Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit?
Anywhere he wants. Isn't that right, Texas Longhorns?
In the ongoing soap opera of college football conference upheavel, Texas has decided to remain put in the new Big 12. As a result, the Longhorns, using the possibility of moving to the Pac-10 in a 16-team super conference as leverage, got everything it wanted. In other words, money. And Texas Tech fans are slightly miffed.
Texas president Bill Powers informed the Big 12 Monday afternoon the Longhorns were not going to the Pac-10 and were staying put. Since the Pac-10 invitation to Oklahoma, Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M was contingent on Texas going, then no one was going.
The Longhorns were swayed by lucrative TV possibilities, which should enrich the remaining 10 teams since Nebraska and Colorado are bolting, but none more so than Texas.
The other key was Texas A&M. The school quickly followed with a statement from president R. Bowen Loftin, saying that the Aggies would continue as members of the Big 12. Loftin said the survival of the Big 12 was the preferred choice for himself and athletic director Bill Byrne. A&M was courted heavily by the Southeastern Conference, and could have gone that direction.
A key factor was a long-term TV deal initiated by beleagured Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and unveiled Sunday. With help from current league partners Fox Sports Net and ABC/ESPN, the deal will enable most schools to double their revenue. Terms were expected to be revealed by Beebe Tuesday.
But the key component was to pacify Texas, and that sure happened. It will allow Texas to continue its long-held goal of its own TV network. With the network, Texas could make upward of $25 million annually in TV revenue. Big 12 schools each make between $7 million and $12 million in revenue now.
This was key, make no mistake. Texas got everything it wanted. While the Pac-10 TV contract would be very lucrative, the conference was not going to allow Texas to have its own network. Meanwhile, the Big 12 and Beebe were willing to wear a dog collar and puppet strings in public to keep the Longhorns -- and keep the conference alive.
Oklahoma and A&M, which has battled debt problems in its athletic department, could earn about $20 million. Other schools in the conference will make less under the plan, but more than they are currently making.
And that's what has some Tech folks steamed. The Red Raiders are being lumped in the TV revenue pot of about $14 million annually with Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, et al. And they don't feel they should. And they shouldn't.
Tech should earn somewhere between what Oklahoma and the rest of the confernece receives. This is a school that's been to 10 straight bowl games. As far as TV ratings, they've been exceptionally high, all things considered. Look at the epic Texas game in 2008 and last year's Alamo Bowl game with Michigan State.
The Tech Board of Regents meets this afternoon to likely rubber-stamp its commitment to the Big 12. What other options does Tech have?
Tech wasn't getting an invitation to the Pac-10 without Texas, OU and OSU. The Pac-10 presidents would never agree to solely invite Tech.
Join the SEC?The SEC, to my knowledge, has not shown the slightest bit of interest in Tech.
Seek membership to the Mountain West or Conference USA? That's stupid. Throw away millions and a spot in a BCS conference.
No doubt, the other schools cowed down to Bevo, pun intended. Perhaps Tech can play some kind of hardball with Beebe and the Big 12 to get a more weighted share of TV revenue. To be lumped with K-State, Iowa State and Baylor, based on what Tech has done and the attraction it has been the last decade, is ridiculous.
Tech doesn't have a whole lot of leverage, but if Chancellor Kent Hance and President Guy Bailey and the board of regents have any kind of backbone, they will inform Beebe that Tech's portion, based on ratings and record, is unacceptable. Take it public. Make it nasty, but don't just bend over and take it.
Powers confirmed UT's decision to Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who had seemed poised to deliver Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – and possibly Texas A&M – to the Pac-10, creating a 16-team superconference that would transform college athletics. Soon after, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State announced they were also remaining in the Big 12. Texas Tech will stay and indicated it will issue a statement today. Texas canceled a special board of regents meeting scheduled for today.
"We are committed to the Big 12 and its success today and into the future," the statement read in part.
That ensured that Colorado (Pac-10) and Nebraska (Big Ten) would be the only defections from the Big 12, losses the league could endure.
A key factor was a long-term TV deal initiated by Beebe and unveiled Sunday. With help from current league partners Fox Sports Net and ABC/ESPN, the deal will enable most schools to double their revenue. Terms were expected to be revealed by Beebe today.
But one key component in the Big 12 proposal allowed Texas to keep alive hopes for its own TV network, viewed as an important project by athletic director DeLoss Dodds. With the network, Texas could make upward of $25 million annually in conference revenue, multiple sources familiar with the plan said. Big 12 schools each make between $7 million and $12 million in revenue now.
Schools such as Oklahoma and A&M, which has battled debt problems in its athletic department, could earn about $20 million. Other schools in the conference will make less under the plan, but more than they are currently making.
The Fox cable rights deal with the Big 12 expires in 2012, but ESPN/ABC is locked in until 2016. Both networks reacted with concern to Pac-10 plans to add major schools in Texas and Oklahoma and place them on a conference TV network, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation. The move also could have set off a chain reaction of college realignment that could have dramatically changed the landscape. Much of the A&M fan base was electrified about a bid to the Southeastern Conference and a separate identity from rival Texas.
A key barometer was A&M regent and Aggies football legend Gene Stallings, who had been among those vocally wondering if the Aggies should take a step away from Texas.
In a phone conversation just before noon Monday, Stallings said he liked the idea of a 10-team Big 12.
"First of all, if I had my druthers I would wish that the conference did not disband," said Stallings, who played for Bear Bryant at A&M and won a national title at Alabama as head coach.
"I would really hate to see A&M and its rivalries with Texas and Texas Tech and Oklahoma go away. I hated to see the Southwest Conference disband. I'm the sort of person who holds on to old values."
Another key conference voice weighed in during the afternoon – Dallas oilman and financier T. Boone Pickens, whose $400 million in donations have transformed Oklahoma State. He was optimistic after giving a talk in Austin and said he liked the idea of a lean Big 12.
"I don't want to go off and leave Iowa State, Kansas State or Baylor," Pickens said. "The Pac-10 is not that interesting. I'd rather trim the conference. I don't care if Nebraska leaves, I have no love for them. And I'd just as soon Missouri leave, and Colorado kind of fell in the same category."