The conference’s 14 schools each hosting separate showcases for NFL prospects will soon be a thing of the past.
Instead of the Big 12’s 14 schools hosting separate pro days for their football players next year, there will be just one conference-wide scouting contest in preparation for the 2024 NFL Draft, the league announced Wednesday. The event will be held at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, nicknamed The Star, and is closed to the public, though the league says the event will offer networking opportunities for football players with members of the Big 12 Business Advisory Board in addition to a workplace event. fair and fan fest.
The Big 12 seems likely to continue to be aggressive in finding ways to challenge the status quo. Whether you think co-branding with a streetwear brand or a new anthem around the men’s basketball tournament is awesome, it is something, and it’s clear commissioner Brett Yormark and the league will continue to try to enrich and reimagine secular events. Shaquille O’Neal played as DJ Diesel during the men’s basketball tournament, for example. Such moves are sorely needed in a league that will undergo a major identity change once its whales, Texas and Oklahoma, depart next summer.
Running what is essentially a mini version of the NFL combine is a novel concept for a conference and an interesting window into what could be the future of the late draft process. Today’s pro day landscape is fractured with each school hosting their own event. Conference-wide showcases could be something smaller conferences could do in the future.
Former Oklahoma State and current Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren works out at OSU’s pro day last year.
Sarah Phipps/USA Today Network
But the event will not be without challenges. About 175 athletes could practice next year if each school is able to send about 12 players, which is the approximate number they typically practice in a normal on-campus pro day. That’s about half of all who watch the NFL combined (about 330 each year). Getting all these players to pass effective tests both medically and physically will be a logistical hurdle to overcome. If the number is limited per school, how it is displayed will vary. Some of the value of on-campus pro days is finding diamonds in the rough for scouts and then having invaluable time with coaches and school personnel to further explore potential character concerns. Local players who may not have played at a major school are also usually allowed to practice. But it can also help reduce waste for players who, frankly, don’t want to be picked. How the league fares down that line will be interesting to watch before then.
And don’t forget how players (and their representation) view trade days. It’s not uncommon for players to skip the physical portion of the NFL combine in favor of the on-campus pro day. This allows them to practice in a more intimate setting without the dread of a full day or interviews and medicals before a late night workout because the combine has become a primetime television event.
The Big 12 isn’t the only league involved here. NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent is quoted in the organization’s press release, signaling that the NFL is coming on as a partner to at least provide programming on the NFL Network and its social media channels. And apparently there will be NFL personnel on site next year for the event that may also end up serving as a de facto audition for Dallas potentially hosting the booth in the future.
The NFL combine has been in Indianapolis since 1987 and will be completed at least next year. Indy’s run looked like it might end in 2019, then again in ’22, but after a bidding process that included Dallas, it was kept there until ’24. There’s no doubt that Indy’s history of hospitality coupled with its functionality—the convention center, Lucas Oil Stadium, the main hotels and facility restaurants are all connected by a system of walkways and tunnels to keep out the cold—has serve well. But the push and pull on the future of the combine will continue, and if/when he ever leaves Indianapolis is often a hot topic of conversation during combine week.
It should be noted that the league does not officially operate all aspects of the combine, which falls under the purview of National Football Scouting Inc. (NFS), which is based in Indianapolis and co-owns most of the league’s 32 teams. The NFL has worked out the nuts and bolts of a combination with the HBCU Legacy Bowl in New Orleans and its discontinued regional events.
For now, the Big 12’s innovation may end up being a blueprint for the future of the draft process in more ways than one.