There are several different athletic conferences serving different parts of the country. A conference consists of the schools that compete directly for championships. Teams that win conference championships get to move on to bowl games, nationals and other large-scale competitions. Members of a conference are usually located close to each other to make traveling to games easier, but some conferences include far-flung members from distant universities. The NCAA realigns conferences from time to time, and teams will leave or join conferences, which can shift the quality of sports teams and begin or end major winning streaks and championships.
The Big 12 athletic conference has remained mostly unchanged since its inception in 1996, but some teams have come and gone over the years. Geographically, the Big 12 takes up a portion of the map running through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa in a fairly straight line. West Virginia, which has one participating university, is the only school in the program from a more distant region. Of course, there are several colleges in Texas that are members of other conferences.
Despite the name, the Big 12 is actually an athletic conference of 10 schools. It’s part of the NCAA Division I for all college sports, and the football teams are competitors in the Football Bowl Subdivision or Division I-A. The conference itself is headquartered in Irving, Texas and covers 10 schools from surrounding areas:
— Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas
The school was founded in 1845 and is a private university with just 15,000 students. The college, whose mascot is the Bears, joined the conference in 1996.
— Iowa State University, located in Ames, Iowa
Iowa State was founded in 1858 and has been a member of the conference since 1996. This public university is home to just under 30,000 students and has 19 national sports titles. The school mascot is the Cyclones.
— University of Kansas, located in Lawrence, Kansas
A public university with 30,000 students, University of Kansas was founded in 1865. Its mascot is the Jayhawks, and altogether the teams have won 12 national sports titles. The university joined the conference in 1996.
— Kansas State University
Located in Manhattan, Kansas, this public university was founded in 1863. It now has 23,500 students. It has won no athletic titles, but it has been a member of the conference since 1996. The team mascot is the Wildcats.
— University of Oklahoma
A public university located in Norman, Oklahoma, this school was founded in 1890. Its sports teams, under the mascot of the Sooners, have won a total of 26 titles. The university joined the conference in 1996.
— Oklahoma State University, located in Stillwater, Oklahoma
The public college was founded in 1890 and now has an enrollment of 23,000. The mascot is the Cowboys, and the school has brought home 50 titles for sports. The school joined the conference in 1996.
— University of Texas
A public university in Austin, Texas, this school has one of the top football teams in the country according to many fans. The university boasts enrollment of 51,000 people and has brought home 49 sports titles. The mascot is the Longhorns, and it joined the conference in 1996.
— Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas
Founded in 1923, this public technical college has an enrollment of over 23,000. Its mascot is the Red Raiders. The school has only brought home one sports title. Texas Tech was the final university added to the conference in 1996.
— West Virginia University
Founded in 1867 in Morgantown, West Virginia, this public college has an enrollment of 29,000. Its mascot is the Mountaineers, and its sports teams have earned a total of 15 titles. It joined the conference in 2012 alongside Texas Christian University.
— Texas Christian University, founded in 1873
A private university located in Fort Worth, Texas, this school has an enrollment of just over 9,000. It has secured six sports titles. Its mascot is the Horned Frogs. It’s a newcomer to the conference, having just joined in 2012.
In 2010, the Big 12 suffered a blow when it lost both Colorado and Nebraska to the NCAA conference realignment in 2011. Other former members include Texas A&M and University of Missouri in 2012. The loss of Texas A&M is particularly disappointing to fans of the long-standing rivalry between the Aggies and the Texas Longhorns.
Because the NCAA only allows championship games in conferences with more than 12 participants, the Big 12 lost its divisional format this year. It may gain future teams in subsequent realignments so that it can resume having championship games.