Thursday, March 28, 2013

Big 12 Conference Play Really Gets Going This Weekend

The Big 12 is the last of the four major conferences to get going this season. Baylor and Texas played a two-game series last weekend -- swept by the Longhorns -- with the bulk of the teams beginning league play this weekend.

The reason for the late start is that few Big 12 schools field softball teams and, with few teams, it doesn't take that long to play a conference schedule. Even when the conference actually had 12 schools, it was only a 10-team league for softball, as Colorado and Kansas State didn't compete in the sport. The first wave of conference realignment saw two Big 12 teams depart: Nebraska to the Big 10 and Colorado to the Pac 12. The net result was the loss of one Big 12 softball program (Nebraska), bringing the league down to nine teams.

In the next phase of realignment, however, the Big 12 lost two softball programs to the SEC -- and pretty darn good ones, at that. Missouri made the Women's College World Series in 2009, 2010, and 2011, whereas Texas A&M was the national runner-up in 2008 (list of World Series participants). The departure of the Tigers and Aggies brought the Big 12 down to seven softball teams. That is where the number of softball teams remains, as neither of the newest additions to the Big 12, Texas Christian (TCU) and West Virginia, competes in softball.