Do you know what Independence Day for the Big 12 is? It’s Feb. 25, 1994, the day that the Big 8 conference merged with four schools from the Southwest Conference to form the Big 12, which back then was a mathematically correct title.
But nobody throws parades and grills hamburgers and lights fireworks for Big 12 Independence Day. Today, our country takes a day off work to celebrate the founding of our nation 243 years ago. We here at Frogs O’ War are celebrating the best way we know: by assigning a U.S. Founding Father to each Big 12 football team.
Some disclaimers are necessary, especially if you’re a history nerd. Historian Richard B. Morris, according to our research (i.e., Wikipedia), identifies seven men as Founding Fathers: George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. That’s three founders short for our 10-team conference. But there were plenty of Revolutionary War-era people that did great things, and so we’ll dip in to that list as well. I just don’t want anyone in the comments telling me that #wellactually Samuel Adams isn’t a Founding Father.
Ready? Here we go, in alphabetical order.
Baylor: Aaron Burr
Burr did great things, reaching the Vice Presidency under Thomas Jefferson. He is also widely reviled for shooting Alexander Hamilton in a duel, especially with the rising popularity of that (terrible) Lin-Manuel Miranda musical.
Baylor has done some great things in football. Baylor has also had its share of scandals.
Iowa State: Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson’s ideal society was that of small groups of well-educated farmers establishing towns across the landscape. Iowa State is in a small town in the middle of the farming state — I won’t comment on the well-educated part.
Plus, Jefferson was a prodigy, relatively speaking, writing the Declaration of Independence at age 33. Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell is 39 now, a relative youngster in coaching terms, and already seems to be on the precipice of great things in Ames.
Kansas: Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was very good at one thing and one thing only, and that’s fiscal policy. Kansas is good at one thing and one thing only, and that’s basketball. Sadly, neither of those things help win football games.
Hamilton also had a bunch of kooky ideas. He essentially wanted an elected king and imposed a tax on whiskey that led to a full-on rebellion from American citizens. Kansas’ head coach is Les Miles, the king of kooky ideas. It’s a match made in heaven!
Kansas State: Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin was an elder statesman who never actually held a nationwide elected office. He had lots of good ideas, was an important diplomat — especially to France — and even in his old age was a respected force in politics. In Philadelphia, it seems like everything is named after Ben Franklin. Also, for some reason, most people think he was president at one point.
Kansas State has just exited the reign of Bill Snyder, who was a figurehead for the school, a respected voice in the Big 12 and built the Wildcats’ program from nothing. In Manhattan, they named the football stadium after Snyder...but also, he never finished in the Top 5 of any poll and had a 9-10 bowl game record in his career.
Oklahoma: George Washington
Both are historically great, had an extended run of dominance at the top of the nation/conference and are/were widely respected by their peers. George won two back-to-back elections; Oklahoma had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners.
And both actually have a less-than-impressive record against their rivals. Oklahoma is 5-5 against Texas in the last 10 Red River Showdowns (not counting the 2018 Big 12 Championship game). George Washington lost more battles than he won against the British, although he always came through in the big ones, like Trenton and Yorktown. See, you learned something today!
Oklahoma State: John Adams
Prickly and overshadowed by their chief rivals, the Cowboys and John Adams are a perfect match. Adams made it to the top of the mountain in 1796 when was elected president, but promptly lost to Jefferson in 1800 in an election that wrecked him psychologically. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 in 2011, but did so with an overtime loss to Iowa State that knocked the ‘Pokes out of the BCS title race. They haven’t been back since.
Plus, Paul Giamatti played John Adams in a miniseries, and there is nothing I would love more than to see Giamatti don a neon orange Nike polo and deliver Mike Gundy’s “I’m a Man” tirade with full gusto.
TCU: Marquis de Lafayette
Look, I don’t like being compared to a Frenchman either. But bear with me, here.
Lafayette came to the U.S. and joined the fight late. But once he finally arrived, he made a massive impact. His presence convinced state officials to send money and provisions to the Continental Army. He helped secure American independence by blockading Cornwallis’ troops at the Battle of Yorktown, and for the rest of his life was welcomed as a hero each time he returned to the states from France.
TCU joined the Big 12 late, but when the Frogs came, they made an immediate impact. TCU was as close as could be to making the first College Football Playoff, and beat the pants off Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, giving the Big 12 legitimacy over the SEC. The comparison fits, even if other schools in the conference aren’t exactly throwing Gary Patterson banquets when he visits.
Texas: John Jay
One of the most learned of the Founding Fathers and the first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay was doubtlessly a pivotal figure in American history. He also apparently had more money than he knew what to with. The Longhorns are a keystone program in college football history, and have more money than they knew what to do with.
Also, and I’m quoting Wikipedia here: “Jay received a handful of electoral votes in three of the first four presidential elections, but never undertook a serious bid for the presidency.” This is much like how Texas receives a bunch of votes in preseason polls each year, but never undertakes a serious bid for the College Football Playoff.
Texas Tech: John Hancock
If you look at the history books, Hancock didn’t do all that much. He was the president of the Second Continental Congress, true, but critics apparently agree that “he was not an important writer, political theorist, or military leader.” He just wrote his name in massive font.
Tech has had a few shining moments in the Big 12, but for the most part, they are the college football equivalent of writing your name really big on a piece of paper — their fans are loud and rowdy, the team puts up an ungodly amount of yards, and it all adds up to about a seven-win season.
West Virginia: Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was a provocateur that was excellent at inciting mob mentality to achieve his goals of independence. He led the famous Boston Tea Party raid and was a delegate to the Continental Congress, but was much too volatile to actually hold elected office.
If there was ever a Founding Father that would’ve burned a couch, it’s Samuel Adams.
Nebraska: Benedict Arnold
Are you happy now, Cornhuskers?