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The Big 12's Top 10 Stories of 2011
December 31, 2011
By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

Call this the Big 12's top 10 for '11.

Your Humble Correspondent has put together the top 10 stories involving the Big 12 Conference for 2011. The events of the past year ran the gamut of emotions, triumph to tragedy.

So here's the list … and happy 2012.

Membership changes
For the second time in 18 months, the Big 12's future was threatened by conference realignment. In August, Texas A&M announced it was considering a move to the Southeastern Conference. In September, the Pacific-12 Conference had a dalliance with Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State. In October, Missouri announced it was joining A&M in a move to the SEC.

After being reduced to 10 teams with the 2010 departures of Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12), the Big 12 again proved its resilience. The eight continuing members closed ranks and pledged solidarity. TCU and West Virginia were announced as new schools for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Change at the top
In the midst of the drama and angst created by conference musical chairs, the Big 12's board of directors decided to change commissioners. Dan Beebe, who took over the job in September of 2007, was asked to resign on Sept. 22.

After Beebe stepped down, Chuck Neinas became interim commissioner. A former commissioner of the Big Eight Conference, Neinas is connected with every school and most administrators in the Big 12 as well as having working relationships with many other power brokers in college sports. His presence has helped solidify the Big 12 and his leadership helped build the consensus to add TCU and West Virginia.

RG3 wins Heisman Trophy
With its scintillating Alamo Bowl victory, Baylor won 10 games for the second time in program history. The Bears' success in 2011 was because they had a once-in-a-lifetime player in quarterback Robert Griffin III.

RG3 became the Big 12's fifth Heisman Trophy winner since 1998 thanks to a strong finish to the season. Baylor ended the regular-season on a five-game winning streak, including the school's first-ever defeat of Oklahoma – on a Griffin last-second TD pass – and a victory over Texas for the second consecutive season.

Griffin led the nation in passing efficiency and set an NCAA single-season record in that category. In 13 games, Griffin passed for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also gained 699 yards rushing with 10 TDs. Griffin was eight yards short of 5,000 yards in total offense.

Texas A&M wins national title
In 2005, Baylor won the 2005 women's NCAA basketball championship in Indianapolis. Six years later, Texas A&M returned to the Indiana city and claimed the Big 12's second national championship.

With Connecticut, Stanford and Notre Dame in the Final Four, few gave the Aggies' much of a chance. But coach Gary Blair's team had knocked off Big 12 champion Baylor in the Dallas Regional final and was playing with confidence and courage.

Texas A&M rallied to stun Stanford in a 63-62 semifinal victory and then made the clutch plays down the stretch to defeat Notre Dame, 76-70. Danielle Adams led the Aggies with 30 points but Tyra White's clutch 3-pointer for a five-point lead as the shot clock expired will live forever in Texas A&M sports lore. The out of bounds play that triggered White's shot started with two seconds remaining on the shot clock.

Landmark cable deal
As the Big 12's future hung in the balance in the summer of 2010, then-commissioner Dan Beebe kept talking about how a new deal for cable television rights would be a financial windfall for the conference's member schools.

In April, Fox Media Group announced a 13-year deal with the Big 12. The monetary figures were not released. Several news outlets estimated the total worth of the 13-year deal at $1 billion (an average of $90 million per year), a 350 percent increase from the current deal for cable rights that expired at the end of the 2010-11 season.

Three peat
Texas A&M brought home NCAA championships in men's and women's outdoor track and field for an unprecedented third consecutive year. Never in NCAA history had one school won both titles in three straight seasons.

It wasn't easy. The Aggies needed to win the final event – the 4x400 meter relay – in both the men's and women's competition. The A&M entered the final race tied with Oregon in the point totals. All-American Jessica Beard ran a record-setting 49:14 anchor leg to give the Aggies the victory. On the men's side, the men's relay team, anchored by Tabarie Henry, finished first to give A&M the top spot in the overall standings.

'Final four' in OKC
In the first season with the Big 12 not holding a postseason conference championship, the league held its own "mini tourney" at the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.

It was unprecedented that the Big 12 made up half of the eight-team field. Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State won their Super Regionals to earn trips to the WCWS. Eight of the 10 Big 12 schools that compete in softball were selected to the 64-team NCAA championship bracket. Five advanced to the Super Regionals.

Two for Omaha
Long-time rivals Texas and Texas A&M each advanced to the College World Series. For the Longhorns, it was their 34th CWS appearance and extended their NCAA record.

The Aggies, who claimed their second consecutive Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City, knocked off Florida State in the decisive third game of the Tallahassee Super Regional. Texas lost the first game to Arizona State in the Austin Super Regional but came back with two victories to advance to Omaha.

Cowboys on top
Oklahoma State had not won an outright conference championship in over six decades. But in a decisive, winner takes all Bedlam showdown with rival Oklahoma, the Cowboys dominated in a 44-10 victory that gave them the Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State's 11-1 record nearly earned the Cowboys a shot in the BCS national championship game. Their only loss – a 37-31 double overtime decision at Iowa State in a Friday night game – cost them a trip to New Orleans to face LSU.

Another Oklahoma State tragedy
It is unthinkable that one school could suffer two tragedies so similar in nature. Just over 10 years after 10 members of the Oklahoma State men's basketball team traveling party died in a plane crash in Colorado, the women's team lost head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna.

They died in a plane crash on Nov.17 in Arkansas that also claimed two other lives. Big 12 teams are wearing patches on their uniforms this season in memory of the victims.

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