In the 15 seasons of the Big 12, the talent pool has been deep enough to produce perennial contenders for the national championship, the Heisman Trophy and all other measures of success.
But who was the best of the best?
Former Texas quarterback Vince Young, former Nebraska defensivetackle Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops rose to the topin voting for The Associated Press' all-time, all-Big 12 team,released Wednesday.
With the conference as we've known it going into its finalweeks, the AP asked voters for this year's all-conference squad topick a team based on the league's entire run. Voters were asked totake into account how a guy played over his entire tenure in theBig 12 and not to factor in whether the player became a star or abust as a pro.
Suh and Young were chosen the top players on each side of theball. Suh and Stoops were runaway winners in the voting by 20writers from newspapers across the seven states.
Suh and Stoops had the same reaction when told of the newsWednesday: "Wow."
"I feel honored, for sure, and humbled because I've got greatrespect for the other strong, successful programs in the league andthe other great coaches," Stoops said.
"That's huge!" said Suh, who at 6-foot-4, 307 pounds is ratherlarge himself. "That's a great honor."
Young was a narrow choice over another Longhorns star, runningback Ricky Williams. Of the 26 position players chosen, Suh andWilliams were the only unanimous picks.
"They were exceptional players," Stoops said. "Young ledtheir team to a national championship and was a catalyst, he madeplays at important times. Suh was just a dominating defensivepresence. When you had him in the middle of the offense, the middleof the defense, it was impossible to run away from him. He was justa constant presence of disruption and really just made a hugedifference in their defense."
Four guys were named on all but one ballot: Texas Tech receiverMichael Crabtree, Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson, Texas A&Mlinebacker Dat Nguyen and Oklahoma safety Roy Williams.
Considering that Oklahoma has won seven of the 14 Big 12 Southtitles already settled, and could grab another this season, it's nosurprise Sooners dominate the list. Oklahoma led the way with sevenhonorees, five on defense.
"We've had a lot of great, loyal, hard-working young men --those seven and a whole bunch of others that didn't make the listbut contributed to the success we've had over the years and thechampionships we've been able to win," Stoops said.
Actually, 14 more Sooners received votes, just not enough to befirst-stringers on this team.
Texas had six players honored, three on each side of the ball.Nebraska had four, two on each side.
Oklahoma State and Kansas State each had two players chosen.
There was one each from A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, Missouri andColorado. Kansas and Iowa State didn't have any selections.
The Big 12 began in 1996, created by a merger of the Big Eightand the Southwest Conference. A conference team has played in seven
BCS national championship games and four players have brought homethe Heisman.
But after this year, Nebraska and Colorado are leaving for otherconferences and the remaining 10 schools have decided to scraptheir two-division, championship-game format and play each otherevery year. So this seemed like the perfect time for a nostalgiccomparison of the top players -- and to appreciate how tough some ofthe choices were, consider the players who did NOT make it.
Nebraska's Eric Crouch won a Heisman Trophy and Oklahoma's JasonWhite won a Heisman Trophy and a national championship, yet neithergot a single vote. Neither did any of Texas Tech's record-settingquarterbacks or Kansas State's electrifying Michael Bishop. Therewas hardly any support for Sam Bradford, another Heisman winner whoplayed for a national championship, or Colt McCoy, who won moregames than any quarterback in major-college history and led theLonghorns to the national championship game last season.
Fans might claim a bias for or against teams in the North orSouth, but there were 10 voters from each division. As for thenotion voters of votes being slanted toward older or newer eras,just look at the two unanimous picks -- Williams played from 1995-98and Suh from 2006-09. Williams was the first AP Big 12 offensiveplayer of the year, Suh the most recent defensive player of theyear.
Rounding out the offensive honorees were: Oklahoma Statereceiver Rashaun Woods, Missouri tight end Chase Coffman andall-purpose standout Darren Sproles of Kansas State, plus a bevy oflinemen: Nebraska center Dominic Raiola, Justin Blalock of Texas,Jammal Brown of Oklahoma, Russell Okung of Oklahoma State and AaronTaylor of Nebraska.
On defense, the rest of the selections were: linemen TommieHarris of Oklahoma, Brian Orakpo of Texas and Grant Wistrom ofNebraska; linebackers Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma;and defensive backs Michael Huff of Texas, Terence Newman of KansasState and Derrick Strait of Oklahoma.
The specialists were kicker Mason Crosby of Colorado and DanielSepulveda of Baylor.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times