The Big 12 formed in 1996, combining the four SWC schools with the most money and political influence, and the Big 8. The result is a marriage of necessity, combining schools in a lightly-populated region of the nation with major television sets and finances in Texas. Although the schools in the Big 12 have changed over time, there is still a certain lore to this north vs. south conference. I ranked some of the memorable moments below.
25. Meat Necklace
Following in his dad's footsteps, Pat Knight ascended to coach the Texas Tech Red Raiders for a few years. His teams fell badly, especially to Kansas. After an astonishing 58-point loss to KU in 2009, Knight declared it felt like someone put a meat necklace aorund his neck and threw him to the lions. The term "meat necklace" is now a part of the KU glossary.
24. Call You Sooner, And Later
OU basketball coach Kelvin Sampson made 577 impermissable phone calls to recruits, leading to a light penalty against Oklahoma. These days, coaches can call recruits without numerical limits, once the recruit reaches a certain age.
23. Colorado call girls
In 2004, it came to light Colorado football coaches and players had been enlisting escort services to visiting recruits.
22. Quin Snyder: eye of the tiger
In an effort to motivate and loosen his team, Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder sang "Eye Of The Tiger" in the locker room before a game.
21. Marcus Smart shoves a fan
In a more recent entry, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart went into the stands to argue with a Texas Tech fan during a February 2014 game. Smart shoved the fan. OSU suspended Smart for three games.
20. KU Football: bad on the field, bad off the field
KU's lack of success on the football field is generally ignored. The lack of success off the field grabbed headlines in 1999 and 2001. In November 1999, 260-pound defensive end Dion Rayford tried to climb through the window of a Taco Bell drive-thru when they left his Chalupa out of an order. It occurred during a heavy advertising campaign for the product and made national headlines. In 2001, quarterback Mario Kinsey and running back Reggie Duncan stole a woman's purse and used her credit card to order pizza... to their own apartment.
19. Quin Snyder gets a bucket of popcorn
Frustrated with a blowout loss to Illinois on December 21, 2005, a Missouri fan dumped popcorn on Quin Snyder's head.
18. Mike Leach laments fat little girlfriends
Following a loss to Texas A&M, Tech football coach Mike Leach blamed the players for listening to praise and affection from their fat little girlfriends. Rather than clarifying his remarks, Leach continued to use the term "fat little girlfriends" in his comments.
17. Keyon Dooling dunks on Ashante Johnson
Keyon Dooling scored one of the most impressive baskets that didn't count. On March 5, 2000, the athletic point guard soared over KU's Ashante Johnson at Allen Field House for a dunk. The referee disallowed the basket and called an offensive foul on Dooling, leading to an unforgettable facial expression.
16. I'm a man! I'm 40!
Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy shouldn't have much to lament. Flush with funding from T. Boone Pickens, OSU is now a powerhouse athletic institution. But after 49-45 win over Texas Tech in 2007, Gundy took offensive to journalists criticizing his players. He famously told them "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!" The quarterback who had been the subject of the critical article later said the rant by Coach Gundy ruined his life.
15. Colorado beats Nebraska, Nebraska goes to BCS title game
In November 2001, #1 Nebraska went to Boulder and played spectacularly bad defense, losing to Colorado 62-36. CU's Chris Brown scored six touchdowns. But while CU went to the Big 12 championship game, Nebraska somehow ended up ahead of Colorado in the BCS standings. Nebraska went to the BCS title game and Colorado to the Fiesta Bowl. Both lost badly.
14. Shorts On Backwards
On senior night at KU, February 1999, Oklahoma State's Doug Gottlieb played the first eight minutes of the game wearing his shorts backwards. The crowd chanted "shorts on backwards" repeatedly until a timeout in which Gottlieb changed the orientation of his shorts with his teammates huddled around him.
13. Nobody puts Adam James in the corner
Adam James, son of SMU star and sports broadcaster Craig James, alleged bullying at the hands of Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach. In 2009, James claimed Leach ordered him locked in an equipment closet after suffering a concussion. James recorded a short video in the shed. Ultimately this led to Mike Leach's downfall at Tech, though the school hasn't missed a beat in the win column.
12. Crushed Dove
In Al Bohl's short tenure as the KU athletic director, he will be remembered for his feud with basketball coach Roy Williams. In April 2003, shortly before Williams left for North Carolina, KU fired Bohl, who had been brought on primarily to elevate the football program. Bohl chose to have his final news conference in the driveway of his home, where he blamed Roy Williams for his demise. "I believe the Kansas basketball coach had the power to hold his athletic director in his hand like a dove. He had the choice to either crush me or let me fly with my vision for a better, total program. He chose to crush me."
11. The Paige
One of the perks of having Walton (WalMart) family members in the Missouri household is a lot of disposable income. One of the drawbacks is the Waltons, and by extension the people they married, can tell you what to do. Briefly, Missouri's new basketball arena held the name of a benefactor's daughter, Paige Laurie. From October 2004 to November 2004, Missouri was home to the Paige Sports Arena, a new sports facility named after a woman who didn't even attend the school. Allegations of cheating at USC, the school Laurie actually attended, worsened the questionable decision. The Lauries agreed to go with the generic Mizzou Arena.
10. Go play intramurals, brother
On national signing day in February 2007, Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins responded to a letter he received from a parent complaining about the short break for players during summer. Hawkins loudly told the press "It's Division I football! It's the Big 12! It ain't intramurals!" Softening his tone, Hawkins ended his speech with "go play intramurals brother, go play intramurals." Hawkins, who came from a successful run at Boise State, didn't suffer because of the rant. Hawkins' fatal mistake was insisting on playing his son at quarterback. Hawkins' tenure ended in a bizarre game at Kansas, a game not on TV, in which the Buffaloes led 45-17 with twelve minutes to go in the contest. Colorado then surrendered 35 points, losing 52-45. CU still had a chance to tie or win at the end too. That's how quickly they gave up 35 points. I attended the game. I still can't believe it happened. Colorado fired Hawkins the following week.
9. Larry Eustachy will party with you
Eustachy coached Iowa State's basketball team to terrific success, winning back-to-back conference titles in 2000 and 2001. But the coach kept a secret. He drank recklessly. After a first-round tournament loss to 15th-seeded Hampton, Eustachy admitted he hit every bar between Boise and Ames. Reporters laughed. But in 2003, the Des Moines Register published pictures from a University of Missouri student, which showed the 47-year-old Eustachy attending a house party and kissing co-eds half his age. Eustachy drank until 5:00 in the morning, when the party host called a cab. A similar story emerged from Kansas State, where the coach had wandered into a fraternity party in 2002. A student said Eustachy told her "Why aren't you at KU? The girls down there are much hotter. You belong there." ISU fired Eustachy in 2003.
8. Bill Walker
Bill Walker ended up at Kansas State, and somehow, he was not the best player on the team. That distinction belonged to Michael Beasley. Both provided a lot of entertainment in their brief periods at KSU, but Walker's antics are more memorable. Walker once ate popcorn while on the bench during a game. He also urinated in a towel, again on the bench, because he couldn't wait to reach the locker room. Walker left after one-and-a-half seasons at KSU and played a few years in the NBA.
7. Dollar signs
KU saved Texas' national championship football season in 2004. KU should have secured the win late in the game, but official Freeman Johns, one of many Texans in the Big 12 officiating rotation, called offensive pass interference on a first down catch by KU's Charles Gordon. KU had to punt. KU's defense eventually gave up a first down on a Vince Young run on 4th and 18, and UT won in the waning seconds. Afterward KU coach Mark Mangino implied friendly refereeing for the sake of the Big 12 getting into the BCS title game influenced the decision. "Dollar signs. BCS," Mangino told reporters. I don't recall another time when a KU coach stood up for his team like that.
6. Murder and deceit
The most regrettable entry on the list, Baylor player Carlton Dotson murdered teammate Patrick Dennehy in June 2003. Dotson is serving 35 years in prison. The investigation resulted in one of the harshest penalties on an athletic program in recent times. Coach Dave Bliss had paid Dennehy's tuition to get around scholarship limits, then publicly called Dennehy a drug dealer to explain the payments. Bliss had also paid tuition for another player, then pretended to be that player's father to try to find out if the NCAA had requested documents from Baylor's financial aid office. Bliss had also ignored drug test violations, and later it came to light he had asked the team to practice the Dennehy-drug dealer story when the NCAA came calling. For all of this Baylor's penalties included zero non-conference games allowed for the 2005-06 season, the first such half-season penalty ever. But the team rebounded quickly. New coach Scott Drew persuaded top recruits to come to the school and Baylor is now a regular contender.
5. Kansas wins ten consecutive Big 12 basketball titles
Even though my Jayhawks lack NCAA Tournament prowess, they have rolled Big 12 basketball opponents in impressive fashion. From 2005 to 2014, Kansas won the Big 12 conference title. A few times, they shared the title, but they got the trophy nonetheless. It is among the great streaks in college basketball, especially with the Big 12 now a grueling 18-game schedule. Unfortunately, KU only has one national championship (two final fours) to show for it. We are the Atlanta Braves of college basketball.
4. Pervis Pasco travels, for the loss
In the quarterfinals of the 2003 Big 12 tournament, Kansas State held a 76-74 lead against Colorado. With a few seconds left, KSU had the ball. They only needed to inbound the ball and dribble for a few seconds to secure the win. Instead Pervis Pasco ran after catching the ball, raising his arm in triumph. The referee correctly called Pasco for traveling and gave Colorado the ball with 1.8 seconds. The Buffaloes banked in a three-pointer to win the game.
3. Garbage In, Garbage Out
The stability of the Big 12 had always been in question. The northern schools hated the southern schools. The television deal paled in comparison to the Big 10 and SEC. The idea of "bigger is better" -- growing to increase leverage with television providers and other revenue streams -- swept the NCAA beginning in 2010. College football drove everything.
The first wave felt seismic. Missouri had openly flirted with the Big 10 for years, but the conference decided to invite Nebraska and its storied football program. The Cornhuskers agreed to join the Big 10 beginning in 2011. At the same time, Colorado, always somewhat of an outsider in the conference, accepted an invitation to join the Pac 10. From there it felt as if the Big 12 would crumble. Three of the Texas schools plus Oklahoma flirted with the Pac 10. Texas A&M talked with the SEC. Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State sat on their hands. A deal to allow Texas to start its own television network, through ESPN, placated the Longhorns for now.
Unhappy with the Longhorn deal, Texas A&M pushed for SEC membership, and the SEC gladly obliged. The Big 12 invited small Christian school TCU to replace A&M. In November 2011, the SEC formally invited Missouri, fulfilling its long wish of leaving the old Big 8 and current Big 12 behind. Scrambling for another member, the Big 12 invited West Virginia from the floundering Big East, which had lost Pittsburgh and Syracuse (and eventually Louisville) to the ACC, and Rutgers later to the Big 10.
Confused yet? I can hardly tell who is in which conference anymore. The Big 12 has ten members. The Big 10, before its addition of Maryland and Rutgers, has 12 members. Go figure. The Big 12 laughed, especially at A&M and Missouri. But no one's joking now. All Texas A&M did was put a redshirt freshman quarterback on the list of Heisman Trophy winners and beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, gaining a ton of national attention at the expense of the Longhorns. Missouri, expected to be a joke among SEC football teams, took advantage of a weak, injury-depleted SEC East and landed in the conference championship game in year two. The baseball team has also competed well. Meanwhile, TCU's small fan base does nothing for the Big 12, and West Virginia is geographically too far. I think WVU will eventually leave when the cost of travel and schedules accumulate. I'm not sure who would take them, but I think they will at some point.
2. Flea Kicker
On November 8, 1997, Nebraska entered a game at Missouri ranked #1 in the nation. Down 38-31 with seven seconds left, Nebraska's Scott Frost threw a 12-yard pass to the goal line. The pass hit his running back in the chest, ricocheted off the foot of a Missouri defender, then got kicked again by the intended receiver. Nebraska's Matt Davidson caught the double-kicked pass in the end zone. Students rushed the field thinking they had won. The officials ruled the double-kicked catch a touchdown. NU tied the game with the extra point, and won it in overtime.
1. Ricky Clemons
To say Missouri has its own wing, its own library in Big 12 lore, is accurate. A lot of strange things have happened to Missouri over the years. But the event with the most press is the legend of Ricky Clemons.
Clemons arrived at Missouri after a summer of infinite learning between his community college and two other schools (online) to become eligible. He came with a lot of talent, vaulting Missouri into talk of a final four. In January 2003, the prosecutor charged Clemons with choking a woman and holding her against her will. After a probation violation, Clemons served a few days in jail before going to a halfway house. University President Elson Floyd had been mentoring the troubled Clemons, and that backfired on July 4, 2003. Clemons wrecked an ATV on the lawn of the President's house while attending a party there. Clemons had also lied about when he had to return to his halfway house. Mizzou revoked Clemons' scholarship. Clemons returned to jail for the remainder of his sentence.
Afterward, jailhouse interviews between Clemons, Floyd's wife Carmento, and the wife of the assistant athletic director appeared in the media. The bizarre conversations revealed in-fighting at Missouri, the possibility of NCAA violations, and unusual life advice. Floyd advised Clemons to date girls from a traditionally black sorority (the victim of his assault was white). Amy Stewart, the assistant A.D.'s wife, gleefully hoped Clemons would take down A.D. Mike Alden. She described it as "We're celebrating, celebrating your little ass because it's (the violations) all out." "Them crackers be shakin'," Stewart would later say, referring to what Elson Floyd had told his wife Carmento about Mike Alden and coach Quin Snyder. The conversations put Missouri in a humiliating light. It was terrific theater.