Should the Big 12's divisional structure be changed?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is aware of his conference's football standings and knows the South Division teams have continued their dominance in the conference.

“I would say that anytime there would be an imbalance, there’s a concern about it,” Beebe said. “But whether there will be an adjustment, we’ll just see how things play out.”

Beebe considers the South’s recent domination to be cyclical. The league was perceived to be North-centric in its formative stages.

“I wasn’t around when it was the other way,” Beebe said. “I don’t know if there was a concern in that way when Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas State were the strong teams from the North and it seemed like Texas A&M was the only strong team from the South.”

While Beebe says he would like to see the North more competitive, the South has continued its recent domination in early games so far this season.

The South Division is off to a 6-2 lead in cross-division games with the only wins notched by a North team coming from Kansas State’s home victory over Texas A&M and Iowa State’s triumph over Baylor. Not coincidentally, those two North teams are at the top of their division standings mainly because those victories over South teams.

The perception seems to have been most one-sided in championship games where the North team hasn’t had a winner since Kansas State stunned Oklahoma with a 35-7 victory in 2003. The South teams have won the last five championship games by a combined score of 233-51.

In the history of the league, the North led the cross-division series in two of the first five seasons with the other three being tied.

But since 2002, the South has claimed the season series in six of the last seven seasons. Included was a 15-3 edge for South teams in cross-division games last season.

The turning point in the conference’s domination appeared to be when Mack Brown was hired at Texas in 1998 and Bob Stoops was hired by Oklahoma the following season. Their arrival has rejuvenated both traditional powers, leaving those two programs to account for seven of the conference’s 10 most recent championship teams.

Beebe said that no discussion has been provided, either formally or informally, about a switch in divisions.

But if league officials were seriously considering some changes, how about considering these particular plans.


How it would work: Place all 12 teams in one division and have each team play the others once in 11 regular-season conference games.

Why it would work: The most equitable way to decide a champion. Everybody would play everybody else once in the season.

Why it wouldn’t work: The schedule would be way too difficult to even consider. Coaches would never go along with this plan.


How it would work: Place the two teams in divisions where their configuration east and west would account for their placement.

East: Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M

West: Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor

Why it would work: Not many reasons. The east would be even weaker than the North Division already is. But Nebraska and Oklahoma could play every year as division rivals.

Why it wouldn’t work: Texas A&M would be removed from its Texas schools and Oklahoma State would be uprooted from the Bedlam Rivalry with Oklahoma.


The Osborne Division: Colorado, Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

The Royal Division: Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Why it would work: The strength of divisions would be equalized by trading Oklahoma and Oklahoma State for Kansas and Kansas State.

Why it wouldn’t work: Texas-Oklahoma loses much of its national appeal with the game not having pull in divisional standings. And Missouri-Kansas wouldn’t be nearly as big, either.

These plans are indicative of why the whole idea of changing the divisional format is dangerous for the schools. A better idea might be to let things play out, like Beebe suggests, allowing to see if the cyclical nature plays out and the North returns stronger in future seasons.

But here’s an opportunity for readers to provide their own suggestions for how they think the Big 12 should be divided.

If you were in charge and had the ability to make the Big 12’s two divisions in any way you could, how would you arrange them?

Please give me your thoughts.