Power Rankings: The Best Cities in the Big 12


Recently, Athlon Sports ranked the Big 12 schools based on the city in which the campus was located. Shortly after that, Don Williams at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal made his own rankings. I like a lot of what Mr. Williams had to say, but here are mine based on a bunch of arbitrary criteria and a sprinkle (okay, a ton) of homer-ism.

No. 10: Ames, Iowa

Yikes. Where to start? Located right smack dab in the middle of Iowa, Ames is about 25 square miles and boasts a population just shy of 60,000. I’ve never been there, and God willing, I’ll never have to be. I’m sure the folks there are nice, and Iowa State truly has one of the best fan bases in the Big 12. Unfortunately, it’s stuck in arguably the Big 12’s lamest town.

No. 9: Morgantown, West Virginia

Everything written above about Iowa State applies to West Virginia. Never been there, great fan base, awful city. Though smaller in size and population than Ames, Morgantown is a one hour plane ride from Washington D.C. and Baltimore, giving it the nod over Ames.

No. 8: Waco, Texas

Looking at the two cities in a vacuum, Waco is a poor man’s Lubbock. Waco is smaller, not as nice, has less to do for fun, etc. Where Waco has one advantage is its proximity to Austin and DFW (both cities/areas will be discussed later on). This can also be seen as a disadvantage, though, because the only reason some people know Waco exists (besides Billy Joe Shaver fans) is because they’ve had the misfortune of driving through it on their way to Austin from Dallas, or vice versa. Anyway, Baylor uses the fact that a burger joint is being built in Waco as a recruiting pitch for the city. That should tell you all you need to know about Waco.

No. 7: Fort Worth, Texas

Hear me out on this one. Fort Worth is not much of a college town at all. Yes, TCU is there, but that doesn’t mean the people of Fort Worth make it a city full of Horned Frog pride. Proof would be TCU’s inability to sell out their 50,000 seat stadium in its biggest home game in years against Kansas State last season. Instead, it’s filled with Walmart Longhorn fans, actual Texas alumni, and Oklahoma fans (Walmart style and otherwise), who figured out Texas was a better state to live in than our neighbors on the other side of the Red River. In addition, Fort Worth will always be Dallas’ red headed stepchild. Fort Worth exemplifies why a big city isn’t necessarily a great college town

No. 6: Stillwater, Oklahoma

Not as bad as many would assume, the “micropolitan” population of the Stillwater area is close to 80,000 and has a pretty diverse local economy.  They also get bonus point for not copying anything about Lubbock, something the folks in Stillwater have had a tendency to do.

No. 5: Manhattan, Kansas

With an area population upwards of 100,000 and located at the junction of two rivers, The Little Apple can be overlooked. Not too far from their arch rivals in Lawrence and also fairly close to Kansas City, the fan base adequately embraces the small town feel and it even seems the football program does as well. Never overly talented or flashy, Kansas State football and the city of Manhattan find a way to get it done.

No. 4: Lawrence Kansas

Like their neighbors in Manhattan, Lawrence is located on riverbanks and has a pretty decent population at around 90,000. Less than an hour’s drive from Kansas City, Lawrence is not only a great college town, but also has a lot historical significance and a diverse local economy. If Kansas’ football program ever became consistently decent, Lawrence could really be something special for its student body.

No. 3: Austin, Texas

I was born and raised in Austin. The native in me says the city should be higher on the list. The Red Raider in me says they should be lower. Top 3 isn’t a bad compromise. There is a ton of entertainment value here obviously (Lake Travis, live music capital of the world, 6th Street, etc.), but now when I go back to Austin I just think about the mosquitoes and the traffic. Also, it’s too big of a city to be a true college town. A majority of the people you find wearing burnt orange there probably never attended the University of Texas. Fun weekend trip, great business/party city, but not a great college city.

No. 2: Norman, Oklahoma

If you said “huh?” when you read this I wouldn’t blame you. I went to Norman in 2013 for the Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma game (a heart-breaker to this day) and I really enjoyed it. Their fans were courteous to me and my friends, it’s very close to Oklahoma City (another underrated town), and is a true college town in every sense. I look forward to going back this coming year.

No. 1: Lubbock, Texas

This is an unquestionable no brainer, right? A city of a quarter million people it’s just big enough and just small enough, boasts a die hard and loyal fan base, and is that perfect 6 hour distance from Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio that says “I’m away at college and independent, but I can easily go home this weekend to get a homemade meal.” The birthplace of Buddy Holly, Lubbock has an under appreciated historical music history. Nicknamed the “Hub City” because of its overall significance in west Texas, not only is Lubbock no city’s stepchild, it’s the anchor for the entire western region of the Lone Star State. Lastly, the South Plains is the world’s largest cotton-producing area. In other words, all the Texas “fans” who have a Longhorn T-shirt but no class ring, you can thank a farmer in the Lubbock area for the extent of your relationship with the University of Texas.