Longhorn Network, Third Tier Rights, the Business of College Football, and Delusion

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   So quite a few people have been asking my opinions/thoughts over the last month about college football conference realignment, the Longhorn Network, Texas, the Pac-12, the SEC, the Aggies, Nebraska, the Big 10, and AGGGHHHHH!!!!  The amount of handwringing, anxiety, irritation, and harsh feelings out there have gotten so out of hand that it’s spilling over into harmed relationships and even threatened violence.  Message boards are experiencing unparalleled prosperity in the south and the landscape of college football is on the brink of total change which some may root on with zeal as they believe it will end the BCS corruption.  So here is my take on this whole thing that you can toss or read…it makes no difference but while I am obviously a passionate Texas fan, I will only present facts that are relevant and caveat all opinions that may be shaded by my fandom.  However, if you read this, you will see just how much perception has been skewed from reality.

 Just a quick bit of history…

   All of this mess is derivative of a lawsuit between the NCAA and the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia from 1982 that went all the way to the Supreme Court regarding television rights to college football games.  I’m not writing this to discuss that but it basically set the stage for college football becoming the behemoth of a billion dollar business that it has become.  If you want to read about it, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NCAA_v._Board_of_Regents_of_Univ._of_Oklahoma.  Of course, the schools are not solely responsible for this explosion of money…we the fans are culpable as we drove a bulldozer through the wall with our demands of competitiveness, skyboxes, bigger and more modern stadiums, paying insane sums for the best coaches, creating corruption by incenting recruits/players, etc…  But that’s for another day.

   The next important historical moment was in 1994-1996 when the SWC and the Big 8 both crumbled in their 80 year histories and joined together to make the Big 12.  The Big 8 was successful on the national stage (Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas State had spent the previous half-decade with incredible success and enviable futures and OU had dominated throughout history and was inevitably going to rise back to prominence) but was lacking severely in marketability and big money markets.  Austin alone is larger than all the Big 8 hometowns combined (Ames, Columbia, Lawrence, Manhattan, Norman, Boulder, Lincoln, and Stillwater).  Texas and Texas A&M were trying to find every possible way out of the nightmare the SWC had become with scandal, corruption, and a collection of schools that were completely uncompetitive after Arkansas’s departure.  Texas and TAMU were enormous schools that dominated the second largest TV market in the country so everyone that looked at them saw dollar signs.  Deloss Dodds (Athletic Director at Texas) and Donnie Duncan (Athletic Director at Oklahoma), who were friends, had the brainchild of bringing Texas and TAMU into the Big 8.  It made sense from a practical geography standpoint and a cultural standpoint.

   Politically, Bob Bullock some politically-connected Baylor alums looked out for a couple of other schools (Baylor and Tech) and “forced” Texas and TAMU to take them along with them wherever they went (all while leaving Houston, TCU, SMU, and Rice out in the cold to fend for themselves).  What most people don’t know however, is that both the Pac-10 and the Big 10 made very strong overtures to Texas to join their respective conferences.  In the Pac-10, Stanford was the lone dissenter blocking any realignment and Texas did not believe the Big 10 made much sense from a pragmatic perspective causing those talks to not go very far.  Simultaneously, Texas A&M was having a few discussions of their own with the SEC in 1994/1995 about the possibility of joining the conference based on the belief it might be a better “cultural fit.”  However, neither of these got very far and Texas, TAMU, Baylor, and Tech were folded into the Big 12 thanks to a lot of work between Donnie Duncan and Deloss Dodds, and much to the chagrin of Head Coach Tom Osborne in Nebraska.

   To ensure the conference was started off on the wrong foot, there was contention from the get-go…particularly between Texas and Nebraska.  It’s important to note that at the time, Nebraska was flying as high as it could with back to back dominant national championship teams and incredible success for the previous 5 decades.  Tom Osborne was mowing down everyone and a big part of why was through the use of Partial Qualifiers and Non-Qualifiers (and some believe “county scholarships” though I have personally seen very little compelling evidence of this).  Nebraska made a killing recruiting players from Florida, Texas, and California who did not qualify academically or had either met the minimum high school GPA or minimum SAT score but not both (partial qualifiers)…or neither (non-qualifiers).  The Big 8 allowed them and Nebraska exploited them more than any team in the country at the time.  Texas demanded that in order to raise the academic perception of the Big 12, that partial qualifiers be eliminated or at least limited (ultimately, they were limited).  Nebraska was furious that the vote went against them 11-1 from the member schools.  [opinion] I believe that at that moment, Tom Osborne knew he was counting the days before he retired as the writing would be on the wall. [/opinion]  The other very key fact that occurs at the outset of the conference is that Nebraska fought VEHEMENTLY FOR unequal revenue sharing because they would be the beneficiary of it as they were top dog then.  They wanted the conference network money to be distributed based on a formula that benefited those who spent the most time on TV as they were the source of the money in the first place.  They continued this fight through their entire stay with the Big 12.

   There were a number of other small things that irritated the Cornhusker administration and fans including the perception around moving the Big 12 offices to Dallas, the perceived blame Texas deserved for the end of the annual Nebraska-Oklahoma game, the existence of the Championship game, rotating the Big 12 Championship game, Steve Hatchell becoming the first Big 12 Commissioner, etc… but those are relatively minor at the end of the day.  Osborne was furious about the PQ’s and believed that Texas was “ruining Big 8 tradition.”  [opinion] I think he’s a lying sack of crap with no integrity.  I’ll demonstrate why later. [/opinion]

   At the beginning of the conference, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas State, and Texas A&M were easily enjoying the most football success but that changed very quickly.  Texas made the move to get Mack Brown and up its facilities/strategies and Oklahoma made the move to get Bob Stoops.  Since then, both schools have had a stranglehold on the conference and a great deal of national success.  Oklahoma and Texas have combined to win every Big 12 Championship since 2000 except for two and have been the South division representative in 13 of the 15 years and every year since 1999 (Oklahoma 8, Texas 5).  Furthermore, Texas and Oklahoma have been in the top 4 winningest programs of the last decade going a combined 15-5 against Texas A&M and 12-2 against Nebraska with a national championship each, and a combined six national championship game appearances.  Meanwhile, Nebraska was usurped by Colorado, Kansas State and Missouri in its own division for a few years, and when it went against the South, they were impotent and had no championships of any kind.  It’s worth noting that in the 1960’s, Nebraska won five conference championships.  In the 70’s, Nebraska won four conference championships and two national championships.  In the 80’s they won five conference championships.  In the 90’s they won seven conference championships and two and a half national championships.  In the 00’s, they won absolutely nothing and from the start of the Big 12 to 2010, they went 1-9 against Texas.  Clearly, things had changed for the first time in 50 years in Nebraska.  It was even predicted rather impressively by an astute Sports Illustrated writer in early 1996 after the Nebraska championship over Florida: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1007647/index.htm  Also of note, as of the end of the 2010 academic year, across all sports, the total for Big 12 championships was as follows:

Texas – 114

Nebraska – 72

Texas A&M – 53

Baylor – 42

Oklahoma State – 40

Oklahoma – 39

Colorado – 27

Kansas – 24

Iowa State – 11

Texas Tech – 11

Kansas State – 7

Missouri – 7

   At the end of the 2009 season, Texas and Nebraska played for the Big 12 Championship.  In a moment that every Husker fan I’ve ever encountered bemoans, Texas was given the chance to kick a field goal and go to the National Championship with one second against Nebraska after they believed the clock ran out.  From a factual standpoint, it’s absolutely incontrovertible that the second did exist and no one was cheated out of anything…but that did not matter and it solidified the conspiracy in the minds of Husker fans everywhere that Texas is given the breaks at every turn at Nebraska’s expense. 

 It all begins to fall apart…

   I think anyone that wants to understand the real reasons that Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big 10 should read the following article from the Omaha World Herald from August 2010.  It gives a phenomenal recounting of what happened from the Nebraska side that contradicts some of what Tom Osborne has said, as well as the perception from the fallout: http://www.omaha.com/article/20100830/BIGRED/708309872#the-big-ten-decision 

 A few key quotes from that article for later use:

 Nebraska shared a lot of history with Big 12 schools. Plus, when you get right down to it, Perlman says, Nebraska had no major beefs with the way the Big 12 was run.

Sure, Husker football fans had screamed robbery just 10 days earlier when a second was put back on the clock, allowing Texas to beat Nebraska for the Big 12 title.

Osborne also personally had some longtime concerns about the Texas-centric nature of the Big 12 and the natural advantages of its Sunbelt schools. It certainly wasn’t the same as the old Big Eight, the league in which the legendary coach toiled for decades before it absorbed Texas and three other Southwest Conference schools in the mid-1990s.

Osborne had opposed the relocation of the conference offices from Kansas City to Dallas. He also fought anchoring the conference title game in Dallas, preferring it move between cities in the north and the south.

But Perlman didn’t really share those geographic concerns. In fact, he actually would end up voting to play the title game in Dallas for the next several years. “I wasn’t prepared to sit in Kansas City in the cold,” Perlman said.

And on the issues of greatest import, “Nebraska was getting largely what it wanted,” Perlman said.

While some schools complained about the league’s unequal distribution of revenue from network TV contracts, Nebraska wasn’t among them. It joined Texas as a strong proponent of giving big-time football schools — those most appealing to the networks — a bigger slice of the pie.

Plus, Perlman said, the Big 12 had just recently completed important conversations about whether to form its own TV network for secondary sports programming, akin to the Big Ten’s.

While many have blamed Texas and its plans to start its own Longhorn TV network as the reason a Big 12 network never got off the ground, Nebraska wasn’t on board with a conference network, either. Nebraska’s support was conditional on the high-profile schools taking a larger cut of that revenue, too — a condition some schools strongly opposed.

As a result of those talks, Nebraska, like Texas, was now moving to create its own network. A consultant’s study had concluded that a Husker network would succeed and bring in seven-figure revenue on top of what Nebraska was getting from major network telecasts.

Perlman said NU was on track to have its network running by the fall of 2011 — actually ahead of Texas’ timetable.

—————————————————-


While declaring that they had no Big Ten offer, Osborne and Perlman say they never disclosed they’d met with the Big Ten, nor were they asked about it. “I was never cross-examined,” Perlman said.


—————————————————-


Powers made it clear that if Nebraska stayed, Texas would stay.

Other than Colorado, the other schools being courted by the Pac-10 indicated they’d stay if Texas stayed.

“What’s Nebraska going to do?” became the meeting’s constant refrain, Perlman said.

   Everyone who has an opinion on all this realignment stuff should absolutely be forced to read that article.  Frankly, I’m surprised the OWH was allowed to print it.  While Texas was very upfront about talking to the Pac-10, Nebraska was keeping secrets about their discussions at secret locations with the Big 10.  So President Perlman now has a guarantee from President Powers that if Nebraska stays in the Big 12, Texas will stay as well.  Now Perlman and Osborne are faced with a choice and in my opinion, [opinion] their desire to get away from Texas overrides everything [/opinion] and they make a completely unreasonable demand on Texas saying that to believe Texas has a long-term commitment to the Big 12, they must pledge ALL their rights, including their third tier broadcasting rights to the conference and give them up.  Perlman and Osborne know that Texas would never agree to such a thing as not a single team around the country has ever done such a thing to ANY conference…even the Big 10.  It is totally unreasonable but it gives Nebraska just the opening they need.  Just as a point of reference regarding Tom Osborne, I find it very telling and ironic that he disingenuously went on the record just last week here: http://www.cnbc.com/id/44363952 

Where he said:

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne took a swipe at the Big 12 during a booster appearance in Lincoln, Neb., on Thursday. He said the Big 12’s revenue-sharing plan lends itself to instability.

 ”When there are inequities, eventually something is going to give somewhere,” Osborne said. “It doesn’t mean it will happen, but it makes it more difficult.”

 If you read the underlined parts of the OWH story above, you saw the source of my indignation.  [opinion] Absolutely deplorable and indicative of low character…consistent with his treatment of the Lawrence Phillips fiasco. [/opinion]

   And so as the article sets up thoroughly, Nebraska bails on the conference with a whimper of a swan song losing to Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship.  I would like to believe that Nebraska felt insecure in the Big 12 but wanted to remain there if they could get guarantees…however Bill Powers clearly told Perlman that if Nebraska stayed, Texas would stay.  Perlman’s response was an entirely unrealistic   They are now off to a highly weakened Big 10 Conference with Ohio State on probation, Michigan and Penn State fighting off mediocrity, and a conference chocked full of also-rans that consistently embarrass themselves on the national stage (bowls) every chance they get.  [opinion] I would actually say that Nebraska has probably made a “smart” move if their goal is to compete within the conference more consistently but I have a hard time seeing them recruit nationally in the context of the Big 10 with consistency in the long-term.  I could be wrong. [/opinion]

   One thing I haven’t mentioned here is the role Missouri played in all this.  They were one of the most myopic parties in this whole thing but I suppose it was to be expected.  Missouri is an absolute also-ran (having won two total men’s conference championships in all sports combined and zero in football in 15 years of conference play) and have always viewed themselves a bit more of a cultural fit with the Big 10 (incorrectly in my opinion).  They are largely irrelevant and despite being the primary school in a largely populated state that should command the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, they actually have consistently had very poor ratings and drive very little interest.  [opinion] I believe they were undoubtedly used by Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delaney as a pawn through this whole thing and that he had little to no interest in Missouri at all.  Missouri, on the other hand, was the girl no one ever paid attention to that was manipulated into believing that someone liked her. [/opinion]  As another side note, Colorado bailed on the conference right after Nebraska because they believed that Texas was about to move west with the rest of the Big 12 South and they would be left out and it looked like a very real possibility.  So they preempted for fear that Baylor or Tech would take their spot and went to the Pac-10 along with Utah to create a 12 team conference and championship game for the Pac-12.  It’s hard to blame them for what happened and Larry Scott is not done yet, trust me.

   As the OWH article speaks to, Texas and Oklahoma took the uncertainty caused by Missouri and Nebraska’s shuffling around as an opportunity to reach out to the Pac-10 and determine whether or not they would be interested in forming the first “super-conference.”  This was not the preference for Texas over remaining in a strong Big 12 but it became a very real possibility when Larry Scott (Pac-10 Commissioner) expressed strong interest in a package of teams that included Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.  It looked like it might even be a done deal if Deloss Dodds and Larry Scott could iron out TV rights (a Longhorn Network precursor) until Texas A&M took the opportunity to go wandering through the hole in the fence into the land of the SEC again.  The talks between TAMU and the SEC became more and more real as it became apparent that Gene Stallings (former Aggie and Head Coach of Alabama), who was a Regent on TAMU’s Board, began thrusting his weight to encourage TAMU to go east.  This caused a great deal of turmoil and through Texas politics, University of Texas TV interests, Oklahoma, etc…, all needed to simmer things down a bit.  Dan Beebe (Big 12 Commissioner) made some big promises on the next Network deal for TAMU, OU, and Texas and the to-be orphaned teams of the Big 12 (ISU, KSU, KU, MU, BU, and TTU) all offered their share of the Nebraska and Colorado contract breach penalty settlements (~$9M and ~$6M respectively) to the bigger players as an enticement.  As a side note, Texas and Oklahoma rejected this offer as unnecessary but Texas A&M stood their ground and demanded they get those school’s portion of the money as they were having some financial issues at the time (http://www.theeagle.com/local/A-amp-amp-M-lent-athletics—16-million-). 

   The Big 12 sans Nebraska and Colorado, with a new contract and more money, recommitted to the Big 12 in the summer of 2010…including Texas A&M, much to the disdain of a segment of their fans that believed they would be best served by divorcing from Texas.  During this time, it was open knowledge that Texas had been looking into, and pursuing its own network for its third tier content.  A bit more history here…in 2006, the then Commissioner of the Big 12 (Kevin Weinberg) pushed hard for the creation of the Big 12 Network (much like the Big 10 Network) to show conference second tier/third tier content.  This was raised in the Big 12 meetings and was voted down 11-1.  It is not clear from anything I’ve read who the 1 was but I do know it was not Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M, or Oklahoma.  All of them rejected the network.  In 2009 and 2010, Deloss Dodds approached Bill Byrne (Athletic Director at TAMU and former Athletic Director at Nebraska) about putting together a joint network for both schools’ third tier rights.  Byrne rejected Dodds stating he did not believe that it would be profitable and viewed it as unrealistic.  Byrne posted about this in his weekly Wednesday column on the TAMU athletic website but that post has mysteriously been taken down in the last few weeks.  Without TAMU as a partner, Texas continued to work tirelessly towards a network for its third tier programming and in early 2011, ESPN (the biggest dog in all of college football) and Texas announced the creation of the $300 million Longhorn Network to begin airing in August 2011.  In late 2010/early 2011, Byrne saw the error of his previous assumptions and tried to reconnect with Dodds to see if Texas was still interested in being partners in the network.  Dodds and Texas, after taking all the risk, putting in all the work, and doing all the negotiating, were not terribly receptive to Byrne’s desire to cash in on the backs of work done by Texas post hoc (would you like us to shine your shoes for you too?).

   And so began the fury of the Aggies.  The entire premise pisses them off to their core.  Not even the fact that they missed out on the opportunity for the network, just the perceived greed and arrogance, greed and arrogance, greed and arrogance.  When ESPN overreached by trying to fill some content with Texas high school football games in the summer of 2011, TAMU and its fanbase went nuclear believing it was totally unfair and unreasonable.  I actually agreed with them that it was an overreach but knew that it also would be considered an NCAA violation and that the NCAA would rule against ESPN on it.  Predictably, just a few short weeks later, the NCAA did rule that it would be a violation and ESPN was forced to back off the idea.  Problem solved?  No.  The damage was done.  “It’s the arrogance to even try.”  TAMU fans and boosters who were still fantasizing about their seat at the SEC table started getting louder and louder as “trust” became an issue with Texas.  Certain sports “journalists” (idiots like Chip Brown, Richard Justice, Billy Liucci, etc…) began capitalizing on it all and parroting the poorly crafted and deceitful message that Texas was “bullying” the conference with its arrogance and greed to drive their own businesses and site hits.  Misinformation was abound.  No one can actually point to anything besides the Longhorn Network but it made for good fodder and I’ll get to that soon.  The President of TAMU (R. Bowen Loftin) began speaking in a level of rhetoric that made it clear TAMU was openly exploring leaving the conference it had committed to less than a year prior and had its aims set on the SEC.  I’ll get to their slowed departure in a bit.

 The Longhorn Network…

   First, I want to revisit the Longhorn Network and third tier rights.  Most people don’t actually know what this is all about so I want to shed a little light on it as there is a great deal of misconception out there, even amongst knowledgeable college football fans.  All the angst, all the anger, all the frustration…it can be largely considered derivative of the Longhorn Network…so here’s how this works.  Members of every BCS conference around the country have tie-ins to conference TV contracts that account for the majority of revenues associated with football.  The contracts are negotiated between the networks and the conference and then conference bylaws determine the formula for distributing the money within the conference (some conferences distribute that money evenly and some distribute based on a formula that is typically tied to appearances).  These contracts represent the rights to the conference “first tier” and “second tier” entertainment; however, they are not ubiquitous.  For example, the Big 12’s first tier rights are with ABC/ESPN (meaning ABC/ESPN gets the first pick of the Big 12 football games each week) and its second tier rights are contracted with Fox, which gives them the next pick on games.  The rest of the games that aren’t chosen are considered third tier entertainment.  It works the same way in every conference…the Big 10’s first tier rights are contracted with ABC/ESPN and its second tier is with the Big 10 Network…while the SEC’s first tier is with CBS and its second tier is with ESPN.  Something that needs to be clear is that the Longhorn Network and ESPN bought the THIRD TIER RIGHTS from Texas, nothing more, nothing less.  This does not change a single thing with regards to the conference distributions for contracts that govern the conference-network relationship.  This means they only have the right to show content that the networks signed into the conference network contracts decline.

   So this concept is completely new, right?  Texas and ESPN are being cavalier with college football and breaking the mold completely as no school in the country has the level of arrogance and greed that Texas does.  Texas is being a bully and making money it doesn’t have to share with the rest of the conference off third tier programming which no one else has the arrogance and greed to do…right?

Wrong.

   Teams have been selling their third tier rights for decades.  Florida sold its rights to the Sunshine Network many many years ago.  (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Sports)

In addition the channel offers baseball, basketball, football, and other sporting events from University of Florida, Florida State University, and the SEC. Longtime partnered with FSU & UF, Sun Sports produces all regular season football games for both schools and airs them statewide on a next-day delay basis. The network also has the rights to the FHSAA Football and Basketball Finals.

Ohio State sold its third tier rights for $110 million for 10 years just two years ago: http://www.cbssports.com/general/story/11569497.  In fact, most schools in BCS conferences have done the same.  The individuals behind this website did an open records request recently to determine how much revenue schools made that wasn’t from conference distribution…which inherently meant it was from selling their third tier rights.  They did some incredible research that is summarized here: http://businessofcollegesports.com/2011/05/06/school-specific-broadcasting-revenue/.  I highly recommend looking closely at the numbers (they are from the 2009-2010 academic year).  Obviously, if it were done for a year later, Ohio State would be at the top with its 10 year, $110 million deal.  You’ll notice that three of the top five third tier revenue recipients were basketball schools (North Carolina with $11.2M, Kentucky with $7.7M, and the Big 12’s own Kansas with a whopping $7.3M).  That is no coincidence as to date, there are a lot more opportunities for third tier carriers to show those primetime teams in basketball due to the sheer volume of basketball games relative to football games.  It’s also no coincidence that half of the top 12 recipients were powerhouse SEC football programs (Alabama, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, and Auburn).  Those teams have extremely large, passionate fanbases that watch whatever someone puts in front of them, as long as it relates to their football team.  All of these provide lots of regionally impressive ratings opportunities and a positive economic model from an advertising/distribution standpoint.  

   And then, there’s the Big 12.  Rather unbelievably, Kansas was top dog in third tier rights revenue (ten times the combined amount Texas and Oklahoma made in 2009-2010), Oklahoma State is second, and our old friend Nebraska is third…with $4.3M in third tier revenues.  Of course, that’s consistent with what you read in the Omaha World Herald story posted above when Nebraska stated it was working on its own networks and external consultants had told them it was feasible.  So the question that must be answered…where was the fury, the angst, the extremely harsh feelings and words for Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska when they made these extremely lucrative deals that were exclusive to their department…not shared with the conference?  Why doesn’t everyone in the ACC flip out and throw a stammering hissy fit over the fact that North Carolina made four times as much as the next highest recipient in the conference on its third tier rights?  The fact of the matter is…if Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12 because they don’t believe it’s fair for its conference mates to be making so much money off its third tier rights that aren’t shared with the rest of the conference, they are likely to be sobered by the fact that the SEC schools took home over $52 million collectively in in 2009-2010 on third tier rights revenues.  Irony to say the least.  [opinion] One of the many instances of myopia TAMU is operating with in my opinion. [/opinion]

   So what is different about the Longhorn Network when it comes to rights?  Absolutely nothing.  The only difference of any kind from any of these other schools is they are the first to get an entire network dedicated to those rights that is partnered with ESPN who as I said, practically controls college football at this point.  From the very little I have seen thus far and from what I have been told by viewers that subscribe to early adopting carriers, the Longhorn Network is operating at a first class level all the way and that the production quality, content programming lineups, and integration into UT athletics has been rather incredible and exceeding the expectations for fans.  Can I understand the resentment?  Yes.  Can I see why fans of other schools might use this as just another reason to believe that Texas “gets all the breaks?”  Yes.  Have the Longhorns become everyone’s Yankees in perception?  Yes.  But the fact of the matter is, Texas is not doing anything that a) is outside the bylaws of the conference or NCAA rules, b) is not doing anything that other schools haven’t been doing for years and making extraordinary amounts of unshared revenues on, c) should be any surprise to any conference mates (particularly TAMU who Texas attempted to bring in to the whole thing), and d) that is actually destabilizing the Big 12 Conference.  However, it makes an easy target to feed the relatively uninformed masses’ confirmation bias when it comes to their perception of greed, arrogance, and bullying from the University of Texas.

   So where are we today?  As I sit here watching the Big 12’s Oklahoma State annihilate the Pac-12’s Arizona on national TV and think about how Texas has “ruined” this conference, I look at today’s rankings and what I see are seven teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri, Baylor, and Texas) that were in the Big 12 last year who are all in the Top 25 this week…matching the “untouchable” SEC.  I see teams like Texas A&M, Baylor, and Oklahoma State elevating themselves considerably over the last few years and becoming legitimate players on the national landscape of college football.  I see a conference that should be extremely strong and vying for the top conference in the country year in year out with the SEC.  But it is coming to an end over irrevocable actions that [opinion] I believe were entirely unnecessary and very poorly thought out. [/opinion]  This idea that Texas has bullied the conference…as I stated, I’ve asked countless fans of different Big 12 schools to please point me to what these actions were and I come up with nothing…just skewed perception.  How did Texas’s one vote in the Big 12 become a 51% majority share?  What was it specifically that Texas did that caused all of this ruckus?  “Greed and arrogance.”

 The Fightin’ Texas Aggies…

   So now Texas A&M has shared its intentions to leave the conference and subsequently filed its official application with the SEC for acceptance.  To date, the SEC Presidents all voted to accept TAMU as its thirteenth member with the condition that it can get indemnification from legal actions via waivers from the Big 12 Conference and its individual member schools.  Right now, the only schools willing to sign the waiver are Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas which has created a state of limbo for Texas A&M…stuck between its exit from the Big 12 and its entry into the SEC.  This will be interesting to watch play out as the only possible inevitabilities are either the SEC drops the condition (exposing itself to immense potential damages as it’s a pretty close book tortious interference case as Loftin himself stated that the SEC and TAMU were talking in January), TAMU indemnifies the SEC (putting all the exposure on them), TAMU/other Big 12 members are able to convince the holdouts to sign the waivers, or the Big 12 dissolves around the smaller team and they lose standing.  The problem is, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri, and potentially Texas Tech all have an enormous amount of money to lose from the disintegration of the Big 12 and it is very much in their self-interest to keep the Big 12 from falling apart (the presumption once TAMU leaves).  Self-interest…it’s a funny word.  TAMU fans are absolutely livid and casting aspersions against all its former conference mates (which I understand) saying that TAMU has to act in its own self-interest by going to the SEC.  However, they get very upset with these schools for having the gall to fight for their own self-interests and according to many of them, it was Texas acting in its own self-interest that started this whole thing.  [opinion] Nebraska had a lot of similar things to say…it’s funny to me when every school but Texas acts in its self-interest, it is clearly understandable but when Texas does, it’s greed and arrogance.  Irony, I suppose, is lost on many. [/opinion]

   Regarding the Aggies inevitable move the SEC, I have a lot of opinions on that and every one of them is largely conjecture.  [this is all very shaded opinion] Obviously, I find it a bit silly to presume that moving conferences from two bullies to seven bullies is going to have the desired outcome Aggies are looking for.  They have been in a play nice conference where most teams play above board (TAMU and OU’s history notwithstanding) and generally are supported by nice people.  They are entering the snake pit with schools that play dirty…and I mean really dirty.  When $200,000 for a quarterback for one year doesn’t actually get you your guy (Mississippi State and Cameron Newton), you better be ready to get dirty and I don’t believe TAMU is adequately equipped for it right now.  Believe me, as a secondary Aggie fan with lots of close family that are tied to TAMU, nothing would make me happier than a representative from the state of Texas to go humble the SEC.  Unfortunately…well, you know.  TAMU fans believe that the mere act of moving into the conference will raise their programs by drawing the best recruits in Texas, giving them more exposure, and more money.  Is all that possible?  Anything is.  Do I believe a school that defines itself as a sleeping giant when it hasn’t finished in the top 5 since my Father was 1 year old or a national championship since Hitler was lunching in Warsaw (and whose primary modern success was a ten year run feasting on the worst Texas decade in history and the SWC leftovers) can be a bit delusional about its own prowess?  Yes.  TAMU fans relish their identity as the neglected for the spoiled brother, hard-working, misunderstood and blue-collar image but the fact of the matter is, results are important. 

   Yes, I saw it live when Quentin Coryatt nearly murdered a TCU WR, I saw it when Bucky Richardson embarrassed BYU in the Holiday Bowl (in what was probably TAMU’s last impressive bowl win) in 1990 and I saw the Wrecking Crew beat back Bo Jackson in the Cotton Bowl.  But the fact of the matter is, that was all a long time ago and is all meaningless compared to even the last five years of Texas and Oklahoma’s accomplishments.  TAMU has beaten Texas a few times in the last decade, shocked Oklahoma twice since 2000, and won an exciting 9-6 game against Nebraska…but they have yet to prove they are ready for the national stage or the level of play in the SEC.  Every time they’ve gotten there in recent history, they have gotten absolutely housed.  But it can all turn around, I do not deny that.  A school of Texas A&M’s size, resources, location, phenomenal gameday experience, and enthusiastic following can absolutely turn it around but at a certain point after saying those words over and over, creating false time frames to measure yourself and improve your self-image…you have to look yourself in the mirror, the 1-9 bowl record in the Big 12 and 13-19 bowl record overall and say were those ten years the norm or were they an anomaly?  My entire point has been perhaps it will be a good move, no one can say with certainty but escaping a conference you couldn’t really compete in for the last 12 or so years to go to the only conference with bigger bullies in order to get the attention/”brand boost” and finally prove to Texas you can “control your own destiny” is the definition of myopia.  Does anyone think that Alabama, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, and Auburn are NOT going to act in their own self-interest?  Obviously not, since they are all taking home millions in unshared revenues off their third tier rights.  Aggies are incredibly excited about this as evidenced by the recharged energy around the program, sold out season tickets for 2012, etc… so who is Texas to try and stand in their way?  They shouldn’t and I believe they haven’t made a concerted effort to do so. [/this has all been very shaded opinion]  Go forth and prosper but let’s be honest about why.

   Some believe it is escaping the instability of the conference.  What causes the perception of instability more…a team selling its third tier rights as many teams around the country have done…even in the Big 12?  Or perhaps the teams running from the instability are actually causing the instability.  Ever heard of a bank run?  Many Husker and Aggie fans keep repeating the mantra: “We just don’t know what Texas is going to do because they won’t commit to the Big 12 so we want to secure a chair at the big boy table before the music stops.”  And yet, it is Texas who remains the only school that is still standing here, holding together the conference as best it can.

 

Post 2 to Follow…the topic will be why Oklahoma is as powerful as they have ever been and how Larry Scott, Jim Delaney, and Mike Slive are the real bad guys behind all this chaos.