Athlon asked Big 12 experts to rank the best towns in the league.
The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.
Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint small town? Cost of living, nightlife, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.
Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table.
When evaluating a bigger city like Fort Worth or Austin against small towns like Lubbock or Stillwater, personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking 12 Big 12 experts to rank their favorite Big 12 locations and here is what we learned:
The Voting Panel:
David Ubben, Fox Sports
Chip Brown, HornsDigest.com
Pat Forde, Yahoo!
Dennis Dodd, CBSSports
Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports
Blair Kerkhoff, KC Star
George Schroeder, USA Today
Chris Level, RedRaiderSports.com
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Allen Kenney, BlatantHomerism.com
Tim Fitzgerald, GoPowerCat.com
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM
Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 10 points.
|Austin, Texas There are few places in the world as cool as Austin — and they will tell you about it too. Great food, crazy awesome music and the only part of Texas that isn't table-top flat. The rolling hill country, boating and golf only add to the long list of stuff to do in the Lone Star State capital. There is a reason Austin got all but two first-place votes. Sixth Street is a must for a first-time visitor.|
|Fort Worth, Texas The massive metroplex in North Texas got one first-place vote and if big cities are your thing, there aren't too many options in the Big 12. The attractions in DFW are endless and well known — professional sports, Texas State Fair, bars, beers and honky tonks. If small town living is your thing, then Fort Worth won't suit you. TCU's hometown got six second-place votes and two third-place votes along with that one first-place selection.|
|Lawrence, Kan. It won't be confused with any of the other towns on fall Saturdays, but this town is extremely underrated nationally and got one vote as the Big 12's best town. The gorgeous campus is soaked in rich sports tradition (mostly basketball) and is just down the road from Kansas City. The personality is a bit eclectic and that makes hanging out in Lawrence a fun experience. The music scene here is excellent and the BBQ ain't bad either.|
|Norman, Okla. Sort of a mini-Oklahoma City, Norman got three third-place votes, but also was picked as low as ninth. The downtown area has plenty of charm and the small town streets are welcoming. Certainly, game days take this town to a different level unlike places like Lawrence. Campus Corner comes highly recommended.|
|Morgantown, W.V. The mountains are gorgeous. The campus is awesome on game day. The parties and nightlife are fantastic (insane is perhaps a more fitting descriptor). But it's not easy to get to for any long-distance travelers, which also is the case with many Big 12 outposts. However, outside of the university and the mountains, there isn't a whole lot else going on — which is why Morgantown was voted as high as second and as low as tenth.|
|Manhattan, Kan. The true outposts in the Big 12 will fill the bottom half of this league, beginning with The Little Apple. Some love the small town (it got a second-place vote) and others do not (two last-place votes). There are some killer breweries (at plenty of bars in Aggieville) and plenty of food spots but that's about it.|
|Lubbock, Texas It's 350 miles to Fort Worth or Waco, 340 miles to Norman and 370 miles to Austin or Stillwater — Lubbock's nearest Big 12 counterparts. It redefines middle of nowhere. It's got country music, dust and Texas Tech football. And it's much larger than outsiders would probably guess at nearly 250,000 residents.|
|Stillwater, Okla. One of the smallest college towns in big-time college football at less than 50,000 people, Stillwater is a great party town but has little else to offer. To quote one expert on this panel, "Eskimo Joe's has been a Big 12 landmark" for more than two decades. So there's that.|
|Ames, Iowa A true college town, this might be the most bizarre ranking on this list. Ames is routinely ranked as one of the better places to live in the Midwest, complete with great small town living and some decent nightlife. It got two 10th-place votes and five ninth-place votes. For the record, I voted Ames fifth.|
|Waco, Texas The new facilities have changed the look and feel of this town but not enough to get it out of the Big 12 basement. Waco got four 10th-place votes and three ninth-place votes. Unless you are Chip or Joanna Gaines (or maybe John McClain), I'd suggest continuing up or down I-35 to Austin or DWF.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview