I am a product of my environment.
Being raised as a military kid in the confines of an area of the country called "Texoma", I grew up understanding what this Oklahoma versus Texas thing was all about at an early age. When I was about six years old, we'd cross the border over to Wichita Falls, Texas when I was younger to hit up the Texas "tax-free" shopping weekend at Sikes Center Mall. I remember I had on an Oklahoma State Cowboys Barry Sanders t-shirt, clad in my orange and black...and I remember grown folks snarling at me, kids trying to eye me down, and they tried to make my family pick up our food in the back of the restaurant. (Okay, I made that last one up.)
Why? Because folks from Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech wanted no parts of Barry Sanders. They immediately drew the line and said "we ain't having it" and basically told me "don't start no sh*t won't be no sh*t." This was in the days of the Big 8 Conference and the Southwest Conference, and until 1995 we were separated by church and state. The Red River literally separated us, but in 1996 the fusion began and the formative years of my college sports fanhood began.
With all the talk of the Big 12 evaporated into nothingness, you damned right I got sentimental about my conference potentially going away. You haven't lived until you've been to the Red River Shootout (get calling it "Rivalry" out my life, you might die in the Cotton Bowl dammit) and seen a crowd split down the middle in crimson and burnt orange. You haven't lived until you've gone down to Lubbock and see The Pirate slang the pill around the field 70 times a game and feeling completely helpless. Or the 12th man get live and sway the stadium back and forth before the 4th quarter in Kyle Field. Or literally thinking that Darren Sproles was the greatest runningback of all-time in a Big 12 championship.
Nostalgia for me. I apologize for rambling.
Coaches like Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, The Pirate, Mangino, Pinkell, Mike Gundy, Tom Osborne, Les Miles, Uncle John Blake, Bob Simmons, and Dan Hawkins made the Big 12 what that is.
You haven't lived until you've seen a mildly (lying) drunk Eddie Sutton take his boys from Stillwater (especially Desmond Mason and Doug Gottlieb, who led the nation in assists and couldn't shoot worth a damn) into the Phog to take on loaded Kansas Jayhawks squads with Raef LaFrentz (who I hated), Jacque Vaughn (who I hated), Paul Pierce (ehhhh), Kirk Hinrich (who I hated), Drew Gooden (actually liked) and Nick Collison (who I hated). You haven't lived until you've consistently seen Ricky Barnes bring in loaded recruiting class after loaded recruiting class down in Austin, only to see them squander season after season with inept coaching. You haven't lived until you've seen boys like "LaceDarius and Tweety" out of Waco or "Pullen and Clemente" out of Manhattan become two of the livest backcourts in all of basketball.
Nostalgia for me. I apologize for rambling...again.
Coaches like Roy Williams, Kelvin Sampson, Ricky Barnes, Tom Penders, Eddie Sutton, Huggiebear, Frank Martin, Larry Eustachy, and Bob Knight made the Big 12 what that is.
The thing about the Big 12 for me is that there's a culture and history there that only someone from the Big 12 could appreciate. Kenny and I always freak out when we see Oklahoma go on the road to play a night game, knowing that OU will play down to their competition. Only a Big 12 fan could appreciate the crunkness that is Paul Rhoads up at Iowa State. (What up B-Lew) Only a Big 12 fan could appreciate the fact that teams like Nebraska (who I hate) could never be replaced, because running the option in this millennium, knowing its coming, and still not being able to stop it...is terrifying.
There's a culture of a conference that folks will never understand. Folks love sports a little differently around here, I can't really explain it.
Hell, I've been known to get crunk if I see Oklahoma vs. Texas play baseball against each other. Or watching Oklahoma State's wrestling squad go head up against Iowa State and the legend that is Cael Sanderson. It was live watching Texas A&M's Gary Blair hit the pseudo-dougie after he the Aggies beat Notre Dame in the national championship. Watching the Women's College Softball World Series is also a spectacle worth observing.
Rivalries are embedded within the conference, and those relationships with these schools are supposed to be long-lasting. The conference represents a region, it represents a way of life, and its a way of being prideful of where you come from. It was sad to see Colorado go, it really hurt to see Nebraska go too...like I'll legitimately miss them. Seeing them up close at the final Big 12 championship its fair to say that they were some of the craziest and nicest fans I've ever met. Watching Texas A&M leave the Big 12 for all things petty and insecure was just pitiful, Texas A&M without a doubt IS the Big 12 and their identity as a school could be compromised in the next 5-10 years. They don't fit.
In this day and age, bullshit walks and money talks. Schools are looking for the short-term gains so that their pockets are straight, and I don't blame them. However, I'd like to think that there are some who have the vision and appreciate the culture that is the Big 12 conference.
There's nothing Big 12 about Pittsburgh, Rutgers, or Louisville...please keep them out of my conference, thanks.