When Bob Stoops announced his retirement in June, all of a sudden the Big 12 was without its most recognizable spokesperson. Before Stoops, it was Mack Brown, but Texas is welcoming a new head coach of their own. While Lincoln Riley and Tom Herman may have aspirations of being the king of the conference, they’ll need to earn the title on the field first.
They’ll also have to take the crown from Mike Gundy.
Gundy was the final coach to take the stage during Big 12 Media Days, but when he did, he showed that he’s ready to be the face of the conference. He was asked if he feels responsible for representing the Big 12.
“I think we’re all responsible for that and I think that we’re learning as a conference, as a league– obviously, I’m in the state of Oklahoma. We have Oklahoma State, and we have Oklahoma. I think at times the fans, whether they would admit it or not, they would rather one of the rival schools lose than win when we need them to win. I’ll say this, and I’ll say it again. We play Oklahoma in the middle of the year. I’ve always said, when we play Oklahoma, I want them to be 11-0. We play them in the middle this year, so 6-0, whatever it may be.
“I think as a conference we’re stronger than what the national media or our fan base might think. We play a little bit different style of football. It’s an exciting game of football. And I think that we all want each other to win when we’re playing non conference games, and we’ll continue to get better and better.”
Not everyone is going to agree with Gundy, but I love it. I was raised where you respect your rival. The better they are, the better you are. A competitor, a true competitor, wants to play their rival at their best, because when you win, it’s all that much better.
Gundy wasn’t the only coach asked if they feel responsible for the Big 12. Fairly or unfairly, the conference’s perception has taken a hit over the last few years, and a big reason for that is the downfall of the Longhorns. The conference needs Texas to be competitive again, but don’t go looking for Tom Herman to care much about the status of the conference.
“Is it my job to take care of the Big 12? No. It’s none of our jobs to take care of the Big 12. You know what our job is to win games, graduate players, represent the University of Texas really, really well, at a very, very high, elite level,and in turn that takes care of the Big 12.
“So I don’t know that we ever really think about, hey,let’s be an ambassador for the conference. You know,I’m an ambassador for the University of Texas, and if I do that job well, then by default, we’ve become as a program a good ambassador for the Big 12.”
It might not have been the best way to say it, but Herman isn’t wrong either. He’s focused on Texas and winning in Austin. If he does that, the rest will take care of itself.