This fall will mark the 10-year anniversary of the final Big 12 season for Texas A&M and Missouri before they departed for the SEC. 2011 was also the final season without current Big 12 members TCU and West Virginia, who joined the following year.
The decade anniversary finds the Big 12 and the Pac-12 standing perilously close to the ledge of FBS obscurity. Or, at least, they’re in danger of losing the “power” conference status that’s so jealously protected in the new College Football Playoff system by the five preeminent leagues in at the top level of the sport.
More than a decade after the notorious Big 12 and Pac-10 planned merger fell through, it is time to revisit the Pac-16 idea during the CFP era?
The Pac-12 has notably missed on sending its conference champion for four straight years. Since 2016, in fact, the conference has had one or zero teams finishing in the AP Top 10. USC has fallen from grace, and newer, upstart powers like Oregon and Washington have struggled as well. Regionally relevant teams like BYU and Boise State have recently finished higher or as high as the league’s best in the national rankings.
The Big 12, in similar circumstances, has had only 16 teams finish in the AP Top 25 during the past five years combined, the lowest number during any five-year stretch in league history. No Big 12 has competed in the national title game during the CFP era since 2014, with the Sooners winless in four CFP appearances in that time span.
Interestingly enough, in the final year of the Big 8 (1995), four teams finished among the nation’s best nine ranked squads: No. 1 Nebraska (having just won the national title with a 12-0 record), No. 5 Colorado, No. 7 Kansas State, and No. 9 Kansas.
This past spring, the Big 12 had zero players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft for the first time in the league’s 25-year history. To make matters worse, in 2019, four American Athletic Conference teams (a so-called non-power conference) finished in the AP Top 25 compared to just three from the Big 12.
So, how would the imagined Pac-16 football conference help two ailing leagues become stronger on the national stage?