All due respect to our women’s basketball team and other sports teams around the league, but the Big XII was desperate for a national championship in either football or men’s basketball. These two sports are the ones that generate the most revenue and get the most attention. Football is as big as it gets in Texas and March Madness is arguably the best sporting event in the nation. Before Baylor’s dominating performance over Gonzaga, it had been over a decade since the conference had brought home the hardware in one those popular sports. Last night was meaningful to the Big XII for numerous reasons.
First, whether fans like to admit it or not, the Big XII has a perception of being more of a basketball conference. This obviously can change but that is what it is currently considered. I understand it. There has been tremendous talent in the conference; Kevin Durant and Trae Young being the most notable. Rosters are filled with lottery picks virtually every year, and this year was no different with Cade Cunningham. Obviously, the Big XII is also home to traditional “blue-blood” Kansas. And I think college basketball fans recognize the quality of the conference year in and year out. Analysts rave on the superb quality of teams as the games are televised on major networks. The outstanding basketball reputation has been there, but the results haven’t followed. At least not the ultimate results. Now, there is no need to argue for “what could have been” seasons or games. Baylor gave the conference the credibility it deserves.
Second, if we are being honest the conference has been seen as somewhat of a joke the past decade. It started with realignment and has persisted through the years. The Big XII had multiple teams leave and some of the more traditional powers (Texas) have fallen off. Baylor and TCU were both infamously denied a chance to compete in the CFB playoff in 2014. Oklahoma has struggled in their playoff opportunities and Texas Tech came up short a couple of years ago. Combining all those things the Big XII has been a bit of low-hanging fruit for other conferences. But I believe this Baylor win helps shift the narrative. The Bears left no doubt who the best team in America is and that team comes from the Big XII. And I’ll admit this—one of the major reasons why Baylor was able to dominate was because of the weekly battles it has with its conference foes. It helped the Bears tremendously.
There will always be a sense of jealousy, anger, and bitterness whenever a rival school does well. That’s understandable in college athletics. But what I hope Big XII fans realize is that Baylor bringing home a national championship will only make things more exciting. Teams will be itching to knock off the defending national champs. Couple that with Chris Beard leaving Texas Tech for rival Texas and it’s shaping up to be an entertaining next few years in the conference. Maybe the Baylor win will start a trend of Big XII schools winning national championship games. But for a while the pressure is off.