The first of two Big 12 Media Days was essentially one long, catch-up session.
The catching-up was necessary, though. It was like running into a friend from high school you hadn’t seen in some years.
The conference grew four schools larger and named a new commissioner all within a year. They are nothing like the Big 12 you remember when you were kids.
“Hey man, how are you? I see you’ve got another four rings on your finger.”
“I’m pretty good, thanks. I just added BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston. We’re also getting a new commissioner in a few weeks. Ring finger’s pretty tight, but we’re really happy.”
Also, during his interview session with the media, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy suggested that Bedlam might be "history" when Oklahoma officially leaves for the SEC. No big deal!
Let’s get to know the new Big 12 before it has a chance to change again.
First Takeaway: Drumming Up Interest
Wednesday morning was Brett Yormark’s chance to make a good impression.
With Baylor University president Linda Livingstone sitting to his left and the soon-departing conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby on his right, Yormark projected a different attitude than his laid-back predecessor.
He spoke directly and passionately about the conference and his new job, which he will officially step into Aug. 1.
Multiple media outlets, namely CBS Sports last week and the Dallas Morning News earlier this week, reported on the Big 12’s interest to add more members in our post-USC/UCLA-to-the-Big-Ten universe.
“With the events of the last couple of weeks, conference composition is once again at the forefront of college athletics,” Yormark said. “As such, I have been very involved with the stakeholders both inside and outside the Big 12 regarding our path forward and opportunities to grow both the Big 12 brand and the business.”
If you followed the Big 12’s near-disintegration more than a decade ago, it sure is a trip seeing the league left for dead after a rumored raid by the Pac-12 gradually evolve into one looking to (reportedly) raid and leave the Pac-12 for dead.
Based on his introduction alone, Yormark not only wants to project confidence in the Big 12 but also be confident in the thing he’s about to lead. He may suggest he already has confidence in it, but these feelings are hard to realize in a short period of time.
Projecting confidence and being confident are not the same thing. Both philosophies are relatives, sure, but not siblings.
Speaking of siblings, Yormark shared that he and his twin brother, Michael, both played the drums when they were younger.
Now you know two pieces of trivia about the Big 12’s newest commissioner. You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood!
Second Takeaway: On The Defensive
The biggest question heading into the 2022 season is what the state of Oklahoma State’s defense will be.
The Cowboys lost several key pieces of their dominant defense, two of them being linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez and defensive back Kolby Harvell-Peel. The biggest piece who isn’t returning to Stillwater, arguably, is Jim Knowles.
Knowles left to take the defensive coordinator position at Ohio State, leaving a sizable hole for a for a defense that finished with an FBS-best 57 sacks in 2021.
Derek Mason is taking over for Knowles. Mason is best known as the seven-year head coach at Vanderbilt, a notoriously difficult place to win games. He was let go after the 2020 season and then spent an uneven season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2021.
“I feel like that (having Mason as OSU defensive coordinator) is a big help,” senior defensive end Tyler Lacy said. “We’re (him and fellow defensive end Brock Martin) leaders already on the defense. If we can follow him, then we can get everybody else to follow. I feel like that’s a big stepping stone for him to have us there.”
Martin, who is coming off a career-best with a team-high 41 tackles on the Cowboy defensive line in 2021, is balancing more than a playbook and a textbook.
“I’d be taking care of my (14-month-old) son, probably,” Martin said when asked what he’d be doing if he weren’t at Big 12 Media Days. “It’s fun. It’s a new journey every day. … It gave me a reason why to wake up in the morning and come do the things that I love to do. Hopefully make some money doing it someday.”
Lacy agreed that Martin being a real-life father also elevated him to a “Dad of the Cowboy Defense-like” role.
“Yeah, and the fact that he’s older than everybody,” Lacy joked.
“No, that’s not true,” Martin said.
“Yeah, that is so true,” Lacy said.
Martin, who is entering his sixth season as a Cowboy, said he just turned 23. Lacy said he is 22.
“He (Lacy) acts like I’m that much older than he is,” Martin said.
“You can tell that he’s been through a lot in his time at Oklahoma State,” Lacy said.
The Cowboy defense will gladly take all the experience they can get to put another strong season together.
Third Takeaway: Remember How The Big 12 Title Game Ended?
The Cowboys certainly do.
OSU down five to Baylor, fourth down, 30 seconds left, ball on the 1-yard line. All at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, of course, which doubles as the site of Big 12 Media Days this week.
Running back Dezmon Jackson went for the corner of the end zone, but fell inches short of a touchdown, a Big 12 title and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff.
Coming that close to glory could make any non-Cowboy player or fan shudder.
“You can use it as motivation, but it never holds anybody back,” Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders said. “It’s over with. You can’t do anything about it. … We never hold any regrets or anything. (You) just keep pushing.”
“We’ll talk about it from time-to-time, but it doesn’t bother us anymore,” Martin said. “It’s in the past. We’re in a whole new season. What happened last year happened last year. We can’t even dwell on the success we had last year.”
Oklahoma State has enough motivation in the here and now. Media members picked the Cowboys to finish third in the conference behind the first-place Bears and their "best buds" from Norman.