Mauren: Why I won’t forgive Oklahoma and Texas

Columnist Jacob Mauren will not forgive Texas and Oklahoma for leaving the Big 12.

Jacob Mauren

I won’t forgive Texas and Oklahoma. Did they betray the Big 12? Yes. Did they sacrifice their team’s souls for cash? Yes. But to me, their worst offense is massacring the American Athletic Conference and possibly killing the Conference-USA in the wake of their dash for cash.

The news of the two most valuable teams in the Big 12 leaving for the SEC sent shockwaves throughout the college football world this summer. The change rerouted a serious amount of cash and football clout away from the Big 12 and left its future in jeopardy for a few months. Some questioned if the current Power 5 conference would even exist in five years’ time. Determined to survive, the conference recruited some of the best available teams to join its ranks and carry the conference into the new era of college football. BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston’s applications were accepted, and the future of the Big 12 got a lot brighter, but the shockwave did not stop there. 

The American Athletic Conference spent years rebuilding from the turmoil that was the 2010-2013 realignment into what some considered a sixth power conference. While not always up to par with the traditionally dominant conferences, the American has fielded some impressive teams that have shaken up the college football world. In 2017 the UCF Knights claimed a national championship after finishing 13-0, a questionable accomplishment that was later officially recognized by the NCAA. Currently, the Cincinnati Bearcats sit at the No. 2 spot in the country. 

These accomplishments exceeded many peoples’ expectations for what a non-Power five conference could do and allowed some fresh faces to be seen on a stage that can become fairly stagnant. In my opinion, it was great for college football to have teams defy the traditional narrative that you couldn’t have an impact if you didn’t have the money or conference. For reference, the average Big 10 team makes $31 million a year from its TV deal; an AAC team makes about $7 million. 

However, the American Athletic Conference was not safe from the realignment chaos that followed the Texas and Oklahoma move. While they initially believed they could feast on the Big 12 and become the next true power conference, the story soon flipped as three of their most important schools jumped ship to the Big 12. 

Now, looking for a way to stay both relevant and just alive, the AAC is expected to poach FAU, UTSA, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice, and a personal favorite, UAB from the C-USA. While some of these teams have considerable opportunities for growth, at the moment, these are all very weak teams compared to what the conference lost. The AAC will enter a rebuilding phase, and college football, at least for a while, will lose a conference with a strong and unique personality.  

At the absolute bottom of the realignment totem pole is the Conference-USA. Oh, C-USA, you truly did not deserve this. Simply put, the C-USA is just here to have fun. They compete with the Sun Belt Conference for the least valuable TV deal and generally just do not have the weight to affect the football world. They exist for the love of the game and house some great stories, such as the revival of the UAB program. But sadly, this leaves them as the easiest target. Six of the conference’s 14 schools are leaving for the AAC. Left in such a state, the conference will likely dissolve, ending its run. 

I loved both of those conferences. The AAC showed you don’t need to be a traditional power or cash stuffed program to impact the game, and the C-USA just played to compete. Every weekend they played, knowing the odds were stacked against them but fought no matter what. And yet, they will be sacrificed so Texas and Oklahoma can make some more cash while winning fewer games. It’s something I won’t forgive or forget.