Big 12 coaches sound off on realignment – The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast
Although coaches around the conference are preparing for another tough campaign, the blaring debate of conference realignment seeped into this year’s Big 12 Media Days.
This year, the league wasn’t afraid to get out ahead of the discussion. Brett Yormark, the Big 12’s incoming commissioner, opened the event by laying out his vision for the future. As rumors center on the conference and some additional new members in the future, Yormark was keen to say that he has fielded phone calls about possible expansion, but nothing is set in stone.
Neal Brown, West Virginia’s head coach, expressed excitement about Yormark and the Big 12’s future. He did note that he, like all of his fellow coaches, has little say in the matter, so he doesn’t let it concern him much.
Here’s everything the league’s coaches said about changes to the league:
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
The famed coach of the Cowboys was the second to comment on the changes, as they will soon lose their in-state rival, Oklahoma, to the SEC. That proximity not only means they compete on the field but on the recruiting trail, and that might get more difficult now that the Sooners are in a conference where “it just means more,” or so the saying goes.
Gundy is unfazed by the change, stating that most young players pay little attention to the league they’re joining but rather the program and what it offers.
Besides the loss of his bitter rival, Gundy expressed optimism about the Big 12’s future. He praised the addition of the four new members, noting how they all extend the reach of the conference both geographically and in terms of viewership.
“This is a power struggle for long-term television money,” he said. “The Big 12 is better off today than it was at this time last year. As I said earlier, I think that we have fantastic leadership. We’ve got the right people in place. I’m convinced that they’ll come up with a plan, and the Big 12 will be here to stay for a long time.”
Joey McGuire, Texas Tech
McGuire, who enters his first season with the Red Raiders, shared a positive feeling about the league. He joined the Big 12 well after its major shift in 2021, but before the most recent rumor mill started turning.
He said on Thursday that he believes the Big 12 will look different, but it is a great opportunity to strengthen the league.
“I think we’re going to put ourselves with the facilities, with the amount of different degrees and the different things you can study at Texas Tech, we’re going to put ourselves in a really good position to be a part of something special in the Big 12,” McGuire said.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State
As Texas and Oklahoma defect to the SEC, plenty of the conference’s rivalries will likely be wiped off the schedule. On the other hand, Iowa State is the only Big 12 team that has consistently maintained a rivalry game with their heated foe outside of the league, playing Iowa on an annual basis.
To have two what are Power Five conferences right now programs playing and to be able to compete against one another, I think it’s really special for our entire state,” said Campbell. “I know that’s meant a lot to the state of Iowa, certainly means a lot to our alumni bases and our universities. So for us, we’re really grateful that that’s continued and certainly has the opportunity to continue moving forward.”
The 69th edition of the fight for the Cy-Hawk Trophy kicks off on Sat. 10.
As for the Big 12 itself, though, Campbell was long on the league’s future, much like his fellow head coaches. The biggest selling point for the Big 12, he said, is what happens every weekend during the season.
“Being in this conference from year one to now going into year seven, the one thing that I do think is really special top to bottom in this conference is consistency,” he said. “There’s not an easy out on Saturday in the football conference. I think you’ve seen great coaches, great team really consistently play week in and week out. I think that has made this conference really special I think it makes every game that gets played in this conference really special.”
Sonny Dykes, TCU
The son of a Big 12 legend in his own right, Dykes said he was very excited about the Big 12’s direction. He lauded the new schools joining the conference, noting how much they “care about being successful in football.”
However, he said the core of the league’s success flows from the state in which it is based.
“There’s no place in the world in my opinion that football is more important than the state of Texas,” said Dykes, who joined TCU from SMU. “So we have Texas as a base, [and w]e have all these great institutions outside of Texas that are very passionate about football.”
The Big 12, he said, is also supported by a strong set of leadership. Keeping with the theme of prioritizing football, he praised member institutions for their “unparalleled” investment in their football programs.
“As that happens, the league will continue to improve,” Dykes said. “And, again, I’m excited about the new leadership in the Big 12, and I think that we’re going to be very aggressive and cutting edge in the way we approach preservation and also, too, expansion.”
Steve Sarkisian, Texas
The sole outgoing coach to comment on the situation, Sarkisian discussed the experience of preparing a program for a major conference move.
Sarkisian came to Texas from Alabama, so he had a good idea of what he wanted his team to look like, and it had an SEC tilt.
“That was a big physical front on both sides of the ball with speed on the perimeter,” Sarkisian said. “We had already started to develop our roster and build our roster that way.”
So for Sarkisian, the future of Texas football is more about plugging his already-built program into SEC competition rather than transitioning from the Big 12. He has already taken steps to reflect this style of play, adding 15 linemen in the offseason, and speedy wide receivers like Brenen Thompson.