The Real Reason Behind the Big 12 Conference

University of Texas- Austin

The Big 12 Conference has been to more than 50 team national championships, despite being the second youngest of the major athletic conferences in the United States.

The Big 12 Conference came out of a 1994 merger between the Big Eight and the four colleges in the Southwest Conference—thus, how it got the name Big 12. However, from 2011 to 2012, a series of universities left and joined, resulting in 10 current members, with future affiliate members coming in 2015 with the sport of women’s rowing (University of AlabamaOld Dominion University, and University of Tennessee).

Big 12 Fast Facts

Statistic
Value
Founding Year1994
AssociationNCAA
DivisionDivision I
Members10
HeadquartersIrving, Texas

Big 12 Conference Expansion

Big 12: "The reason the Big 12 was created comes down to television ratings."The reason why the Big 12 was created comes down to television ratings. While some schools were opting for the College Football Association to negotiate contract rights on their behalf, other schools were seeking deals outside of the CFA. In 1990, the University of Arkansas and University of South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which many saw as a ploy for getting a better TV product outside of CFA deals.

Seeing SEC’s imminent departure, the Southwest Conference and Big Eight realized they weren’t in the best position when it came to TV deals. But SWC member UT Austin was thinking about jumping to PAC-10, which would null the arrangement since UT was a dynamic force to draw TV audiences. Eventually, UT was secured, as were other Texas powerhouses like Texas TechBaylor, and Texas A&M.

After the new conference was announced, newspapers dubbed it the “Big 12,” and three months later, this title was officially announced as the league’s name.

Big 12 Conference Members

Here’s a list of the Big 12 schools along with their Niche academic ranking.

Niche Grade
Name
City
State
Size
A-Baylor UniversityWacoTX12,615
B+Iowa State UniversityAmesIA26,103
B University of KansasLawrenceKS17,130
B+Kansas State UniversityManhattan KS17,245
B+University of OklahomaNormanOK18,111
B Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterOK17,517
A-University of Texas - AustinAustinTX37,083
A-Texas Christian UniversityFort WorthTX8,145
B Texas Tech UniversityLubbockTX24,338
B-West Virginia UniversityMorgantownWV21,118

Big 12 Changes

Clearly, the conferences and their groupings are not set in stone, and in 2012, Texas A&M left, followed by the University of Missouri. However, in that same year, West Virginia University stepped in.

The Bottom Line 

Just as colleges are businesses, so are college athletics. The creation of the Big 12 Conference stemmed from a business opportunity, but business opportunities help support athletic programs, so it’s a win-win-win for everyone involved—the third win is for when Big 12 teams win national championships.