Big 12: Expansion

Lunch links: BCS trouble might mean Big 12 expansion

June, 24, 2010
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I just hope no one's regretting their Landon Donovan tattoos this morning.

Hope Houston isn't holding its breath

June, 18, 2010
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Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe made his feelings about any future Big 12 expansion clear on Tuesday. You might even call them "unequivocal."

"We're not looking to expand at all," he said. "And certainly we wouldn't look to expand with any institutions that are in our geographic, five-state area now. We're very comfortable with where we are and there's no interest in having an expansion review at this point, and I don't think it's going to come in the future."

Perhaps he should have said it louder. Two dozen Houston lawmakers sent the Big 12 a letter petitioning the conference to invite the University of Houston.

"Despite UH's local and statewide prominence, the university does not belong to a strong BCS conference such as the Big 12. The Cougars, the city of Houston, and the state of Texas deserve better," it reads.

You can read the full letter on the Houston Chronicle's website.

If we're talking on-field product, there's not going to be any arguments coming from my direction. I suspect that's also the case in Lubbock and Stillwater, whose teams suffered losses to Houston in 2009. Baylor coach Art Briles also came to Waco via Houston. Houston saw its share of big-time football as members of the Southwest Conference up until 1995, when it became a member of Conference USA after the formation of the Big 12.

But if we've learned nothing throughout this realignment saga, it's that the on-field product is far from the most important consideration.

If it was, TCU might already be a member. But neither the Horned Frogs nor Houston, with its 32,000-seat stadium, should count on ever becoming a member.

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder estimated that a new member would have to bring with it $15 million in value. It's not Houston's fault its probably the second-most popular team in Houston. If the Big 12 South had left for the Pac-10, both TCU and Houston might have ended up in a new Big 12.

That didn't happen, to the detriment of Houston's future in a BCS conference.

"I don't quit," State Rep. Garnet Coleman told the Houston Chronicle. "I don't start something I'm not going to finish. If I didn't think this was a worthy endeavor, I wouldn't have started it. This is the beginning of this effort, not the end."

(On a final note, any discussion of Arkansas in the Big 12 is wasted breath. The only possible scenario in which the Hogs might leave is if someone can convince Jerry Jones or some other crazed moneymaker to guarantee the Hogs make the same amount of cash as the SEC, no matter how much more it makes than the Big 12. Arkansas just cashed a $17.3 million check, and that number will continue to grow. Also, though everyone's currently holding hands, there are stabler leagues than the Big 12. For starters, the SEC. So you'd probably also have to guarantee that if the Big 12 loses another member or breaks up, Arkansas gets automatic entry back into the SEC. So, if you guys know anyone who can set all that up, let me know and we can start talking about the Hogs rejoining their Texan rivals.)

Video: Texas stays with Big 12

June, 15, 2010
6/15/10
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video
Texas President William Powers Jr. explains the Longhorns' decision to stay in the Big 12.

Texas got what it wanted

June, 14, 2010
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We may not know the details and motives until Tuesday, but Texas wouldn't have stayed in the Big 12 if it didn't believe in what commissioner was selling: more money.

There's plenty of secondary pluses for the Longhorns -- and the rest of the conference:

  • They don't walk into a brutal conference schedule where they may have to play Oklahoma, USC, Oregon and any other yearly upstarts to get into the BCS. Now, with Nebraska gone, the road to the BCS (and perhaps the title game) hinges on the Horns' annual date with Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl.
  • Big 12 fans don't have to stow away any more cash to travel to away games. With Colorado out of the league, the travel just got simpler for everyone, even if one of the top game day destinations, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, is off the schedule.
  • Texas can work toward beginning its own network. Its financial fate -- if it chooses to make a network -- would depend on its own execution, rather than the rest of the conference's.
  • Though the Big 12 Championship may cease to exist, with 10 members, the Big 12 could switch to a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule like the Pac-10.
  • Almost a century of rivalries continue across the Big 12 North and South.

We'll know more tomorrow when Texas officials and Beebe answer questions, but Oklahoma also released a statement Monday evening.
“The decision to stay in the Big 12 represents a consensus position which resulted from a collaborative effort with our colleagues in the conference. We value the strong working relationship that has been reaffirmed during this process among the conference members. We intend to work very hard to make the conference as lasting and dynamic as possible. We appreciate the respect and interest that has been shown to OU during this process.”

Texas A&M officials also broadcasted their plans to stay.

But for Texas, the influence of money can't be underestimated. It made the decision that best benefited Texas. Beebe convinced them, and in the process, helped salvage his own reputation as well.

Beebe had come -- somewhat unfairly, in my opinion -- under intense criticism. With what seems like a last-second, miracle save, that will likely come to an end.

And thanks to him, the Big 12 won't.

High anticipation for Beebe to follow Osborne's lead

June, 14, 2010
6/14/10
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Days before his school left for the Big Ten, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne made a plea for patience.

"Eventually, all the facts will come out," he told the Lincoln Journal Star.

In an open session with Nebraska's board of regents, he made good on his promise, recounting the then-secret, contentious, but civil negotiations that took place during the Big 12 spring meetings early this month. He pointed at Texas and Missouri for failing to commit to the Big 12, and got the Huskers' exit underway with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany at his side later that afternoon.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe may manage to convince Texas to stay and save the Big 12 with a sales pitch full of promises, money and the potential to create their own network, a luxury the Pac-10 reportedly wouldn't provide.

But the details and truth surrounding a proposal that at least made Texas slow its negotiations with the Pac-10, and at most saved the Big 12, should be fascinating. Beebe is predicting SEC-type numbers for the next fiscal year, and to be fair, the SEC earned $132.5 million last year. This year, they jumped to $209 million, issuing $17.3 million to each team in the conference. The Big 12 earned $139 million this year. To plan for a similar jump isn't impossible, but it is questionable. Planning for SEC numbers in the future sounds attractive, but the SEC's four consecutive national titles by three different teams don't give much reason to believe the SEC will slow its financial growth to let the Nebraska-less Big 12 catch up.

The Big 12 earned more than the Pac-10 in 2009, and that could continue -- even without Nebraska. I have my doubts about the claim that the new Big 12 could earn more than the Pac-16, but the idea of creating their own network -- whose revenue they wouldn't have to share -- might be enough to convince Texas to stay. Texas A&M could still leave, but the Pac-10 may have to add Utah and stand pat if the Longhorns don't choose to leave.

Beebe's last big plan didn't work out so well, but if this one does, schools like Kansas and Kansas State had better hope it comes with a long-term commitment. Otherwise, the league may end up in the exact same spot very soon. Texas has said all along they've wanted to keep the Big 12 together. Making this move would be the ultimate affirmation of what DeLoss Dodds' has preached from the start of realignment rumors. The motives behind Texas' reconsideration of a move to the Pac-10 could be anything. They might believe Beebe's plan, which presumably came with input from the actual networks they'd be negotiating with. They may believe they can make more money here. They may be calling Texas A&M's bluff to see if the Aggies have the gumption to leave for the SEC, providing the Longhorns with a third direction to point if the Big 12 breaks up, along with Lincoln and Columbia.

Little is certain in a story that seems to shift by the hour. What I know for sure is I hope Beebe and/or Dodds take a page from Osborne and let the public in when all this is finished. They'd be better off for it.

Lunch links: Beebe dealt losing hand

June, 14, 2010
6/14/10
12:30
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Nebraska fans unhappy with me: Popularize vuvuzelas inside Memorial Stadium, and I promise I won't come within 100 miles of Lincoln on game day.

Not a ton of links today, but all very, very strong stories. I'd suggest checking them all out.

Playing the blame game

June, 12, 2010
6/12/10
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I've heard from plenty of you (mostly Nebraska fans) who disagree with my assessment that the Cornhuskers deserve the greatest portion of blame for a Big 12 breakup. That's not to say they deserve all of it. In retrospect, I should have made that clearer.

There's a ton of blame to go around. Much of it intertwined.

Texas didn't want to give up the rights to broadcast its games and possibly pursue the option of a Big 12 Network, for obvious reasons. They're the only team in the league who could pull off their own network, even if it still perhaps years from its infancy.

Missouri perhaps gazed too longingly at the Big Ten, hoping to join, fostering more instability in a clearly unstable league.

And though Texas couldn't promise to stay if Colorado and Missouri left, Nebraska staying would have made it a much more viable option and an easier sell for commissioner Dan Beebe.

But Nebraska blinked first -- and to their benefit. They don't have a responsibility to help their Big 12 North brethren. As the Husker brass, and other athletic directors, have repeated ad nauseum, their responsibility is to do what's best for their university. Moving to the Big Ten was their best option.

It also meant making the first move. A move that no one should question. But it could lead to the Big 12's eventual breakup.

And what, exactly, is so bad about being blamed for the breakup of a conference? Dirty looks? Arkansas did it to the Southwest Conference. They're doing just fine and collecting $17 million checks in the SEC.

Nebraska will be better off, too. Well done.

Get used to purgatory, Missouri

June, 11, 2010
6/11/10
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Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany followed his protocol, placing a call to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe on Friday morning to notify him that they would be accepting Nebraska's application into the Big Ten.

Beebe had no further comments on Nebraska's departure, calling it "disappointing."

But Delany didn't mention another team looking for inclusion to the Big Ten, Missouri.

"My understanding is there aren't any other conference members considered by the Big Ten," Beebe said.

That's a big uh-oh in Columbia for a school that's turned the Forgotten Four into the Forlorn Five over the course of the past week. Missouri may end up getting a Big Ten invite when the conference makes its next move toward expansion, something Delany said could happen in the future. But Delany, altering his previously stated timeline, shows just how badly he wanted the Huskers in his league.

"We were ready to move more quickly when this opportunity arose,” he said.

But it also shows that Missouri won't be placed on the fast track for membership. And if five Big 12 South teams split for the Pac-10 next week, Missouri's position in the league will only become more awkward. With the Big Ten still in play, don't expect Missouri to fully commit to the other four teams whose best bet include a partnership with the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, or obliterating the Big 12 for a move to the Big East.

"When 'the dust settles,' Mizzou will be in a strong position nationally," athletic director Mike Alden said in a statement. "We don't know the timeline of all of these activities, so your patience and commitment is appreciated."

Alden has a lot of faith, and he should. As the head of the athletic department, he has to. He didn't place any qualifiers on that statement. But the second half is more telling: Missouri may still have to abide by the Big Ten's original timeline.

In short, Missouri's future could be in limbo through 2010 and into next year. How far -- and if it ends -- is up to Delany.

Delany apologized on Friday for leaving schools unsure of their future. Clearly, Missouri falls under that umbrella.

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman pointed to comments from Missouri "not fully supportive of the Big 12" as a reason for leaving, and it was a good one. That's not going to change until an opportunity to join the Big Ten is completely off the table.

Missouri deserves a good amount of blame in a Big 12 breakup, too, but unlike Kansas and Kansas State, they can't fully commit to a cleanup -- however that ends up looking.

If Missouri spends the next six to 12 months riding the fence between committing to the remaining members of the Big 12 and positioning itself for an invitation to the Big Ten, its relationship with schools like Kansas and Kansas State will only splinter further. And unless that invitation to apply arrives in the end, Missouri better get used to a whole lot of awkwardness.

Texas AD doesn't speak, then speaks

June, 11, 2010
6/11/10
4:31
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AUSTIN, Texas -- On Friday, Texas said it planned an unscheduled meeting on Tuesday with the university's board of regents to discuss conference alignment. Hours after the announcement, athletic director DeLoss Dodds declined to answer questions from a group of reporters outside his suite at Disch-Falk Stadium, where he was preparing to watch the Longhorns take on TCU in the NCAA Baseball Super Regional.

Later, he issued a statement about his choice not to speculate on the future.
"Our goals and hopes all along have been to keep the Big 12 Conference intact. The league has been great for its members. We also have been honorable, up front and forthright with regard to our work and responsiveness to all the possible and now definitive changes to conference landscapes. We are entrusted with the responsibility of administering our university athletics programs. That requires careful examination of any and all options. It is both premature and inappropriate to speculate on what our UT System Regents will discuss at next Tuesday's meeting. But, as the dynamics of the Big 12 continue to change around us, we will utilize additional time to continue our work and evaluate our options."

It wouldn't surprise me to see an official announcement come from that meeting, which would likely be similar to the one Nebraska held earlier Friday. But, apparently, we'll have to wait until Tuesday to find out.

Why Texas won't hang around

June, 11, 2010
6/11/10
9:00
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I've seen the question bounced around, and answered in a number of ways, but like everything else in realignment, it boils down to money.

"If the Big 12 is so Texas-centric, then why can't the Longhorns just stay, keep their old friends, add a few new ones and keep the Big 12 alive?"

That's an option for Texas. In a few hours, Nebraska's board of regents will meet, discuss realignment, and could vote to formally apply to the Big Ten. That's today's assumed outcome and one that would strip the Big 12 North of its marquee football program.

But don't expect Texas to pledge its allegiance, the Big 12 to plug that hole (and Colorado's) with Utah and/or TCU and go on as a weakened conference. The answer's not complex. There's cash to be had. And the treasure map leads straight to the Pacific.

Ten, that is. (Or 11 now, I suppose)

The last Big 12 conference revenue numbers (2007) saw Texas receive just over $10 million. That number's gone up since, but if the Big 12 is forced to go on just without Nebraska and Colorado, that number is sure to dip when the next round of TV negotiations take place for the conference in April. Which brings me back to an umbrella quote I've used a couple times from Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne.

"Remember what the job of an athletic director is," Byrne said. "We're all very mercenary. We're all out there to protect our own institutions, so everybody has their own interests in mind."

No one's quite sure what kind of TV revenue a Pac-16 might generate, but I've seen projections as high as $20 million. Whatever they end up being, it's hard to argue that the shares for teams in the Pac-16 would be lower than in a weakened Big 12. The conference's only hope would be convincing the Longhorns that isn't the case. My guess: President Bill Powers knows better.

So Texas' options become:

1) Keep the Big 12 together, maintain all rivalries, make less money than they currently collect.

2) Go to the Pac-10, maintain rivalries (except Baylor, barring an Aggie split to the SEC), or potentially double their yearly conference earnings.

Tough call, there, isn't it? But that logo is SO awesome, right? Look at it, all Roman-y and gray and stuff, right?

Any sense of loyalty died in Nebraska -- not that I blame it. I'd do the same thing in its position. And don't forget, Texas has only been associated with this group of universities for less than two decades.

And don't bother with the argument that the Longhorns' road to the national title would be more difficult. The creation of the Pac-16 would almost certainly set off other leagues to form superconferences of their own, and if that happens, you can say goodbye to undefeated seasons -- or even one-loss seasons.

Texas' recent flirtations with the Pac-10 make it obvious that second option is attractive. Staying in the Big 12 for its own gain -- but Texas' loss -- doesn't sound very mercenary, does it?

CU move a good, natural fit

June, 10, 2010
6/10/10
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Ever since talks began, Colorado playing in the Pac-10 made a lot of sense. It's a physical outlier in the Big 12, the conference's only school in the Mountain West. Only two other schools in the Big 12 fit inside the top 35 of the U.S. News & World Report best public national universities. The list's top two schools are in the Pac-10. Anyone who's stepped foot in Boulder can tell right away it has plenty more in common with Berkeley or Palo Alto than it does with Ames or Manhattan.

Dan Hawkins' current roster has 23 California natives. Texas? Just three.

The school probably would have made the move even without an impending jump from five Big 12 South teams that could establish the Pac-10 as the first 16-team conference in college football. The added television revenue from that move only sweetens the deal.

Colorado was in the unique position of not depending on any other school's actions to help decide its future, something only Nebraska -- if that -- can say.

On Thursday, Colorado took advantage of that.

Baylor made a late push to try to earn a bid to the Pac-10, but unless the talks between Texas A&M and the SEC heat up into an eventual marriage, the Bears may fall out of automatic qualifier status.

Colorado isn't without its jagged edges in a move to the Pac-10. It doesn't play baseball, and California is one of the few states that embraces the college game. The same with softball, where UCLA just won the national championship over another Pac-10 team, Arizona.

In football, Colorado is still years away from competing for a conference championship -- if ever -- in a soon-to-be souped-up Pac-10. And the idea that Colorado "delivers" the Denver market is generous. Denver is the Broncos' town. But as any Buffaloes fan will be quick to note, the school's 1990 national title proves that an ascension to the elite is a possibility. A more receptive California recruiting trail might push that along.

But the negatives were never going to touch the positives that far outweigh a shift in conference alignment. Especially now that a much bigger check -- perhaps as high or higher than $20 million by some estimates -- awaits if the Big 12 South arrives.

And if you haven't figured out money is all that matters in this whole process, well, then I just can't help you at this point.

Five things we learned at Big 12 meetings

June, 7, 2010
6/07/10
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There's been plenty of development and rumors since the Big 12 spring meetings closed on Friday afternoon, but taking that into account, here's what we learned during a contentious week.

1. So much for a secretive process. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe kept his plans under wraps through the week and planned to do so moving forward. Not so much for the rest of the conference, who have anonymously leaked various details of the Big 12's plan to hold itself together, including an "ultimatum" or drop-dead date of this Friday, or perhaps slightly longer. Neither Missouri nor Nebraska have confirmed the ultimatum, but with the Pac-10 speaking on the possibility of inviting any number of Big 12 teams, the circumstances have changed.

2. The fate of the conference is in "a few hands." It would appear the hands with the most pull are Nebraska and Texas, but statements released by Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor over the weekend make it clear the conference is far from a free-for-all. Should Nebraska, Missouri or Texas pledge commitment to the conference in the coming weeks, expect them to follow suit with a strongly worded statement, rather than a news conference that would subject schools administrators to questions.

3. Revenue is up. But not that up. The Big 12's conference revenue last year rose from $130 million to $139 million. It rose $16.5 million from 2007-08 to 2008-09, but the Big 12 also placed two teams (Texas and Oklahoma) in BCS bowl games to help that jump. Most importantly, the gains by the Big 12 are dwarfed by recently announced numbers from the Big Ten and SEC. The Big Ten recently announced that the reported $22 million number given to its schools was too high, but it still passed out a number closer to $20 million, league officials said. The SEC just doled out over $17 million to its members from a pool of $209 million, up from $132.5 million in 2008-09. The Big 12 is confident it could see a similar jump in the future, but first things first: There has to be a Big 12 for Big 12 revenue to exist. Though the Big 12 will continue to distribute revenue unequally, individual team totals were not immediately made available.

4. Book your flights to Dallas, North fans. As expected, the Big 12 announced its intention to hold the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Big 12 championship games at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Contract agreements still have to be negotiated by Beebe and stadium officials, and again, there has to be a Big 12 to host a Big 12 championship, but Tom Osborne's preference did little to sway the final decision. Beebe did say the game has not been anchored, but his comments seem to indicate doing so in the future is a possibility.

5. A possible merger with the Pac-10 is a reality. Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn's comments last Thursday to the Boulder Daily Camera made that obvious. "The longer that we were together in Kansas City it appeared that that rumor or speculation did have some validity to it," Bohn told the paper. That affected Thursday's meetings enough to cancel the day's news conference, and Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott confirmed that of the four expansion possibilities the conference is considering, three involved Big 12 teams.

Friday Mailbag: RG3 vs. JJ and a Kendall Hunter retrospective

March, 5, 2010
3/05/10
1:30
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Thanks for the questions this week. To ask more and maybe get a spot in next week's mailbag, go here.

Michael in Houston writes: David, I'm glad to see that the Big 12 now has a permanent blogger again! I wish you luck! My question is, who do you anticipate to have a better year: Jerrod Johnson or Robert Griffin?

David Ubben: Griffin is probably more fun to watch, just because he’s such an incredible runner. But Johnson is a much better passer, and has a lot more talent around him. And Johnson isn’t exactly a pocket dweller. He rushed for 506 yards and eight touchdowns last season. It could be close, but I’d have to go with Johnson, who also comes into this season somewhat question-free, unlike Griffin.


Josh in Lincoln, Neb. has a gripe with my selections as the best backs in the Big 12: Since you ignored Roy Helu as one of the best backs in the Big XII, some food for thought. Yards per carry: Helu 5.2, Daniel Thomas, 5.1, DeMarco Murray 4.1, Christine Michael, 5.1. And Helu had more yards than everyone than Thomas. Just sayin'.

DU: Valid criticism. Helu Jr. deserves to be mentioned among the Big 12’s best, but I did make the comment in a chat, so I just overlooked him in my quick answer. I also got some mail from a few Oklahoma State fans who weren’t pleased that Kendall Hunter wasn’t mentioned. I probably misspoke when I said his status as one of the best running backs in the conference was gone.

Sitting out so long with the ankle injury and looking sluggish most of the time when he returned hurt his reputation. Keith Toston stepping in and looking every bit as good as Hunter had the past season suggested Hunter wasn't exactly irreplaceable.

He deserves to be mentioned among the best, but I don’t think he has a case to be THE best in the conference. Missing two of the best offensive players in the Big 12, Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant, will keep him from leading the Big 12 in rushing like he did in 2008, with 1,555 yards. Switching to a more spread-oriented offense in Stillwater won’t help, either.


Bear in Denton, Tex. asks: Do you believe Nebraska is overrated? There last two games were both good performances but this is a team that had four losses. I will not be surprised next year when Nebraska loses 3, 4 possibly 5 games next year. Your thoughts?

DU: It’s possible. Four losses is a lot, but it won the North last year and could very well do it again. Nebraska has the potential to be a top 10 team, but if the offense struggles yet again and the defense isn’t what Bo Pelini is touting it to be, the Huskers won’t be making another December trip to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship game.


Taylor in Dallas asks:What is your take on the expansion hubbub? Do you think the BIG 12 will be picked apart due to league apathy on the part of Missou and Colorado? Or how about this novel concept. Would the BIG 12 ever go on the offense and go after a couple of teams to evolve into the BIG 14? Arkansas? Tennessee?

DU: Picked apart? I don't think so. But the Big 12 going on the offensive is an interesting idea. That said, they won't get Arkansas or Tennessee to leave the SEC. The list of good candidates to join the Big 12 from thin air is pretty short, but I think it starts with TCU. We could talk about hypothetical situations all day, but when this all blows over, I think the biggest realistic shake up is the Big 10 just adding Rutgers or Pitt, and the Big 12 stays out of it. My most likely scenario? Nothing happens at all. But anything is possible.

Except Texas to the Big 10.

Thanks for the questions, and stay tuned for my pre-spring Big 12 Power Rankings to close out the week.

Lunch links: Former Baylor coach makes light of paper caper

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
12:30
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Former Baylor and current Texas A&M-Commerce coach Guy Morriss caused a spat with the student newspaper at Commerce after saying he was "proud" of his players for allegedly stealing copies of the paper.

Texas coach Mack Brown speaks out about the recent death of his mother, ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel reports.

Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen says he hopes for an interception-less spring, Tom Kensler of The Denver Post reports.

This could be a historic NFL draft for the Big 12, writes Suzanne Halliburton in the Austin American-Statesman

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne weighs in on expansion talk.

If you want to read Colorado coach Dan Hawkins use the term "eternal axiom," this Q&A on CU's Web site is for you. No, really.

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