Big Eight Conference

Last updated
Big Eight Conference
Big Eight Conference logo.png
Association NCAA
Division Division I
Members8 (final), 12 (total)
Sports fielded
  • 21 [1]
    • men's: 11
    • women's: 10
Region Midwestern United States, Mountain States, West South Central States
Former namesMissouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1907–1964)
Big Six Conference (1928–1948, unofficial)
Big Seven Conference (1948–1957, unofficial)
Big Eight Conference (1957–1964, unofficial)
Headquarters Kansas City, Missouri
CommissionerCarl C. James (final) 1980–1996
Big 8 Map.svg

The Big Eight Conference was a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)-affiliated Division I-A college athletic association that sponsored football. It was formed in January 1907 as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) [2] by its charter member schools: the University of Kansas, University of Missouri, [2] University of Nebraska, and Washington University in St. Louis. Additionally, the University of Iowa was an original member of the MVIAA, while maintaining joint membership in the Western Conference (now the Big Ten Conference).


The conference was dissolved in 1996. Its membership at its dissolution consisted of the University of Nebraska, Iowa State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University. The Big Eight’s headquarters were located in Kansas City, Missouri.

In February 1994, the Big Eight and the Southwest Conference announced that the two leagues had reached an agreement to form a new conference. [3] The eight members of the Big Eight joined with SWC schools Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech to form the Big 12 Conference the following year. A vote was conducted on whether to keep the new conference's headquarters in Kansas City, and by a vote of 7–5 the conference members voted to move to Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. The two Oklahoma schools, all four Texas schools, and Colorado voted for the move while both Kansas schools, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa State voted for Kansas City. [4]



The conference was founded as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) at a meeting on January 12, 1907 of five charter member institutions: the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa, which also maintained its concurrent membership in the Western Conference (now the Big Ten Conference). However, Iowa only participated in football and outdoor men's track and field for a brief period before leaving the conference in 1911. [5]

Early membership changes

In 1908, Drake University and Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) joined the MVIAA, increasing the conferences membership to seven. Iowa, which was a joint member, departed the conference in 1911 to return to sole competition in the Western Conference, but Kansas State University joined the conference in 1913. Nebraska left in 1918 to play as an independent for two seasons before returning in 1920. In 1919, the University of Oklahoma and Saint Louis University applied for membership, but were not approved due to deficient management of their athletic programs. [6] The conference then added Grinnell College in 1919, with the University of Oklahoma applying again and being approved in 1920. Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State University) joined in 1925, bringing conference membership to ten, an all-time high. [7]

Conference split

At a meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 19, 1928, the conference split up. Six of the seven state schools (all except Oklahoma A&M) formed a conference that was initially known as the Big Six Conference. [2] Just before the start of fall practice, the six schools announced they would retain the MVIAA name for formal purposes. However, fans and media continued to call it the Big Six. The three private schools – Drake, Grinnell, and Washington University – joined with Oklahoma A&M to form the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). [8] The old MVIAA's administrative staff transferred to the MVC.

The similarity of the two conferences' official names, as well as the competing claims of the two conferences, led to considerable debate over which conference was the original and which was the spin-off, though the MVIAA went on to become the more prestigious of the two. For the remainder of the Big Eight's run, both conferences claimed 1907 as their founding date, as well as the same history through 1927. To this day, it has never been definitively established which conference was the original.

Locations of final Big Eight Conference full member institutions, 1957-1995 Big Eight cities.png
Locations of final Big Eight Conference full member institutions, 1957–1995

Conference membership grew with the addition of the University of Colorado on December 1, 1947, from the Mountain States Conference. [9] Later that month, Reaves E. Peters was hired as "Commissioner of Officials and Assistant Secretary" and set up the first conference offices in Kansas City, Missouri. With the addition of Colorado, the conference's unofficial name became the Big Seven Conference, coincidentally, the former unofficial name of the MSC.

The final membership change happened ten years later, when Oklahoma A&M joined (or rejoined, depending on the source) the conference on June 1, 1957, [10] and the conference became known as the Big Eight. That same year, Peters' title was changed to "Executive Secretary" of the conference. He retired in June 1963 and was replaced by Wayne Duke, whose title was later changed to "Commissioner".

In 1964, the conference legally assumed the name "Big Eight Conference". In 1968 the conference began a long association with the Orange Bowl, sending its champion annually to play in the prestigious bowl game in Miami, Florida.

Formation of the Big 12 Conference

In the early 1990s, most of the colleges in Division I-A (now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision) were members of the College Football Association; this included members of the Big Eight and Southwest Conferences. Following a Supreme Court decision in 1984, the primary function of the CFA was to negotiate television broadcast rights for its member conferences and independent colleges. In February 1994, the Southeastern Conference announced that they, like the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Notre Dame before them, would be leaving the CFA and negotiate independently for a television deal that covered SEC schools only. This led The Dallas Morning News to proclaim that "the College Football Association as a television entity is dead". [11] More significantly, this change in television contracts ultimately would lead to significant realignment of college conferences, with the biggest change being the dissolution of the Big Eight and the Southwest Conferences and the formation of the Big 12.

After the SEC's abandonment of the CFA, the Southwest Conference and the Big Eight Conference saw potential financial benefits from an alliance to negotiate television deals, and quickly began negotiations to that end, with ABC and ESPN. Though there were complications over the next several weeks (some of which are detailed below), on February 25, 1994, it was announced that a new conference would be formed from the members of the Big Eight and four of the Texas member colleges of the Southwest Conference. [12] [13] [14] Though the name would not be made official for several months, newspaper accounts immediately dubbed the new entity the "Big 12". [15] Charter members of the Big 12 included the members of the Big Eight plus Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.


Following the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1994, the Big Eight continued operations until August 30, 1996, when the conference was formally dissolved and its members officially began competition in the Big 12 Conference. Although the Big 12 was essentially the Big Eight plus the four Texas schools, the Big 12 regards itself as a separate conference and does not claim the Big Eight's history as its own.


Final members

InstitutionLocationFoundedTypeEnrollmentEndowmentNicknameColorsVarsity SportsNational Titles
University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado 1876Public30,128$665,000,000 [16] Buffaloes               1428
Iowa State University Ames, Iowa 1858Public28,682 [17] $452,200,000 [18] Cyclones          1618
University of Kansas Lawrence, Kansas 1865Public30,004 [19] $1,005,000,000 [16] Jayhawks          1613
Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas 1863Public23,588 [20] $277,600,000 [16] Wildcats          140
University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri 1839Public33,318 [21] $974,900,000 [16] Tigers          182
University of Nebraska Lincoln, Nebraska 1869Public24,100 [22] $1,140,000,000 [16] Cornhuskers          2123
University of Oklahoma Norman, Oklahoma 1890Public29,721$968,400,000 [16] Sooners          1927
Oklahoma State University Stillwater, Oklahoma 1890Public23,307$311,000,000 [23] Cowboys          1655

Previous members

InstitutionLocationFoundedTypeEnrollmentEndowmentNicknameColorsVarsity SportsNCAA Titles [24]
Drake University Des Moines, Iowa 1881Private3,164$135,000,000 [16] Bulldogs          183
Grinnell College Grinnell, Iowa 1846Private1,688$1,260,000,000 [25] Pioneers          180
University of Iowa Iowa City, Iowa 1847Public30,825$1,580,000,000 [16] Hawkeyes          2425
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, Missouri 1853Private13,995$4,600,000,000 [26] Bears [27]          1719 (Div. III)

Membership timeline

Big 12University of ColoradoBig 12Oklahoma State UniversityBig 12University of OklahomaGrinnell CollegeBig 12Kansas State UniversityBig 12Iowa State UniversityDrake UniversityBig 12University of NebraskaBig 12University of MissouriBig 12University of KansasWashington University in St. LouisUniversity of IowaBig Eight Conference

Full membersOther Conference

Subsequent conference affiliations

TeamLeft forCurrent home
Colorado Big 12 Conference Pac-12 Conference 1
Drake Missouri Valley Conference Pioneer Football League
Missouri Valley Conference 2
Grinnell Missouri Valley Conference Midwest Conference 3
Iowa Big Ten Conference
Iowa State Big 12 Conference
Kansas State
Missouri Big 12 Conference Southeastern Conference 4
Nebraska Big 12 Conference Big Ten Conference 5
Oklahoma Big 12 Conference
Oklahoma State
Washington University in St. Louis Missouri Valley Conference University Athletic Association 6
College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin
  1. ^ Colorado left the Big 12 for the Pac-12 beginning with the 2011–12 season.
  2. ^ Drake withdrew from the Missouri Valley Conference from 1951–1956. The MVC stopped sponsoring football in 1985; Drake remains a member for all non-football sports. The football program dropped to Division III in 1987, playing as an independent until a change in NCAA rules forced the program to play in Division I. When the new rule took effect in 1993, Drake joined the newly formed Pioneer League, a football-only league playing at the FCS level that prohibits the awarding of football scholarships.
  3. ^ Grinnell joined the Midwest Collegiate Athletic Conference beginning with the 1939–40 season; their affiliation from 1928–1939 is unclear. [28] The MCAC merged with the Midwest Athletic Conference for Women to form the Midwest Conference beginning with the 1994–95 season.
  4. ^ Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC beginning with the 2012–13 season.
  5. ^ Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten beginning with the 2011–12 season.
  6. ^ Washington University left the MVC in 1946; it joined the College Athletic Conference from 1962 through 1971, and became a charter member of the University Athletic Association, which began play with the 1986–87 season. It was independent in all other years. [29] Washington University is now a football-only affiliate member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.


Conference champions

Men's basketball

Following are the MVIAA/Big Eight regular-season conference champions from 1908 to 1996 (showing shared championships in italics): [1] [35]

Men's basketball regular-season championships (1908–1996)
SchoolTotal titlesOutright titlesYears
Colorado 531954· 1955 · 1962 ·1963· 1969
Drake 00
Grinnell 00
Iowa State 421935 ·1941·1944· 1945
Kansas 43321908 · 1909 · 1910 · 1911 ·1912·1914· 1915 ·1922· 1923 · 1924 ·
1925 · 1926 · 1927 · 1931 · 1932 · 1933 · 1934 · 1936 ·1937· 1938 ·
1940·1941·1942· 1943 · 1946 ·1950· 1952 · 1953 ·1954· 1957 ·
1960· 1966 · 1967 · 1971 · 1974 · 1975 · 1978 · 1986 ·1991· 1992 ·
1993 · 1995 · 1996
Kansas State 17141917 · 1919 · 1948 ·1950· 1951 · 1956 · 1958 · 1959 ·1960· 1961 ·
1963· 1964 · 1968 · 1970 · 1972 · 1973 · 1977
Missouri 15121918 · 1920 · 1921 ·1922· 1930 ·1939·1940· 1976 · 1980 · 1981 ·
1982 · 1983 · 1987 · 1990 · 1994
Nebraska 721912· 1913 ·1914· 1916 ·1937·1949·1950
Oklahoma 1381928 · 1929 ·1939·1940·1942·1944· 1947 ·1949· 1979 · 1984 ·
1985 · 1988 · 1989
Oklahoma State 211965 ·1991
Washington (St. Louis) 00


Shared championships are shown in italics: [1] [36]

Football conference championships (1907–1995)
SchoolTotal titlesOutright titlesYears
Colorado 531961 ·1976· 1989 · 1990 ·1991
Drake 00
Grinnell 00
Iowa 101907
Iowa State 201911·1912
Kansas 521908 · 1930 ·1946·1947·1968
Kansas State 111934
Missouri 12101909 ·1913· 1919 · 1924 · 1925 · 1927 · 1939 · 1941 · 1942 · 1945 ·
Nebraska 41311907· 1910 ·1911·1912·1913· 1914 · 1915 · 1916 · 1917 · 1921 ·
1922 · 1923 · 1928 · 1929 · 1931 · 1932 ·1933· 1935 · 1936 · 1937 ·
1940 · 1963 · 1964 · 1965 · 1966 ·1969· 1970 · 1971 · 1972·1975·
1978· 1981 · 1982 · 1983 ·1984· 1988 ·1991· 1992 · 1993 · 1994 ·
Oklahoma 34261920 ·1933· 1938 · 1943 · 1944 ·1946·1947· 1948 · 1949 · 1950 ·
1951 · 1952 · 1953 · 1954 · 1955 · 1956 · 1957 · 1958 · 1959 · 1962
1967 ·1968· 1972· 1974 ·1975·1976· 1977 ·1978· 1979 · 1980 ·
1984· 1985 · 1986 · 1987
Oklahoma State 211926 ·1976
Washington (St. Louis) 00

Kansas would have won the 1960 title, but after found to be using an ineligible player they were forced to forfeit their victories over Missouri and Colorado, which meant that Missouri was awarded the 1960 Big Eight title.
Oklahoma initially won the 1972 title, but after it was found that they used ineligible players, they were penalized by the NCAA, though they did not force OU to forfeit games. The Big Eight asked them to forfeit three games and awarded the title to Nebraska, but Oklahoma still claims these wins and this title.

National championships won by MVIAA/Big Eight members

The following is a complete list of the 100 AIAW, NCAA and college football championships won by teams that were representing the Big Eight Conference in NCAA- or AIAW-recognized sports at the time of the championship. [24]

National team titles by institution

The national championships listed below are for the final eight members of the conference, as of July 2014. Football, Helms, and equestrian titles are included in the total, but excluded from the column listing NCAA and AIAW titles.

Big Eight National Championships
SchoolTotal titlesTitles as a member
of the Big Eight
NCAA and AIAW titles [24] Notes
Colorado281527CU has 1 recognized football title and 1 AIAW title
Iowa State181818ISU has 5 AIAW titles
Kansas131111KU has 2 Helms basketball titles
Kansas State000
Nebraska231618NU has 5 recognized football titles and 1 AIAW title
Oklahoma271920OU has 7 recognized football titles
Oklahoma State572152OSU has 4 equestrian titles and 1 recognized football title

Racial integration

The history of the Big Eight Conference straddles the era of racial segregation in the United States, particularly as it relates to African Americans.

Before the formation of the conference, three African-American brothers at the University of Kansas are the first known to have participated in organized sports for a league school: Sherman Haney played baseball for KU beginning in 1888, followed by Grant Haney and then Ed Haney, the last of whom also played football at KU in 1893. [37] At the same time, the University of Nebraska football team had on its roster George Flippin, the son of a slave, beginning in 1891. [37] Nebraska's football team featured three more African-American players over the next 12 years. Notable among these NU players was Clinton Ross, who in 1911 apparently became the first African-American to participate in sport in the MVIAA, following the league's formation in 1907. [38]

Race relations in the United States, however, deteriorated in the early 20th century, and African-American athletes disappeared almost entirely from the conference in the four decades after Ross's final season at NU in 1913. The lone exception during the following decades was Iowa State. In 1923 Jack Trice became the first African-American athlete at Iowa State – and the only one in the conference. Tragically, Trice died two days after playing his second football game with Iowa State, due to injuries suffered during the game (against Minnesota). Jack Trice Stadium at Iowa State is now named in his honor. Trice was followed at Iowa State by Holloway Smith, who played football for ISU in 1926 and 1927. After Smith, the league's teams were all-white for more than two decades. (During this time all of the major professional sports leagues in the U.S. were also segregated.)

Modern era

The modern era of full integration of league sports began at Kansas State, with Harold Robinson. In 1949, Harold Robinson played football for Kansas State with an athletic scholarship. In doing so, Robinson broke the modern "color barrier" in conference athletics, and also became the first ever African-American athlete on scholarship in the conference. [39] [40] Harold Robinson later received a letter of congratulations from Jackie Robinson, who had reintegrated major league baseball in 1947 while playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. [39]

In the spring of 1951 the conference's baseball color barrier was broken by Kansas State's Earl Woods, and in the winter of 1951–1952 Kansas State's Gene Wilson and Kansas's LaVannes Squires jointly broke the conference color barrier in basketball.

Nebraska was the third league school to (re)integrate its athletic teams, with Charles Bryant joining the football team in 1952. [41] Iowa State would be next, with Harold Potts and Henry Philmon reintegrating the Cyclone football team in 1953. [42] The following season, Franklin Clarke became the first varsity African-American football player at the University of Colorado. In 1955, Homer Floyd became the first African-American to play football for the KU Jayhawks since Ed Haney in 1893. Sports teams at the remaining three conference schools (Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State) were subsequently all integrated by the end of the 1950s. Most notably, Prentice Gautt became the first black player for Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma in 1956.

Every college football team of the Big Eight was fully integrated by the end of the 1950s and this gave the conference an advantage throughout the 1960s as many opposing conferences had not yet integrated their sports teams. The Southeastern Conference who was well known as the last major college sports conference to oppose integration had particular trouble against the Big Eight during its final years fielding all White teams (the first SEC school to integrate Kentucky did so in 1967 and the last school to do so Mississippi did so in 1972.) During the SEC’s 8 year national championship drought between 1965 and 1973, the Big Eight teams repeatedly defeated the SEC teams in inter-conference games some of which were National Championships largely due to their integrated teams. [43]

The Big Eights best season ever 1971 ended with three Big Eight schools Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado finishing Number 1, 2, and 3 in the final AP poll the only season in college football history that three teams from the same conference finished in the top three rankings. [44] During that season, all three of those teams beat SEC schools Alabama, Auburn, and LSU in blowout victories. In each of the Big Eight victories in that season and the other seasons during this time period, the performance of each Big Eight Schools’ Black Players many of whom were All Americans was a deciding factor in the Big Eight victories. [45] These players performance contributed to the SEC schools recruitment of Black Players as the next National Championship won by the SEC in 1973 was by an integrated Alabama team. [46]

Conference facilities

This is a listing of the conference facilities as of the last year of the conference 1995–1996.

SchoolFootball stadiumCapacityBasketball arenaCapacityBaseball StadiumCapacity
Colorado Folsom Field 51,655 Coors Events Center 11,065Prentup Field (Concluded in 1980)N/A
Iowa State Jack Trice Stadium 61,500 Hilton Coliseum 14,356 Cap Timm Field (Concluded in 2001)3,500
Kansas Memorial Stadium 50,250 Allen Fieldhouse 16,300 Hoglund Ballpark 2,500
Kansas State KSU Stadium 43,000 Bramlage Coliseum 13,500 Frank Myers Field 2,000
Missouri Faurot Field 62,023 Hearnes Center 13,611Simmons Field2,000
Nebraska Memorial Stadium 76,500 Bob Devaney Center 13,000 Buck Beltzer Stadium 1,500
Oklahoma Owen Field 74,897 Lloyd Noble Center 11,528 L. Dale Mitchell Baseball Park 2,700
Oklahoma State Lewis Field 55,509 Gallagher-Iba Arena 6,381 Allie P. Reynolds Stadium 3,821

See also

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