LOS ANGELES – TCU’s unlikely attempt at a college football championship playoff came at a prime time for the Big 12.
“If you think about where this conference was 18 months ago, the uncertainty and lack of stability, and fast forward to today, it’s a game changer for us,” Commissioner Brett Jormark told the AP Saturday on CFP media day.
The Horned Frogs, who finished third, will face the first player from Georgia. on Monday night at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California for the CFP title.
In the summer of 2021, the Big 12 seemed in real danger of falling apart or relegated to second-tier status when it was revealed that flagship members Texas and Oklahoma — the only schools to have won a national football title in the Big 12 — were planning to leave the league and join to the Southeastern Conference.
Oklahoma was the only Big 12 team to make the college football playoffs prior to that season. The Sooners never won a single game in all four games. Texas was the last Big 12 team to play for a national championship when they lost to Alabama in the 2010 BCS title game.
The Horned Frogs took first place in the conference this year, but didn’t even win it. After an unbeaten regular season, TCU lost to Kansas State in overtime in the Big 12 championship game.
It was the second season in a row that neither Oklahoma nor Texas were in a thrilling Big 12 title game. Baylor beat Oklahoma State last season, but neither made the CFP.
The Horned Frogs, who were selected to finish seventh in the pre-season conference, have built enough résumé that, despite losing to K-State, they have secured first place in the CFP program and first place in the Big 12 since 2019.
“We are having a positive conversation today, which I think is incredible for the conference and all of our member organizations,” Jormark said. “It allows us to really interact with new fans. It raises our national profile, which is obviously crucial to me.”
Yorkmark is only six months into his position as Commissioner of the Big 12. The former Roc Nation talent agency executive and CEO of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center was an unconventional candidate to replace the retiring Bob Bolsby.
But, as he told the AP back in October, nothing can replace a win.
“Therefore, we are doing our best to take advantage of the benefits and rewards from a great TCU season and are very excited about this,” Jormark said.
TCU will play with the full support of the opponents.
Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire said he told Red Raiders fans who are worried that the TCU national title will add strength to a conference opponent he pulled for the Frogs.
“It helps us,” he said.
The growing perception that the Southeastern Conference and the Big 10, fueled by their huge media rights deals, will pull away from the rest of the Power Five leagues is a bigger problem for the Big 12, McGuire said.
“I don’t think people realize how good this conference is,” McGuire said.
The strength of the Big 12 was in its depth. Eight out of 10 teams played bowl games, and every week the conference had competitive games from top to bottom.
In the regular season in the conference, TCU won 9-0, with seven wins by 10 points or less. The Frogs, with their hypnotoad vibes and mind-blowing holiday memes, also qualified as the fashion team for this playoff.
“They represent where this conference is headed, we are a serious conference, we work hard,” Jormark said. “And despite the noise around us, we just rush forward.”
The Big 12 will take the lead next season with four new members – BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, as well as Texas and Oklahoma.
The Sooners and Longhorns do not plan to leave until the current media rights deal between the Big 12 and ESPN expires in 2025. Yorkmark and Big 12 have already reached an extension deal with the networks.
However, Oklahoma and Texas remain bound by Big 12 contracts for another two years. Getting out of these deals will be difficult and costly for schools.
“If there is interest in early exit and there are opportunities for all of us to win in this scenario, I am open to exploring that,” Jormark said. “But as I sit here today, nothing has changed.”
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