Big 12 plays cruel hoax on South Florida, and everyone else

Oklahoma President David Boren, left, speaks as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby looks on during a news conference during which the Big 12 announced that its members had decided against expansion.
Oklahoma President David Boren, left, speaks as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby looks on during a news conference during which the Big 12 announced that its members had decided against expansion. AP

The Big 12 Conference said no and no one was surprised.

Bad jokes have a way of doing that.

This was a cruel hoax, but the University of South Florida and the other universities, mainly from the American Athletic Conference who were lobbying to get into the Big 12 Conference, knew the rules all along.

They still had to play.

There was at least $20 million per school per year at stake, maybe $25 million — enough to help build an on campus stadium and keep head coach Willie Taggart in town.

Even Vito Corleone couldn’t have fixed this. The Godfather could’ve made an offer the Big 12 presidents couldn’t refuse, but they would have. They are not afraid to be sleeping with the fishes.

It doesn’t matter that they slept through this whole process that culminated with their decision on Monday.

They don’t care about criticism, not when their bank accounts are overflowing, and if things get ugly they could’ve summoned Barry Switzer and all the arsenal he has left over from the days he coached Oklahoma football. He has enough weapons to outfit an army just in case the Big 12 felt like an endangered species.

It was in the tea leaves and USF knew it.

This was a poor prank, the kind junior high kids play on each other all the time. Oh these were adults, but maybe only by date of birth.

If you believe in fairy tales, maybe you thought there was hope.

This was about money, stacks of it. The Big 12 was reportedly going to get $25 million from networks ESPN and Fox for each team it brought in.

That’s all the motivation it needed, but then the networks were balking and offered another deal.

Then the presidents said a new team would need eight member schools to vote them in. There are only 10 in the Big 12, so forget it.

College football is all about money. It’s always been that way except when it comes to the players. They get virtually nothing (at least above the table). But that’s another story for another time.

No harm, no foul, but a lot of wasted time by the schools that were lobbying to get into the Big 12 (aka the Oklahoma-Texas Conference).

It’s time for USF and the other teams in the AAC to get pro-active.

Forget the Big 12, forget the ACC. You’re just as good, so do what’s needed to create a sixth power conference.

Take legal action, lobby your politicians and put the pressure on the TV networks. It’s been done before.

Be creative about fundraising. You have about  1/20 of the budget of the so-called Power Five conferences that also include the Big Ten, SEC, Pac 12 and ACC, so you have to find different ways to fill your coffers.

Just in case you were wondering why USF and other Big 12 wannabes were falling over each other to get into the league, the Power Five conferences took in about $4 billion more than all the other schools combined, according to an Outside the Lines analysis of NCAA data.

And remember if Oklahoma and Texas bolt the Big 12, the conference evaporates —didn’t we go through this with the old Big East?

Have patience. There is talk of four 16-team super conferences coming some day. Maybe that will change the landscape, or maybe not.

The AAC has more than held its own against the ACC. East Carolina beat North Carolina State, which took Clemson into overtime last weekend.

USF beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and Connecticut beat Virginia. Houston beat Oklahoma and defeated Florida State last year in a bowl game.

Against the Big Ten, Cincinnati beat Purdue while Temple and UCF each lost by one score to Penn State and Maryland, respectively.

The on-field results do not justify this caste system. But money talks, everything else walks.

This has been one of college football’s biggest frauds, just like the one that says there is parity in big-time college football.

The rich get richer and bring along their tag-along teams for window dressing (see Rutgers, Kansas, Iowa State, etc.) to make everything look legitimate.

Houston is the best team outside of the Big 12, but if the Cougars got into the Big 12, there was worry it would upset the balance of recruiting in the conference.

So Taggart and the Bulls have to keep on doing what they are doing, which is improving and making a name for themselves.

Oh, it might get Taggart a job offer in one of those Power Five conferences, and then USF will have to go treasure hunting to get enough money to keep the former Manatee High quarterback in town.

Now that’s a truth, unlike the Big 12, which took us on a joyride to nowhere.

Up next

Who: South Florida at Temple

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pa.

TV/radio: ESPN/820 AM