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. The Big 12 has places like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Denver, Kansas City and San Antonio. Among the top 30 television markets, the Big Ten has eight and the Big 12 has five (sharing St. Louis among both). It makes Big 12 partisans sometimes believe their conference receives less national credibility than the Big Ten, considering most schools in both conferences are similar land-grant institutions.
  • The Big 12 is envious of the Pac-10 because of more glamorous destinations. Heck, I know the beat writers are. Compare the conferences. The Pac-10 has international meccas like San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles and solid stops like Phoenix and Tucson. The Big 12 counters with Ames, Lubbock, Norman, Stillwater, College Station, Waco and Columbia. The Big 12's Manhattan bears little resemblance to "The Big Apple." And it would really be one-sided if havens like Austin and Boulder didn't exist in the Big 12. Thank goodness for the small pleasures in life.

Big 12 teams are green with envy for opponents

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
9:05
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

St. Patrick's Day is a time to celebrate all things green, including the best of college football rivalries.

It's understandable that many Big 12 teams have developed fierce enmity for their conference rivals over the years -- and even more for some than others.

Here's a look at what makes the supporters of each school green with envy all days, but especially on St. Patrick's Day.

Baylor: There have been no bowl trips for the Bears since 1994 -- the longest streak in the Big 12 and one of the longest of any school in a BCS conference. Even though they made the cut into the Big 12, it peeves Baylor fans of TCU's success in recent years. The Horned Frogs have developed into a top-10 program with 10 bowl appearances, four straight bowl victories and two straight victories over Baylor since the Big 12 was formed.

Colorado: The Buffaloes haven't been a factor in the Big 12 North since Gary Barnett was fired after the 2005 championship game loss to Texas. And it has to gall their most ardent supporters even more that Nebraska appears to have turned the corner as the North Division's likely favorite with a strong coach like Bo Pelini in place for the future.

Iowa State: The Cyclones have to look outside the conference because they have been the whipping boys for the rest of the Big 12 since Dan McCarney left. Cyclone fans can't be happy that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz appears to have weathered a recent downturn and has the Hawkeyes pointed back in the right direction.

Kansas: It can't make Jayhawk fans happy that the first time the Jayhawks have made back-to-back bowl trips in school history, arch-rival Missouri won the Big 12 North championship in both of those seasons. Even a victory over the Tigers in the muck at Arrowhead Stadium last season didn't help take the sting for Jayhawks of seeing the Tigers again play for the conference championship.

Kansas State: The Wildcats have struggled through their worst stretch since before Bill Snyder arrived for the first time in 1989. It hasn't helped that their arch-rivals across the state at Kansas has made back-to-back bowl trips and won both bowl games in the past two seasons. It's even more irksome that former Kansas State assistant coach Mark Mangino has been directing the Jayhawks' recent success.

Missouri: The Tigers have claimed back-to-back division championships, but old Big Eight rival Oklahoma has been waiting each season to deny them a chance at the Big 12 title. Even worse, the Sooners have won those games by a combined margin of 100-38. And that's 19 victories for the Sooners in the last 20 games against Missouri.

Nebraska: The old proud Big Eight power hasn't been able to duplicate that success on a continual basis in the Big 12. It seems that schools like Texas and Oklahoma have always been standing in their way. The Cornhuskers seemed to lose a little mystique in the first Big 12 championship game when Texas upset them. And they never seemed to have recovered - particularly in recent years when football championships have been rarely savored by Cornhusker fans.   

Oklahoma: The recent losing streak in BCS games has taken some of the national appreciation away from the Sooners' recent unprecedented string of three straight Big 12 titles. But Boise State, West Virginia and Florida have kept the Sooners from duplicating their success on a national level. It's made those titles pyrrhic victories for Bob Stoops.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have never made a BCS bowl game or Big 12 championship during the conference's brief history. But Oklahoma has infuriated Cowboy fans by claiming six titles during the conference's 13-season history. It doesn't make for much fun in bragging rights for Bedlam when the Sooners have dominated the conference so significantly during that time.

Texas: Mack Brown has taken the Longhorns back into contention in the Big 12 title race after inheriting a program that was in shambles. But even with the top run in program history since the days of Darrell Royal, the Longhorns still have recorded only one Big 12 championship during his coaching span. Even worse, the Sooners have scoreboard, 6-1, in Big 12 football championships during the time that Brown and Bob Stoops have coached their programs.

Texas A&M: But it could be worse. The Aggies have been rendered a non-entity in recent seasons in the Big 12. And it's even more galling that arch-rival Texas has finished ahead of A&M each of the past 10 seasons.

Texas Tech: It didn't make Texas Tech fans very happy when they were left out of much of the discussion for the championship despite forging a three-way tie with Texas and Oklahoma for the South Division crown last season. It's made the rivalry with those two South rivals even more keen than before -- if that could be possible.

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