The conference’s schools each hosting separate showcases for its NFL prospects will soon become 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 only one conference-wide scouting event during the run-up to the 2024 NFL draft, the league announced Wednesday. The event will take place at Dallas Cowboys’ training complex, nicknamed The Star, and 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 job fair and fan fest events.
The Big 12 appears to be determined to continue challenging the status quo. It doesn’t matter what you think co-branding with a streetwear brand A new anthem surrounding the men’s basketball tournament It’s cringey. something, and it’s clear commissioner Brett Yormark and the league are going to continue to try to spice up and reimagine mundane events. Shaquille O’Neal performed as DJ Diesel during the men’s basketball tournament, for instance. Such moves are essential in a league going through a major identity change after the departure of its whales, Oklahoma (Texas) and Texas (Oklahoma), next summer.
This conference is basically a mini-NFL combine. It is an innovative idea and a window into the future of draft tail end. With each school hosting their own event, the current pro-day landscape is fragmented. Smaller conferences could consider putting on showcases across the conference.
However, the event is not without its challenges. Nearly 175 athletes could train next year if each school sends around 12 players. That’s the average number who work out at regular pro days on campus. That’s around half of the total who attend the NFL combine (about 330 each year). This will make it difficult for all players to be physically and medically tested. If the number is capped per school, how it’s viewed will vary. On-campus pro day is valuable because it helps to find diamonds in the rough. Scouts then circle back with them. It also gives them invaluable time with school personnel and coaches to help identify potential character issues. It is also common for local players to exercise, even if they have never played at a major school. But it also can help decrease waste for players who, frankly, don’t have a prayer of getting selected. In the days leading up to the event, it will be interesting to observe how the league walks this line.
And don’t forget how the players (and their representation) view pro days, either. It’s not rare for players to skip the physical portion of the NFL combine in favor of their on-campus pro day. That allows them to work out in more familiar surroundings without the grind of a full day or interviews and medical testing before what’s often a late-night workout because the combine has morphed into a primetime TV event.
The Big 12 isn’t alone in this. NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent is quoted in the event’s press release, signaling the NFL is being brought in as a partner to at least provide programming on NFL Network and its social media channels. The event will be attended by NFL personnel next year, which could also serve as an audition for Dallas hosting the combine in the future.
Since 1987, the NFL combine has been based in Indianapolis. It will continue to be there until at least next year. Indy’s run looked like it could be up in 2019, then again in ’22, but after a bidding process that included Dallas, it was kept there through ’24. There is no doubt that Indy’s history of hosting combined with its functionality—the convention center, Lucas Oil Stadium, main hotels, and institution restaurants are all connected by a system of gangways and tunnels to protect against the cold weather—has served it well. But the push and pull for the combine’s future will continue and if/when it will ever leave Indianapolis is often a hot topic of conversation during combine week.
It should be noted the league does not officially operate all aspects of the combine, which is under the purview of National Football Scouting Inc. (NFS), which is based in Indianapolis and co-owned by most of the league’s 32 teams. The NFL worked closely with the HBCU Legacy Box in New Orleans, as well as its retired regional combine 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.