DALLAS — Among the quarterbacks in the Big 12 last year were the conference’s all-time leading passer in Landry Jones, a Heisman Trophy finalist in Collin Klein, someone currently battling for a starting job in the NFL in Geno Smith, the nation’s leader in total offense in Nick Florence and a gunslinger in Lubbock that turned in his second straight 4,000-yard season.
They’re all gone, leaving behind a group of talented but inexperienced signal-callers to fill the void.
“In these offenses, it seems like the next guy plugged in has done a great job,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “That always goes in cycles, where everyone is growing them up or they’re older. I think it bodes well for everybody if they’re always growing them up at the same time, at least for defensive guys.”
Only two quarterbacks are representing their team at Big 12 Media Days this week — Texas’ David Ash and Kansas’ Jake Heaps, who has yet to take snap for the Jayhawks since transferring from BYU. The majority of teams in the conference have yet to name a starter behind center, although Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf, Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer, TCU’s Casey Pachall and Kansas State’s Jake Waters are the odds-on favorites to win their respective jobs.
“It’s an unusual year in that we don’t have a really dominant quarterback, somebody that everybody looks at and says that team can ride on that player's back and have a great year,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
The Big 12 may once again have several of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks but, this year, they will have to make a name for themselves as they go.
DALLAS – Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon led Oklahoma State to the school’s first-ever Big 12 title and a Fiesta Bowl win over an Andrew Luck-led Stanford squad two seasons ago. This year’s Cowboys team has already done something never done before in program history without playing a single down.
Oklahoma State was picked by the media to win the Big 12 this year, garnering 15 of the 43 first-place votes in the preseason poll.
“We’ve kind of got Iowa caucus numbers in terms of people being all over the place,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
Like most teams in the conference, the Cowboys have yet to name a starting quarterback. Senior Clint Chelf started the final four games last season, including a lopsided win over Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, while sophomore J.W. Walsh was promising in three starts, throwing for 1,564 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.
“It means a lot, especially being the first time in Oklahoma State history to be picked first,” junior wide receiver Josh Stewart said. “We’re going to go in like we’re the underdog, taking it game by game. We’re not going take any days off or slack because we’re picked No. 1. We’re going to attack every game like we’re in last place.”
Oklahoma State returns 15 starters from a team that went 8-5 in 2012, their lowest win total in five years. They lose Joseph Randle, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last season, but bring back their top three pass-catchers, including Stewart, who caught 101 passes for 1,210 yards last year, and three of their top three tacklers.
“I know it won’t have any effect on our season but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying we’re good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship,” head coach Mike Gundy said. “There’s been some growth in the program at Oklahoma State. I think it’s a tribute to the players that have been before this group.”
Bedlam rival Oklahoma was picked to win the Big 12 last year and won a share of the conference crown but, because of its loss to Kansas State last September, did not earn an automatic BCS bowl berth. Oklahoma State will look to avoid a similar fate.
“It doesn’t mean much because we still have to go out and play those games,” senior linebacker Shaun Lewis said. “The hunger is there. The drive is there. All those intangibles are there.”
“It means a lot,” senior defensive tackle Calvin Barnett said. “It’s pretty cool knowing we’re picked No. 1 but just because we’re picked No. 1 in the preseason, once the season gets here it won’t matter. It’s irrelevant at the end of the day.”
DALLAS — In-game highlights will be played during TV timeouts during Big 12 games beginning this season in an effort to curb dwindling attendance numbers.
Conference ommissioner Bob Bowlsby acknowledged how easy it can be for fans to enjoy the games from the comfort of their own homes rather than buy an expensive ticket, wait in lines to use the bathroom and at concession stands and pay for parking going to the game.
“College football has experienced declines in overall attendance the last four or five years, and I think bringing highlights in will take into account and help one of the things that really is getting to be a challenge for us,” Bowlsby said. “People have a 60-inch television and they can have their mobile device with full Wi-fi in their lpa, no lines at the restroom, no charge for concessions, they can have a cold beer when they want to… We think it will greatly enhance the in-stadium environment.”
Big 12 to use chips in shoulder pads
Big 12 players, along with players from the SEC and the Pac-12, will have RF chips planted in their shoulder pads starting this season. This will allow their movements to be tracked and the velocity of their collisions to be measured.
“We’re not sure what we will do with the technology,” Bowlsby said. “But we think it’s a very interesting innovation that developments in other areas outside of sports have accommodated. It ought to be interesting to see how it evolves.”
This comes on the heels of the implementation of a rule in college football that mandates the ejection of any player targeting another player’s helmet, which also begins this year, and the launch of a concussion research and prevention program by the Big 12 as part of a partnership with USA Football.
“Player safety is a very important element of what we’re doing,” Bowlsby said. “The commissioners collectively took the initiative and sent directive to the rules committee that we wanted progress made on both concussive head injuries and the cumulative effect of repetitive blows to the head.”
Big 12 to experiment with eighth official
Also among the changes this upcoming season is the use of an eighth official during Big 12 games, a move meant to better manage the faster up-tempo offenses being utilized more and more by the teams in the pass-happy conference.
This official will stand on the same side of the ball as the offense and be responsible for spotting the ball, which was previously something the umpire did. The Big 12 will be the only conference with officials this season.
“This is really in response to pace of play as much as anything,” Bowlsby said. “We have experimented with it in the spring. We’ve even experimented using an eighth official with a helmet cam to see what the vantage point is and how it might be helpful.”
There have been critics, most notably Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, of up-tempo offenses because of the perceived increase of defensive players being injured. But the Big 12 won’t slow down any time soon.
“They can’t play any faster,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “I was one of the guys that voted for having the eighth official because that guy’s going to be the spot — that allows your umpire and referee not to worry about that… if anything, I think it gets back to helping the defense a little bit more because now you have a little — you have one more set of eyes that are watching everything.”
DALLAS — Bob Bowlsby doesn’t have to worry about realignment effecting the Big 12 for the time being. He likes having 10 teams in the conference.
But, if he has his way, that might be one of the few things about college football that doesn’t change.
During his 45-minute state of the conference address Monday in Dallas at Big 12 Media Days, Bowlsby called for sweeping reform to the legislative process in college athletics and, while expressing confidence in the NCAA’s staying power, also raised concerns about the effectiveness of its enforcement.
“Our national orgazination is under fire,” Bowlsby said of the NCAA. “I think it’s virtually impossible right now to configure legislative proposals that have any chance of getting through the system intact that would accomplish anything in the way of meaningful change.”
Bowlsby said the other four major conference commissioners — the ACC’s John Swofford, the Big 10’s Jim Delany, the Pac-12’s Larry Scott and the SEC’s Mike Slive — met recently and all agree that things should change and could change quickly.
“If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got,” Bowlsby said. “We all acknowledge, particularly relative to the legislative process, we are very much at a point now where we can’t get anything that’s transformative through the system… It is just very difficult to do anything that would benefit our student-athletes or our institutions that doesn’t get voted down by the larger majority.”
When asked if the threat of secession may be an effective — and possibly necessary — way of triggering the change Bowlsby spoke of, he said the Big 12 would not do that unless it had to but did not totally rule it out.
“I don’t see secession as a legitimate point of leverage except as a last resort,” Bowlsby said. “I really think that leadership and the rank and file believe that there’s a solution within the NCAA, and it’s been along those lines that we’ve had the conversations. Could that change to something that’s a little more harsh down the road? Possibly.”
One major change Bowlsby brought up was the possibility of “federation by sport,” the idea of each college sport governing itself instead of one federation governing all college sports because, as Bowlsby put it, “it’s probably unreliastic to think we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules.”
“There are about 75 schools that win 90 percent of the championships in the NCAA, and we have a whole bunch of others that don’t look much like the people in our league, yet through rule variation they’re trying to compete with us,” Bowlsby said. “The NCAA has gotten to be an organization that has very broad ranging responsibilities and oversight. I’m not sure we’re doing as good a job with some of the core competencies as we need to. And perhaps a narrower focus would help.”
Austin will host the Summer X-Games next May at the newly built Circuit of the Americas site that opened last year. ESPN announced Wednesday morning that Austin had been chosen over three other finalists: Detroit, Charlotte and Chicago.
The X-Games will take place May 15-18, 2014 and is one of six stops on the Global X-Games circuit. Austin, which recieved the bid for the next four years, is replacing Los Angeles as the host city. Los Angeles will host X-Games for the final time this August.
"First of all, Austin as a city has done a terrific job over the last several years embracing big events," Scott Guglielmino, ESPN's senior vice president for programing and Global X, said in a statement following the announcement. "When we got on the ground in Austin...and saw the facility, it felt very right very quickly."
The COTA complex that lies southeast of downtown Austin, will host a majority of the events at the sprawling 1,600 acres. Some events will take place in downtown Austin.
Austin hosted a rally at the state capitol this past June to support its bid as the new host.