The recent announcement that the Big 12 will retain its name provided a positive moment for the growth of the new, 10-team version of the conference. While the math may not make sense, it shows that the Big 12 sees itself as a brand - a brand that it wants to grow. And who did they learn this from? The Big Ten. Despite having eleven teams since the addition of Penn State, the Big Ten has stuck with its name and has built it into a recognizable symbol. Of course, there's more that we can learn from that group from the east that gives us slightly worse football, moderately worse basketball, and Northwestern.
1. Continue to build the Big 12 brand.
As much as things like SEC and Big Ten football have an identity, the Big 12...not so much. The Big 12 needs to work on an aggressive marketing campaign to showcase achievements of the schools, both academically and athletically. The Big Ten has a built in opportunity to do this through its network. Hopefully through the establishment of the Longhorn Network and a future Big 12 Network, the conference can do the same.
2. Speaking of which, launch that Big 12 Network.
While the Big 12 can't actually do this by itself, it can sure as heck help out Fox, and third tier rights holders such as Learfield and IMG to get the ball rolling. The Big Ten Network proved to be a success, and Fox has a built in distribution through its Fox College Sports networks. It represents an opportunity to get all Big 12 games on, at least in the Midwest.
More after the jump...
3. Increase marketing of non-revenue sports.
While these sports are, obviously, non money makers, the conference needs to push the higher quality sports it also features, such as baseball and women's basketball, as well as those sports where people run around a lot. Again, a Big 12 Network would help with this. Big Ten schools offer a ton of sports, all the way to rowing. Hopefully, increased revenue will allow schools to increase funding from the sports they offer, as well as adding additional sports.
4. Increase academic cooperation.
All Nebraska jokes aside, the CIC is a fantastic resource for all Big Ten institutions, bringing in billions of dollars and numerous research possibilities. Big 12 presidents need to actively look at growing and expanding a system that allows these peer institutions to collaborate. Schools such as Texas, Mizzou and Iowa State represent outstanding research universities that can function as a great resource for each other. Increased cooperation between universities is never a bad thing.
It's that important.
They may say they aren't looking at it, but there's a handful of schools that have to be aggressively pursued that can be a net positive for the Big 12 before the time that the first tier rights are up for bid. The Big 12 would have to be extremely shortsighted not to account for this possibility in its second tier contract with Fox, so I would imagine there is a contingency. The schools that could make it worth it for the Big 12? Notre Dame, BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, and not much after that. But the league needs to go balls to the wall to do whatever it needs to try and seduce two of those schools. Programs may be waxing poetic about how much having a Big 12 Championship game hurt national title possibilities, but the loss of the game makes for a loss of revenue, a loss of a big stage, and a scheduling scenario that helps out member schools.
These are all things that need to be, and should be, part of the Big 12's mission moving forward. A transition from a conference that solely exists for athletic reason to one that actively tries to raise the profile of all schools is one that will not only survive, but thrive. But the effort needs to be made.