Sure does seem like every time “the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain,” as it did in the great musical Oklahoma, good old Ok-la-homa is like “the waving wheat” that “can sure smell sweet” to various suitors as the Sooners decide where they will play football in 2012.
To some extent I really do not care where Oklahoma lands if it were not for the Sooner graduate I love. When the Big 8 sold their souls to Texas and the other Southwestern Conference rejects that begat the Big 12, history and tradition clearly meant nothing. On the fateful day Nebraska and Oklahoma stopped playing each other every Thanksgiving, the rush to perdition began.
Oklahoma is not to be blamed alone. Their decision in the next few days and their behind the scenes stand either with or against Texas is the only thing keeping the Big 12 breathing. It has been on life support for some time. Greed is what killed the Big 12 and the four football powers of the twelve – Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M – are all complicit.
Now, “ev’ry night my honey lamb and I sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin’ lazy circles in the sky.” All Laura and I can do is wait to see where that hawk lands, which for us is the Kansas Jayhawk.
One minute the Big 12 is dead, the next there is a heart beat. KU is headed for the Big East, then the Big 10, how about the Pac 12, 16, 24, 100, and now even the ACC. What happened to the offers from the Mountain West during last year’s gloom and doom? Come on Missouri Valley, join in the game.
Since neither Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little nor Director of Athletics Sheahon Zenger will be seeking my input on the final outcome, let me be greedy about Laura’s and my future work destinations.
Football in the fall in Stores, Connecticut, or Southern California? Tempe, Arizona, or Pittsburg? In the Rose Bowl or the Carrier Dome? Sun-tanned, blonde Song Girls with skirts up-to-there or cheerleaders with ivory skin bundled against the blowing snow? To be fair, Laura would enjoy the ripped Trojan soldier riding Challenger into the Coliseum way more than the Syracuse guy dressed like an Orange? Yes, the Pac Max looks good to us.
Now that Texas A&M has departed and Texas and Oklahoma most likely will follow, the Big 12 is heading back, back, back in time. Skip the Big 8. Think the old Big 7 or even the Big 6. That will never happen. Mega conferences are in, leaving the Big 12 to die. You can find the corpse outlined in Rock Chalk as rigor mortis takes hold.
We will miss the crowd in Ames which supports the Cyclones in both good times and bad. Shakespeare’s Pizza is the only thing I will miss about Columbia. When will we ever return to Stillwater to visit Eskimo Joe’s? Missing a “Belly Bomb” at the Hibachi Hut in Manhattan will be healthy for us, but it sure tasted great.
I fell in love with Laura long ago on a special night in Norman. I grew to love the beautiful campus and the great bicycle rides past the horse ranches outside of Norman. Laura’s best friend lives there. The shrimp tacos at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop are as good as it gets for me.
The night KU upset Texas Tech in Terry Allen’s final season, and the sick look on the face of then AD Al Bohl at the locker room door, will forever be cherished. Bohl still fired Allen, but in the end, Bohl proved to be the bigger loser.
Shooting in Baylor’s football stadium was almost as enjoyable as it is in Memorial Stadium at KU. The sidelines are roomy and cheerleaders are held to a reasonable number. I will miss seeing the curvature of the earth from the Texas A&M press box and all the pageantry that makes College Station awesome. Laura will miss photographing the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships in their well-lit natatorium.
We are too old to really rip it up on 6th street in Austin these days, but Flip Happy Crepes and the incredible food trailer scene in the Texas capital will be hard to replace. Our runs along the river were memorable. Even though I despise Lance Armstrong, his Mellow Johnny’s bike shop was amazing.
If KU must go, I wish it was to the Big 10. The Huskers would be back in the mix. Need I say more. The ACC was a nice thought. Roy coming back to Allen Fieldhouse would be the most tension-filled game in my photographic life. Forget The Real Housewives of New Jersey for over-hyped and self-created faka-drama. Roy Williams and North Carolina at Kansas would be a true-life reality classic worthy of far more than the Bravo Network. The closest the roof has ever come to blowing off the old Fieldhouse was when KU decimated Kentucky in the Larry Brown years. Roy back in Allen would top that.
The Big East is where my gut says KU will land. Maybe some old Big 12 brethren will join them. The basketball will still be good, football will be reasonable. The Olympic Sports travel will be brutal, but baseball will be a warm-weather school compared to all but South Florida and TCU.
The Big East basketball conference tournament means a great trip to New York every year. However, shooting in Madison Square Garden means dealing with NY’s finest grizzled photographers. Get close to one of their life-time photo spots at the ends of the historic court is risking having your ankles bitten off as your ass gets chewed out as crude as that sounds. It is such fun.
There really is no sense to any of this. No one will ever confess, but there is one certainty in my mind. Not one coach of any sport at any school in the Big 12 wants to see the conference die. The same for Nebraska and Colorado. Those schools left, and coaches said all the right things, just as all the coaches will as the Big 12 comes to and end. It just will not be the truth.
The Big 12 was far from perfect, but was still a great conference, even for two bit-players like me and my wife. Let us all hope that when the carnage ends, we might all be riding along like Curley in the Oklahoma musical singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a wonderful feeling everything’s going my way.”