Big 12 Media Days ahead of the 2019 season wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with Texas coach Tom Herman, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman, Baylor coach Matt Rhule, West Virginia coach Neal Brown and Iowa State coach Matt Campbell taking turns at the center podium. The vibe emanating from every program is indistinguishable. Each coach is excited about the season, each player is looking forward to getting back on the field and each executive is confident about the conference's prospects of knocking down the College Football Playoff door again.
With the two-day session in Arlington having concluded, let's have a look back now at some of the more memorable takeaways from this year's Big 12 Media Days which took place on Monday and Tuesday.
1. Lincoln Riley claims Jalen Hurts will have to earn it: Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts was one of the most sought-after prospects on the graduate transfer market, so OU landing him was seen as a plug-and-play addition. Not so fast, though, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley cautions. "What kind of message would I be sending to our entire team if we bring some guy in and name him starter right away?" Riley said on Monday. "That wouldn't be good for the [quarterback] room and certainly not good for the rest of the team with other position battles going on. In a team game, competition is the most important thing there is. I don't care if Joe Namath walks into our room right now, he's gotta win the job."
Whether Riley stopping short of naming a quarterback is straight truth or, like Kyler Murray a year ago, coach-speaking a semi-fake quarterback competition is yet to be determined. Hurts definitely has the inside track over five-star freshman Spencer Rattler and sophomore Tanner Mordecai. But until he actually earns the gig, it seems he will have to earn the job with his play if Riley is to be believed.
2. Horns Down sign remains hilariously controversial: The Big 12's coordinator of officials, Greg Burke, was brave enough to tackle the single-most controversial topic discussed at the event this year: the Horns Down sign. It's both a celebratory gesture and a taunt left up to the interpretation of the officials, and Burke's ruling on the matter meets right in the middle. Burke offered up three words in his vague explanation for how the gesture will be ruled: "it depends" and "probably." Based on his comments, it seems interpretation of the gesture will be heavily subjected to the discretion of whomever is officiating on the field. In other words: not much is changing here, so we'll likely continue to see more of it in the future.
3. Oklahoma State quarterback situation still vague: Mike Gundy and the Cowboys perennially have one of the most fluid offensive attacks in the country, but that streak could be in peril because, for a second consecutive season, they'll be breaking in a new quarterback. Former Gatorade Texas Player of the Year, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders, is battling Hawaii graduate transfer Dru Brown for the job. Sanders was a star recruit while Brown is a touted transfer addition who, like Sanders, redshirted in 2018. So who will win the job? Gundy, thus far, has been mum on that subject. "We haven't had anybody go ahead and take the reins at this point," Gundy said. "So we're ready for them to split reps. If at any time one becomes our starter based on us feeling like they give us the best chance to win a football game, we will name a starter. I would like to tell you [a timeline], but I would be reaching."
4. TCU has that "Cockroach DNA": Oklahoma's famous recruiting slogan centers around pitching prospects on the idea that they have "OU DNA." TCU coach Gary Patterson, either spoofing the slogan or creating a new idea to pitch prospects, said Monday that he has "Cockroach DNA" -- not just as a coach, but also as a bachelor once. "I have a little bit of cockroach DNA, and you can't kill a cockroach," Patterson said. "You just gotta keep moving forward. I started in fifth place with my wife. I just outlasted everybody else." How a pitch to players to become cockroaches will sit with teenage students is anyone's guess, but if anyone can make a cockroach's mindset appealing, it's definitely the long-tenured head coach of the Horned Frogs.
5. Bob Bowlsby plays coy on playoff expansion: The Big 12 has been left out twice since the college football postseason incepted the College Football Playoff in 2014. And since that time, the playoff format has enjoyed immense growth in popularity while producing plenty of cash for conferences. It's been a success, so much so that expansion of the playoff -- to six or eight or even 10 teams -- seems inevitable. Conference commissioner Bowlsby didn't advocate or reject the idea of CFP expansion, but he did address the matter in a coy manner by indicating he knows he has power to push the subject forward but will exert his force at a different date.
"I'm looking at the back row and been looking at Kirby Hocutt and Bill Hancock," Bowlsby said. "Bill is anxiously awaiting my answer to this. He knows that I'm capable of going off the reservation. We have had a lot of discussions. We are evaluating the current environment, which as I stated earlier I think we all agree is superior to any of the predecessor organizations but I'm not going to get into any of the specifics of what we're talking about. We have had some conversations. We're going to have some more. We will take a look back and we will take a look forward, and eventually we will have some recommendations. In the interim we're just not going to spend anytime talking about what our discussions are about."
6. Tom Herman wants renewed rivalry with Texas A&M: OU and Texas hate one another. Ohio State and Michigan hate one another. But Texas and Texas A&M -- now that's a rivalry sincere loathing on both sides. And Texas coach Herman is ready to embrace it. "I'd love to see the rivalry renewed," Herman said. "It's great for college football. It's great for Texas." A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was less optimistic to get something put together, saying this week that his program is scheduled out for the next 10 years. It seems both parties are open, but as Ben Kercheval noted on Tuesday, it'd take some higher-ups deciding this would need to happen. To this point, there's simply been nothing outside some "yeah, why not?" talk from people not in power on the idea of renewing the rivalry.