Dallas Some of the top athletes and coaches in the Big 12 Conference will invade the heart of Big 12 country today and Tuesday for the annual and unofficial start of the college football season known as Big 12 media days.
No, preseason camps do not begin this week, or even next, but the prodding, poking and prognosticating does.
At the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas, five Big 12 teams — including Kansas — will get their shot in the spotlight today and the other five will take center stage on Tuesday.
Media members from all across the Big 12 map will fire their best questions at the coach and player reps for each team, searching, of course, for those stories and statements that provide a good look at the season ahead.
Fresh off of their 0-12 season, the first winless run in Big 12 football history and just the second in KU history, the Jayhawks will be represented by second-year head coach David Beaty, senior safety Fish Smithson, junior quarterback Montell Cozart and junior linebacker Joe Dineen.
If history tells us anything, it’s a safe bet that the Jayhawks won’t have to deal with hordes of reporters crowding around their tables during the breakout sessions this afternoon. That’s not to say people don’t or won’t care. More that, in a room that includes schools like TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, programs in the position of Kansas and Iowa State don’t exactly draw top billing.
Having said that, KU has performed — if that’s what you want to call it — fairly well, and certainly overachieved some, at Big 12 media days in the recent past. In 2010, Turner Gill was the new guy on the block and got the chance to say hello to some old friends. In 2012, Charlie Weis stole the show with his “pile of crap” line and, a year later, though toned down some, Weis held people’s interest simply by being Weis.
Last year, while delivering its third new head coach in the past six years, David Beaty’s genuine enthusiasm and down-home Texas demeanor impressed more than a few Big 12 scribes.
Beaty’s energy will be on full display again today, but, this time, the expectation is that he and his players will talk more about the progress they’ve made in the past 12 months than anything else.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at a few other topics that figure to dominate Big 12 media day headlines this week:
Expansion — This topic may never go away, even if the Big 12 does expand at some point. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the board of directors are expected to meet on Tuesday and expansion figures to be among the topics discussed. A news conference is set for 30 minutes after the meeting ends, so that’s when we’ll know if anything of any significance went down behind closed doors. Bowlsby also will kick off this week’s festivities with his opening remarks this morning.
Baylor — With all of the offseason fireworks leading to the departure of head coach Art Briles and athletic director Ian McCaw, the media figure to be more than a little interested to see what the Bears look and sound like under new head coach Jim Grobe and the off-the-field rebuilding project that may be more difficult to navigate than any on-the-field endeavors.
Iowa State — First-year coach Matt Campbell, hired from Toledo to replace the fired Paul Rhoads, will get his first taste of the Big 12 spotlight. Although the Cyclones will be going through a transition period, Campbell’s roster features some exciting players, including preseason first-team all-Big 12 running back Mike Warren and wide receiver Allen Lazard. Given that ISU was picked to finish ninth, KU fans may be more interested in the goings on in Ames, Iowa, than what’s happening with the Big 12 title contenders.
Network, Title Game, Divisions, etc. — While the idea of expansion seems to grab most of the attention from Big 12 fans near and far, there are other issues of interest within the conference as it stands today. Talk of the creation of a Big 12 Network continues to loom, and the 2017 return of a conference title game and potential for two division of five (or more) teams also continue to create a buzz. Beyond that, expect to hear coaches and administrators on both days celebrate the strength and stability of the conference, which, in 2016, rolled out a revenue distribution of $304 million, just over $30 million per institution, up 20 percent from the $253 million total in 2015.