We entered the 2016 regular season analyzing obscure television clauses, potential revenue splits, school honor codes and academic standards while speculating over which programs the Big 12 would add. At the end of the regular season, months after the conference reached the unexpected conclusion that it would remain at 10 members, we began preparing for a playoff with no Big 12 participants. From TCU’s unexpected dip into irrelevance to Texas’s stretch of mediocrity and ham-fisted firing of former coach Charlie Strong, the Big 12 was overrun with negative storylines from Week 1 through bowl season.
Ohio State’s thumping of Oklahoma in Norman, the Longhorns’ loss to the lowly Kansas, Iowa State’s 56-point beatdown of Texas Tech and Oklahoma State’s controversial defeat to Central Michigan were four glaring low points, but in a broader sense, the conference was marginalized in the national conversation, reduced to throwaway references to the Sooners’ remote (and ultimately futile) bid at a spot in the CFP. Baylor’s implosion in the wake of a sprawling sexual assault scandal was another black mark, one that will linger into the future as lawsuits involving the school pile up and the Bears weather financial sanctions announced by the Big 12 earlier this month.