There was a lot of talking Monday and Tuesday in Dallas, as the coaches, players, and movers and shakers who make their hay in the Big 12 gathered in Dallas to espouse on the coming season. Expansion, playoffs, baby blankets, and Custer's last stand were among the topics addressed over the two days. Here is a look at what they had to say.
Bob Bowslby, Big 12 Commissioner:
You'll see a lot of the "Champions for Life" moniker in the months ahead. Our staff will be doing 100 to 150 stories throughout the course of the year on student‑athletes. I want to reiterate that one out of every five is a first‑generation student‑athlete and a first‑generation student. That's really remarkable. Athletics continues to be the best source of opportunity for a lot of kids that have never had access to college.
Relative to the Big 12 2015 season, there isn't a lot of suspense right now. TCU and Baylor got all the first‑place votes. Everybody sees them as the strength of the league. They also dominated the preseason individual honors. But just a reminder, since 2009 we've had six different schools out of our ten win the conference championship. We are the only league that plays a full round robin. We go into this year again with no championship game. The deregulation process is moving its way through the system. I fully expect that the postseason rules regarding having to have 12 members and regarding having to have six ‑‑ two six‑team divisions and play round robin in the division, I think those will be deregulated.
I think we'll have the prerogative at some point in time to consider and implement a playoff game if we choose to. But our ADs have been very thoughtful about it and our CEOs have been very thoughtful about it, and we've put in place a tiebreaker that will ensure that not only do all of our schools play each other, but the title isn't going to be decided by who you didn't play.
I don't believe we are at a disadvantage. Relative to the playoff, I don't think one year makes a trend. We were very close to having two teams in last year, and you really don't have to have much of an imagination to see how that might have worked out where we would have gotten one and maybe two without too much of a stretch.
Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the College Football Playoff:
We want the fans to get an insight into the committee's operations and what they're thinking and their processes, and what better way than to announce the rankings every week?
Secondly, if we didn't do rankings, some other rankings would be perceived as the real rankings. And you saw the first week of our rankings, how different our committee's rankings were from the AP and the coaches rankings. So we didn't want to cede that ranking territory to others. That's why we decided to keep on keeping on.
There's no question that Ohio State benefitted from getting a chance to play another game against a quality opponent. It enhanced their resume. However, you have to remember the risk of conference championship games, and we've talked about this, a lot of us have, if two of those games had come out differently, the Big 12 could have had two teams in the playoff and they would have looked like a roomful of geniuses at this point.
So the risk from conference championship games is significant. Nobody knows that better than the Big 12 through the years, as many good teams as they had go down in championship games. So, yes, it helped Ohio State, but one year doesn't make a trend, and I think the Big 12 is smart to sit back and wait. Of course, they couldn't have a championship anyway now under the NCAA rules. But I think they're smart to be deliberate and thoughtful about this.
Walt Anderson, Supervisor of Officials:
We try to have officiating be a little bit more accessible than what it has. By its nature, it's a little bit more of a behind‑the‑scenes operation. Officiating should not be more a part of the game than what is absolutely necessary. That should be reserved for coaches, players, strategies, et cetera, but there are times when officiating does have to interject, if you will, to make sure that the game is played fairly.
But targeting will continue to be a point of emphasis. The good news is it appears to be accomplishing exactly what it was intended to do, and that's changing the behavior of players, getting players adjusting to the rule, changing their technique, getting their heads to the side to where they're not using that as a weapon, lowering their strike zone to where you can see in countless videos that they're making concerted efforts and they're being coached to make concerted efforts to avoid contact to the head and neck area.
It's obvious that the pace of the college game is very much ‑‑ has been, at least in recent years, on the uptake, although we didn't see as much of a rise last year. Actually, the average numbers for some of the teams went down a bit. So it appears to be a little bit leveling off. There's only so fast you can go.
But I'm not so sure the ten‑second rule is going to apply. We really don't have that many snaps where the play clock is in the 30s. It happens when you've got a three‑yard run between the hash marks and the center judge gets the ball down right there, there's no subs, they get the ball up. They may snap it at 32, 33 on the play clock.
Gary Patterson, TCU Football Coach:
For me, many of you that know me, it's about standing in between the lines, not getting too high or too low, either way. So a year ago you had to prove people wrong. This year you have to prove people right. As a football team, that's really, from my approach on down, how we've tried to handle it.
We've got a lot of practices before we get to Minnesota, which it's going to be a very tough ball game. It's like Custer. The only difference between Custer and us is we know what's on the other side of the hill.
That's the thing that I've tried to instill in Trevone is to make sure ‑‑ I've been very proud of him in the fact of everything that ‑‑ the circuit he's been on, some of the awards, everything he's been a part of, that he's handled it in the right way, at least to my knowledge. Head coach sometimes is the last guy to know everything.
But the thing I found is just, for me, if I stay even keel with how we need to do things, then my team will because it just kind of all reverberates down.
Right now we've been moving forward. I really like the attitude of our football team. This summer has been a very business‑like manner, how they've gone about it. To be honest with you, it hasn't been as hot in Texas. So we've had to turn off the air conditioner in the indoor to create the humidity to make sure that we play like TCU teams are supposed to play.
After last year, I don't feel confident about anything. But the key to the whole story is ‑‑ and I'm going to always be a team player. The bottom line, I handle it the way I handle it because that was what was best for college football, best for the Big 12, best for TCU, best for my team. And I knew if I handled it differently, then they wouldn't have played like they did in a Bowl game.
For me, I think every year is different. I'm not a big believer that you have to have a conference championship. I thought the whole thing about going to a playoff was that they picked the four best teams. You didn't even have to have a championship game. That's what I was led to believe. In 33 years, I've seen different forms of how we got to a national championship in every shape and manner.
For me, all I can do is control what I can control, and that's to try to put the best TCU team on the field that I can and make sure that they act right on and off the field and let all those other people decide all the other things they need to.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia University Football Coach:
Whoever that guy is for us is going to be the guy that can take care of the ball more than anything. We were 120th in turnover margin last year. We felt like we could have ‑‑ we know we would have put ourselves in position to win the conference if we'd have done a better job of taking care of the ball and getting turnovers on defense as well. That's been something that's been stressed, and it's going to be something that we're going to continue to stress going into camp.
Geez, I still like to throw the ball a good bit, you know. I know one thing: If you can't do either one, you're not going to be worth a darn, I can assure you of that.
We worked hard ‑‑ and Ron Cook coming in has been instrumental in this. But we've worked hard on getting our run game to where people got to respect it. Last year we were still top seven or eight in passing in the country, but we ran the ball over 50 percent of the time.
That's just kind of what our philosophy is, and that's the way it's going to be. The more success we have running the ball, the more we're going to do it. But if people are putting too many people up there to block, we're not going to do it.
So you've just got to figure out what the tendencies are for what they do defensively, what their plan's going to be, and you need to be able to adjust accordingly. If you can't run the ball and throw the ball, then you're not going to be successful offensively.
You've got to protect the kids as much as you possibly can, but you can't lose sight of the fact that it's a physical game.
Everybody wants to say, well, we're going to go to the spread offense and be soft. You go to the spread offense and you're soft, you're going to get your butt kicked. So you got to maintain a physical nature. It's a physical game.
David Beaty, Kansas Football Coach:
One of the big things for me is we are located right now in one of the finest, most fertile grounds for high school athletes in the country, and those athletes are coached by some of the finest high school coaches in the country.
I'm an old Texas high school football coach, and I consider those guys to be my brothers. So it's a good deal for me to be back here today around those guys.
I'm also honored to be the new head coach at the University of Kansas, where we have arguably one of the finest fan bases in the country. Boy, they love Jayhawk football, and we look forward to bringing them something that they can be proud of. We also know that that's a process and not an event, and we're looking forward to getting wrapped up in that process.
The message goes in line with what makes us different? Well, the difference for us, in my mind, is we don't control what makes us different. We only control what we make different. The way that we approach it is everything.
I'll tell you what, what two great examples are there out there for a program like us. I'll tell you, Art Briles, former Texas high school football coach, one of my coaching heroes coming up, I watched that guy win a bunch of state championships right over there at the old Texas Stadium. Phenomenal. Been successful wherever he's been.
Gary Patterson, one of the finest defensive minds in the country, one of the best head coaches in the country, cares truly about kids. Happy to see the success those guys are having, and, yes, it gives us confidence knowing that those programs at one point were kind of where we are today.
Kenny Perry, that guy, that guy's got unbelievable talent, and he is adored and loved by the guys in this area and in this state. He works tirelessly at creating those relationships. And they know that, when they come to Kansas, and myself and Kenny Perry are there, those kids are going to be taken care of. It doesn't mean we're going to give them everything, but they're going to have every opportunity, and they're going to leave better men than they were when they came in.
Art Briles, Baylor Football Coach:
So this is the best time of year. I'm, like I said, very thankful to be at Baylor University and be a member of the Big 12. So we're excited about this season. We feel like we've got a unit that understands each other, loves each other, respects each other, and knows how to win football games. That's a critical thing. There's all kinds of experience. Our guys have good experience. They have winning experience. They have championship experience.
That's a big feather in Baylor's cap in our locker room because that's what runs your football team is your locker room. We've got good guys in there that are great leaders. There's four of them here today that represent us in great fashion. So I'm very proud of them.
You know, I mean, trying not to commit them, first of all, but it's a subjective game, quite honestly, from the players' standpoint to the officiating standpoint. So it's kind of momentum. Momentum works for you and works against you, in the football field, in life, and in the penalty situation.
So what we've tried to do, or what we have done is we've just maintained a fence around our program, and we haven't looked at anybody else. We've just worked from within and said, this is the way that we're going to do it. This is Baylor's way. We're going to concentrate on what we do, and we'll see how it turns out.
So we've been fortunate with getting good people, great new stadium, great attendance, great energy from our fan base, and it turns into great results.
We're never going to lose that. Getting chosen second, I mean, that's okay. Like I said, it's better than getting third. I guess you've got to win it three times in a row to get picked first.
We understand how we've been able to get to this point, and to get to this point has been through trying hard to earn respect, never earning respect, understanding that people don't know our names. So we want to make people know our names by our actions, by our performance on the field.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Football Coach:
First, let me say there's no place for it. It should never happen. There's not only domestic violence, but there's violence towards women, there's violence in general. None of it should be tolerated, and it has been disciplined.
We disciplined in a certain way depending on the circumstances we have, and these guys have had significant penalties. They've had a lot of other internal measures to meet and to stand ‑‑ to right up to, and if all those were met, then they had the opportunity to redeem themselves and hopefully grow from their experience.
We also feel that, being an educational institution and the age of these young men, they deserve an opportunity to do that, and it's our job to help them. But they also know that we have some very high standards for them to meet, and if they're not met, then they won't be with us any longer.
It would be hard to run more than we were used to. Samaje is going to get the football. Baker's shoulder is healing just fine, just a little bit overworked, and that's where we had to have a talk that no one knows your shoulder but you. You have to monitor how often or how much you're throwing, and he's recovered really well from it. He's back throwing the football now. Of course, we're monitoring how much that is, but he'll be fine once we get into two‑a‑days, not expected to have any limitations.
Nor is Cody. Cody got a little bit sore as well. But they'll be fine.
The differences with them, they're subtle. They're both really good athletes. Baker may not be straight out as fast as Trevor, but he's elusive. He's good with moving his hips and getting away from trouble. Both have to continue to improve and be sharp at going through their read progressions and where they want to go with the football.
We're very aware of the quality of player that he (Perine) is, but, again, I think we'll have a good mix. I think you're at your best ‑‑ I don't worry that you're ever 50‑50. I just worry that you're productive.
If we're productive throwing the football, generally it's going to help you run the ball. If you're good running the football, generally you're going to be able to throw it a little easier. We just want to have a good balance to it.
Charlie Strong, Texas Football Coach:
My goal is never, ever to kick a young man out of the program. I want them to have every opportunity to be successful, but decisions are made, and sometimes guys feel like they want to do things their way. When that happens, then we have to make a decision on our end.
But if you look at this team now, you're always looking for leadership, you're looking for discipline. We have to have a winning season.
So when you talk about the Baylors and the TCUs, just defensively you had to get a line. You have to get lined up. So when you talk about chances, if you feel like you can't score on offense, you can't take too many chances because now you've got to sit back and just hope you can keep them from scoring.
But just learning those offenses and just making sure that on defense we just don't ‑‑ it doesn't become a mismatch game, because a lot of times that's what it is. They're looking for mismatches. So instead we can throw the ball to the outside, make a guy miss, get it one‑on‑one in open field and see if you can get him on the ground.
I would favor it because I always look at it like this. If you are a student‑athlete and you have a chance to go to University of Texas, go to Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, wherever you go, and then for some reason you did something that they had to dismiss you from that program, I don't think that you should be given another opportunity to go to another major school and just start all over like your slate is clean. I just don't think that should happen for you.
You look at it, you were at an unbelievable place, and so now you did something yourself to get yourself dismissed out. So why do you think that you can go somewhere else and just start all over like it's a clean slate for you?
I'm all into giving guys second chances, but I want to give guys on my team second chances, not someone else from another program.
You look at us on defense, we lost six key starters there. So we're going to have to play really well on defense. That's where it all starts at.
With the quarterback position, it is a very critical position because you want to see that position play so well. And Swoopes ‑‑ and I'll tell you this right now. He wants to play well because of so much has been said about him, and he wants to prove to everyone that he can play that position. I hope he does do that. I'd be more than happy if he did.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Football Coach:
We study a lot of tape from other football teams, watch a lot of NFL, watch a lot of high school, and try to gather ideas and see how they fit in our system.
When I was playing in high school, I had a coach that I thought did a great job of using the talent that we had in the best way possible, and we try to do the same at Oklahoma State. We've been very fortunate we've had good players, and we try to put them in a position to have success.
I think, if we played well and take care of the ball, that we'll have an opportunity to win the league. We have good young players. We've got some depth. Like most years, we have to stay healthy at certain positions.
But we've certainly worked toward that goal from winter conditioning through spring ball and summer conditioning. We like our football team. I like our coaching staff. I like how the team cares about each other. And as I said, we get good quarterback play, take care of the football, force some turnovers on defense, and we should have an opportunity to win the league.
I think that we have a good plan at Oklahoma State. I've put a lot of thought into what our coaching staff thinks is best for Oklahoma State, and I'm comfortable with the schedule that we have over the next five or six years. I think we're scheduled all the way up through maybe six years.
I think it's really good for our football team and good for our school. I still am a strong supporter of Big 12 Conference and each school plays each team, and I think that's a sign of strength in our league. I think right before Ohio State beat Wisconsin by a large margin, we had a good chance to get two teams in.
So I don't know that we need to overreact. I think that our conference is strong. I have a lot of confidence in our league office, Commissioner Bowlsby and the staff and the direction they're taking us and that we'll make the right decisions. For that reason, Coach Holder, myself, we need to make the right decisions in our scheduling, and I think that we've done a good job up through the next five or six years.
I think that the intangibles the quarterbacks bring to the table ‑‑ you can go back the last five or six years in the Big 12, and we've been very fortunate that we've had not only some good quarterbacks but some great ones. Multiple first‑round picks, guys that are taken the first pick in the Draft. And they're different in their own way, and they have intangibles.
Like Boykin at TCU, there's times he'll make really good throws, and there's times he'll take off on quarterback draw. And then we'll run a little option, and then he'll scramble around and find a receiver downfield. His way of success is much different than Brandon Weeden's.
As you mentioned, Brandon might move in the pocket and then just throw a dart 45 yards on a line and hit a receiver, much different than another player.
So it's the intangibles and their ability to make a play and overcome one of two things ‑‑ one, a poor play call, or, two, a missed assignment with the other ten guys on the field.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State Football Coach:
It goes hand in hand with what you're doing up front and your ability to block people and your ability to open up holes. But then the backfield takes a large chunk of that responsibility. Not only do they got to run through holes, they've got to make folks miss at times. And it's one of the things that we haven't done a good enough job of accomplishing since Alexander Robinson was rushing for 1,000 yards back in 2009.
I think Mark has a much better understanding of where the league is at right now, going into his second season as the offensive coordinator, and his job and the staff's job to put us in position, run‑pass position to run away from numbers and throw away from numbers in a positive sense offensively.
Sam Richardson returns as a redshirt senior. We're very fortunate to have Sam in place. It's the first year in seven years at the helm that we've had a veteran quarterback like Sam ready to lead us into the season.
He's backed up by Grant Rohach, who's also had a number of starts and led us to victories as a Big 12 quarterback. And then Joel Lanning waits in the wings as a redshirt sophomore and a guy that we think has great ability and promise in this league.
So we're very happy to have a fifth‑year guy who, I think, is one of the best in the Big 12, ready to lead us into the season.
I think that the administration continues to show the support and put in place the things necessary for us to compete in the Big 12 and nationally. Jamie Pollard, our athletics director, he so fully understands Iowa State, and I don't think people appreciate and give him enough credit in regard to that.
Jack Trice Stadium has always been, in my estimation, a sensational venue. It's loud. The fans are on top of you. And now we're bowling in that south end zone, and I think it will be even more exciting and the decibel level taken up to several more notches.
I think, if there was one thing that our fan base really wanted to see take place with any of our facilities, it was this project. I don't think they can wait for September 5th to get here and enjoy this project coming to fruition.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech Football Coach:
I think more than anything it's eliminating negative plays. We've been historically bad the last two years at that position with turnovers. I think the last two years we've had 20‑plus just in our position at quarterback.
I think recently it's the ability to extend the play. I know at Houston, coaching Case Keenum, he was great at extending a play when it wasn't there. Obviously, Johnny at A&M. You look at what Trevone Boykin does at TCU in a very similar system, moving around making plays. People have had success. Graham Harrell was a pocket guy, Brandon Weeden.
I think the trend now is going to more guys that can extend the play. But if you're a smart guy and you can get it on time, get through your reads quickly, you have a chance to have success in that system.So whichever guy can protect the football the best and continue to take shots, take chances but protect the ball is going to be our guy.
I think more than anything some relationships our staff had. Last year we actually ‑‑ I think we signed 20 players, and 19 were from the state of Texas. So the first couple of years, scrambling to put classes together, we were out of state a little bit. But the trend now with our program is to be more in state with players.