Originally Published: July 23, 2012

Oh, How Times Have Changed

By David Ubben
ESPN.com

DALLAS -- This time last year, the Big 12's coaches formed a human wall on a spotlighted stage while a man with a microphone trumpeted the league's togetherness and unity.

Well, nine of the Big 12 coaches were there, anyway. Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville skipped out on the event for a golf outing with boosters.

Commissioner Dan Beebe hit home runs off softball questions from a hired interviewer about the league's stability moving forward, only hours after Texas A&M refused to sit down for interviews with Texas' new Longhorn Network.

"We're one!" the chorus rang.

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Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireIn his first season as Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby inherits a stable situation.

The conference doth protest too much, methinks. Only a few months later, the charade was up. Texas A&M was gone, taking Missouri with it to the SEC.

At Day 1 of this year's Big 12 Media Days, the league showcased a more relaxed approach with a new man in charge, fresh cash soon to be distributed to the league's 10 wallets and an air of stability that was questioned rarely during the event.

"I think the best days of this conference are ahead," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, delivering his 20-minute opening remarks from a lone chair on stage before taking questions from a few hundred media members.

Two years ago, a pall weighed down the event. Everyone knew Nebraska and Colorado wouldn't be returning. Last year, there was certainly speculation that Texas A&M wouldn't.

The pall was replaced by an excitement welcoming newcomers TCU and West Virginia, whose mascot roamed the halls of the Westin Galleria in north Dallas in a coonskin cap with a musket (though airport security made him pour out the gun powder in his powder horn) and impressive beard, making friends everywhere he went and generally stealing the show. He also led his fellow cheerleaders and mascots in a brave but off-key version of "Country Roads" in the lobby.

The league's no longer concerned about keeping members. A soon-to-be finalized TV contract with a 13-year grant of rights agreement helps the league keep at least its current members for more than a decade.

"The agreements made are extreme, but you have to say we're as solid as you could be," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.

More excitement spilled over from the recent Champions Bowl agreement that assured another postseason date with "everyone's favorite conference" ("I don't know if they're everybody's favorite league," retorted Bowlsby to a reporter), the SEC.

As for future expansion? Don't count on it. If the Big 12 voted today?

"I don't know that we'd get two votes," Bowlsby said.

Better than contraction, which has become an all-too-familiar occurrence for the conference.

Bowlsby echoed excitement about the round-robin schedule and the strength of TCU and West Virginia, whose entries gave the league six 10-game winners and three 10-win teams to begin the season.

"There's some quality teams," Tuberville said, "For some of us, they might be too quality."

Outside of a reference to Missouri's turf that played host to a pair of major knee injuries for Texas Tech starters, the Tigers and departed Aggies were seldom mentioned on Monday. Instead, the focus was on the Big 12, preparing for a defining season and the possibility of not only existing, but hosting a national championship game within its footprint to cap the 2014 season.

"We'd love to have it in the Big 12 footprint, and I think it will be on occasion," Bowlsby said.

Less than a year ago, the Big 12 almost didn't have a footprint, perhaps forced to watch the Pac-12 and SEC grow much larger at the expense of a league that has excelled on the field.

It's a different world in the Big 12 these days. That much was clear on Monday. To the smiles of everyone parading around Dallas with a Big 12 pin on their lapel, the Big 12's future is pretty clear, too.

TCU Finally Finds A Home

By Carter Strickland
HornsNation

DALLAS -- Texas Christian had the shortest commute to Big 12 media days.

But the private school in Fort Worth, Texas, certainly had the longest trip in finally making it here.

"Obviously it has been a long journey for us," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "We have been through a lot of different conferences along the way."

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Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireGary Patterson knows the Big 12 is a different animal.

Elizabeth Taylor had fewer marriages. Seriously, just in the past 18 months TCU divorced and tied the knot with three different conferences. But the key is the Horned Frogs married up each time -- from the Mountain West to a quick annulment with the Big East and finally, now, with the Big 12. The line for the money dance queues to the left.

Now as for two-stepping through the conference like it has every other on Patterson's watch? Well, that is not so likely. When starting offensive guard Blaize Foltz is blinded by the lights just coming up the escalator in the Westin Hotel at Big 12 media days ("I got taken aback for a second," said Foltz), that's a pretty good indication there might be a slight learning curve. Or in the words of Patterson, a mountain to climb.

"When you're sitting on the side of the mountain, you don't rest," Patterson said. "We've got to keep climbing the mountain."

There are more than a few issues that could stymie the Horned Frogs' ascent, the first of which is though the Big 12 is not Everest (read: SEC), it certainly reaches higher into the clouds than anything TCU has scaled before.

"You've got to be prepared," said TCU defensive end Stansly Maponga. "The speed is going to be different."

Everything is going to be different: opponents, stadiums and, oh yeah, money.

TCU now joins Texas Tech and Iowa State as the three teams with the smallest budgets in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs had an overall budget of $56 million according to their 2010-11 equity in athletics disclosure documents. Point of reference: Texas has an overall athletic budget of $150 million.

"That's OK," Patterson said. "If you look at what we've had to accomplish and the facilities, we were walking a mile and a half to practice 15 years ago when [LaDainian Tomlinson] was our starting running back. And now our practice fields are right outside. So there's a lot of things that stand in front of us but I would say as a university and as a group totally that we do feel like that we're a little bit more stable in what we're doing."

To read the rest of Carter Strickland's story on TCU, click here.

All In The Family

By Jake Trotter
SoonerNation

Bob Stoops admitted Monday that Oklahoma's defenses have not met his standards lately.

In 2011, the Sooners ranked 55th nationally in total defense. The season before that, they ranked 53rd.

Stoops is banking that brother Mike Stoops, in his first season back with the Sooners, will be able to restore the OU defense to the prominence it enjoyed in the early 2000s.

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Kevin Jairaj/US PRESSWIREBob Stoops is confident the return of his brother, Mike, will help his defense improve.

"I do believe in the last couple of years, for whatever reason, that our defense hasn't been quite as strong as what we've been used to in our first 10, 12 years," Bob Stoops said. "I'm excited to have Mike back for a number of reasons, not only personally, but professionally. Our track record working together and competing together has been pretty positive."

When the Stoops brothers were last together, they annually formed one of the top defenses in the country. From 2000 to '03, the Sooners ranked in the top 10 in scoring and total defense, and capped an epic performance in the Orange Bowl by shutting down Florida State's offense to capture the 2000 national championship.

But when Mike Stoops left for Arizona after the 2003 season, the Sooners' defense has been on a gradual decline, especially in the defensive backfield.

In five seasons with Mike Stoops coaching the secondary, OU had five defensive backs named All-America. Since, the Sooners have had just one.

After 1999, the Sooners never finished worse than 25th against the pass under Mike Stoops, and in '03, they ranked second in pass defense.

In 2011, OU ranked a Stoops-era low 79th in pass defense, and surrendered a school-record 616 yards in a loss at Baylor, including 485 through the air.

"Hopefully we can make fewer mental mistakes in some areas and be a little sharper in what we're doing to play more consistently and better defense," Bob Stoops said.

"I trust Mike's judgment on a lot of issues. So I'm sure it will be a positive."

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