Where Big 12 schools rank
Despite its name, the Big 12 is composed of only 10 schools. Though the Big 12’s inaugural season as an athletic conference was in 1996, its history stretches back to the early 1900s, with roots in the Southwest Conference and Big 6 Conference. Members of those two conferences formed the original dozen programs that made up the Big 12. Conference membership has been in flux in the last decade, with several original members leaving and new schools joining. To date, Big 12 schools have claimed more than 60 NCAA team championships. Here’s where Big 12 schools stand among National Universities — research-focused schools that offer a full range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral programs — in the 2021 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.
West Virginia University
Location: Morgantown, West Virginia
U.S. News rank: 241 (tie)
Total enrollment: N/A
4-year graduation rate: N/A
First established as the Agricultural College of West Virginia in 1867, the school changed its name to West Virginia University in 1868. Like many schools on this list, WVU began as a federal land-grant institution, a post-Civil War initiative intended to establish agricultural colleges across the nation. The Mountaineers, the moniker of WVU’s sports program, is a nod to residents of the Mountain State. A relative newcomer to the Big 12, WVU joined the conference in 2012.
Learn more about West Virginia University.
Texas Tech University
Location: Lubbock, Texas
U.S. News rank: 217 (tie)
Total enrollment: 38,742
4-year graduation rate: 36%
Opened in 1925 as Texas Technical College, the school officially became Texas Tech University in 1969. Initially dubbed the Matadors, a reference to Spanish-style architecture on campus, athletic teams were nicknamed the Red Raiders in 1936 by a local sports writer. The name stuck and a student on horseback added to the legend by leading the team onto the field. This eventually inspired Texas Tech’s current mascot, Raider Red, who resembles the Warner Bros. cartoon character Yosemite Sam.
Learn more about Texas Tech University.
Oklahoma State University
Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
U.S. News rank: 187 (tie)
Total enrollment: 24,041
4-year graduation rate: 41%
Oklahoma State University is another school that began as a federal land-grant institution. The school was founded on Christmas Day in 1890 and was known as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College until a 1957 name change. The university was established on a 200-acre pasture, plowed by horses to remove prairie grass prior to beginning construction. Track was the first organized sport at Oklahoma State, and football and women’s basketball soon followed.
Learn more about Oklahoma State University.
Kansas State University
Location: Manhattan, Kansas
U.S. News rank: 170 (tie)
Total enrollment: 21,719
4-year graduation rate: 37%
Kansas State University traces its roots back to Bluemont Central College, which opened in 1858. Bluemont became Kansas State Agricultural College in 1863. The current name was adopted in 1959. Team names also changed over the years, shifting from Aggies to Wildcats in 1915. Early sports programs included men’s basketball, baseball and football. Female students attempted to establish a basketball program in 1902 but were denied the opportunity to play intercollegiate games. Women’s basketball was finally added in 1968.
Learn more about Kansas State University.
University of Oklahoma
Location: Norman, Oklahoma
U.S. News rank: 133 (tie)
Total enrollment: 28,079
4-year graduation rate: 44%
The University of Oklahoma opened in 1892, offering classes in a rented building to a population of 57 students that by the end of the first year increased to 119. The town of Norman contributed 40 acres and $10,000 from bond sales in the early days of the institution. The campus has expanded to more than 4,000 acres and more than 28,000 students. Known as the Sooners, the athletic programs at the college are a nod to a nickname for the eager early settlers of Oklahoma during the land rush of 1889.
Learn more about the University of Oklahoma.
University of Kansas
Location: Lawrence, Kansas
U.S. News rank: 124 (tie)
Total enrollment: 27,552
4-year graduation rate: 48%
The University of Kansas was chartered in 1859 as Lawrence University and began offering classes in 1866. The athletic programs at Kansas play as the Jayhawks, named after a brightly colored bird of mysterious and mythical origins. The name appears to be an amalgamation of a blue jay and a sparrow hawk, both native to the area, according to the university’s website. Other historical references note that the name was used by a Kansas regiment in the Civil War.
Learn more about the University of Kansas.
Iowa State University
Location: Ames, Iowa
U.S. News rank: 118 (tie)
Total enrollment: 33,391
4-year graduation rate: 47%
Chartered in 1858, Iowa State University was initially known as Iowa Agriculture College and Model Farm and was coeducational from the start. The name changed to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1898 before the current moniker was adopted in 1959. The team name, Cyclones, was inspired by a sports writer’s description of the football team’s performance in 1895. Though known as the Cyclones, the school mascot is a cardinal, a nod to school colors and the challenge of creating weather-themed mascots.
Learn more about Iowa State University.
Texas Christian University
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
U.S. News rank: 80 (tie)
Total enrollment: 11,024
4-year graduation rate: 71%
Texas Christian University has not only changed names but also locations over the years. TCU got its start as AddRan Male and Female College in 1873, a combination of the names of the founding brothers, ministers Addison and Randolph Clark. Though it began in a small prairie town, TCU moved to Waco, Texas, in 1895 and eventually to Forth Worth in 1911. The name TCU was chosen in 1902. TCU athletic teams play as the Horned Frogs, which the school’s website describes as a “small but fierce lizard.” TCU is a more recent member of the Big 12, joining the conference in 2012.
Learn more about Texas Christian University.
Baylor University (TX)
Location: Waco, Texas
U.S. News rank: 76 (tie)
Total enrollment: 18,033
4-year graduation rate: 63%
Baylor University was established in 1845 by the Texas Baptist Education Society and named for one of its founders. Though initially in Independence, Texas, Baylor moved to its current home in 1886 and merged with Waco University. According to the school’s website, Baylor is the oldest continually operating college in the state and the world’s largest Baptist university. Baylor still espouses its founding principles on its website, noting a commitment to the Baptist denomination and the state of Texas.
Learn more about Baylor University.
University of Texas–Austin
Location: Austin, Texas
U.S. News rank: 42 (tie)
Total enrollment: 51,090
4-year graduation rate: 66%
Plans to establish the University of Texas–Austin date back to 1839, but it took decades for that vision to be realized. Classes officially began in temporary quarters in 1883 as early efforts at campus construction commenced. Known as the Longhorns, university athletic programs are represented by a live steer mascot named Bevo. An early entrant into the Big 12, Texas has been dominant in the division, winning the most conference championships of any member.
Learn more about the University of Texas–Austin.
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How the Big 12 schools rank among National Universities
— University of Texas–Austin: 42 (tie)
— Baylor University: 76 (tie)
— Texas Christian University: 80 (tie)
— Iowa State University: 118 (tie)
— University of Kansas: 124 (tie)
— University of Oklahoma: 133 (tie)
— Kansas State University: 170 (tie)
— Oklahoma State University: 187 (tie)
— Texas Tech University: 217 (tie)
— West Virginia University: 241 (tie)
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Where Big 12 Schools Rank Among the 2021 Best Colleges originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 02/24/21: This slideshow has been updated with new information and to reflect ranks and data from the 2021 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.