Guest written by Don Pownell.
A lot has been written over the past year concerning where Texas will ultimately call home in terms of a conference. It appears many who have voiced thoughts on the matter seem well informed and have put forth valid points concerning the future of Texas. The following touches on parts of what has been previously stated but hopefully may clarify these thoughts to better understand what Texas views as their best interest.
The first point to be made is the there are seven NCAA football teams which are in a class by themselves. These being: Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, and Southern Cal. What separates these teams from all others are the following; Most national championships, most wins, money, national following, media, history, and the “ it” factor. These teams have a command and control feature over NCAA football not afforded to other teams. In attempting to find mutual interest to deal with any of these teams one must consider that all of them have access to huge quantities of cash both annually and long term. These assets allow them to control their own destiny.
In dealing with Texas where does self-interest lie? First the annual athletic budget at Texas is somewhere in the $175,000,000 to $200,000,000 range. Income from the Big 12 represents about $35,000,000 of that total sum. The league provides 15% to 20% of the total Texas athletic depts. operating budget. In other words, any league which Texas is a member; Big 10, SEC, or Big 12 will provide a minor part of their overall annual income for athletics. It should be noted that Texas either through wills, state property, or state budget obtains a large amount of income from the price of oil at the well head, each gallon that comes out of the ground they get a piece of it. This income by far exceeds what the Big 12 or any other league will provide to them regarding income. So yes Texas wants and desires income but where they ultimately land will not be based Primarily on income.
Has anyone stopped to think, why is Texas currently in the Big 12? They are in the Big 12 because its the best deal they can get. What does that mean? It means that Texas not only wants money they want control. Why is Notre Dame Not in the Big 10? They are not in the Big 10 because they felt comfortable with their income and they wanted control and Ohio State and Michigan would not give them the control they wanted. Notre Dame has a deal with the ACC which gives them the required money and the desired control over their own destiny. No one else except a Notre Dame would have gotten that deal with the ACC. They controlled the terms and conditions to affiliate with the ACC. Ohio State and Michigan would not give Notre Dame the required terms and conditions to get them into the league. Has anyone not considered the possibility that Texas did discuss going into another league prior to creating the Big 12? Just like Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan are not going to give Texas the desired control to move into the league.
A lot of discussion has been swirling around what will happen when the television contracts expire in the 2020’s. Texas will have a preference to keep the current situation. Ohio State, Michigan, and Alabama are not going to have a change of heart. Having said that, it does not mean the Big 12 is going to stay the same. First ESPN/ABC created an ideal world several years ago. 4 major conferences with 64 to 68 teams. Playing a 4-team national championship eventually expanding to an 8-team playoff. That concept is still on the table. The Big 12 was never envisioned to exist. It was thought that Texas and Oklahoma would in fact fall in line and go into one of the major conferences which means the 4-conference playoff system should presently be in existence. So, the Big 12 is the odd man out, just the way the Big East was the odd man out.
What’s going to happen with league realignment? If history is going to repeat itself, the Big 10 and SEC are going to attempt to raid the lesser teams in the Big 12. They will attempt to lure them over with more money and the fact the Big 12 is not viable a long-term solution. They want to force a demise of the league and force Texas and Oklahoma to negotiate to go into one of the other 4 conferences, thereby creating the 4-conference concept. Now Texas and Oklahoma are fully aware of this possibility. It is true that a lesser team like Kansas or perhaps even a West Virginia could be drawn away. However, over the next few years we should look to see if Texas softens some of their past positions and begins to work with league members to give them the confidence they need to insure they are full members in the league and not rubber stamps.
In closing, there is going to be a major push to get the Big 12 closed. Having said that the keys are squarely in the hands of Texas not ESPN, Big 10, or SEC. If the second paragraph of this article remains true, Texas is going to choose control and not money and they will do what it takes to keep the Big 12 alive and well.
It should be noted that I have not mentioned Oklahoma in this article. This is an article about Texas. Something to be discussed later is the Red River Shootout. This one game should not be over looked when it comes to conference realignment.