Over the last two seasons, the Big 12 Conference sustained the most dramatic changes since its first season in 1996. In that span, the Colorado Buffalos, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Missouri Tigers, and Texas A&M Aggies all departed the conference and were replaced with the TCU Horned Frogs and the West Virginia Mountaineers.
After all the shifting and changes and rumors of the conference’s demise that were being reported, the conference is still standing strong, and the teams in the Big 12 now have something they’ve never had before: Pride in each other and pride in their conference. Somewhere along the way, even the most hated rivals have found a sense of respect for their fellow conference foes. For the first time since its inception, this bowl season, fans of member schools find themselves cheering for other Big 12 teams they once hated (and still do when it comes to inter-conference play) simply because of their new-found conference pride. After all, they are the ones who stood together through it all and remained loyal to one another.
Before this whole realignment mess started a few years back, Big 12 teams were notorious for cheering against whatever fellow Big 12 team was playing; there was no conference loyalty whatsoever. Now, all of that seems to have changed, at least where many fans are concerned.
If you read Big 12 and individual team message boards, fans are now cheering for their conference teams rather than for their opponents. For example, even Texas Longhorns fans, who just one year ago wouldn’t cheer for the Oklahoma Sooners if their very lives depended on it, find themselves begrudgingly hoping that they beat the Aggies in the upcoming Cotton Bowl; it’s not just because of their disdain for their former in-state rivals (or even that they are cheering for the Sooners), but because they are cheering for the Big 12. The teams in the conference are out to make a statement.
For years, college football fans have been boasting that the SEC is the most dominant conference in the country, and truth be told, it’s hard to argue against that point. There is no denying that the top teams in the country have played in the SEC the past few years, however, many fans of Big 12 teams will tell you that over the last couple of seasons, their conference, top to bottom, could in fact be considered the strongest.
They are out now out to prove it, and if it takes cheering for a conference team you hate, then so be it.
It’s a strange feeling, rooting for the teams you once cheered against no matter what, but somehow, some way, in the midst of the Big 12′s rebirth, a sense of conference pride has finally been found.