Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why salute the University of Texas?

Monday night, it was learned that the University of Texas would be staying in the Big 12 conference. This ended weeks of speculation, concern, and plain old nervousness for those connected with, what looked to be, a dying conference.

On Tuesday, headlines abound that Texas--and I'm paraphrasing here--"saved college football as we know it."


So if Texas had gone elsewhere, would the football have become round? Would the players revert to leather helmets, or perhaps none at all?

Oh, you mean the landscape of college football....NOW, I see what you mean.

Before I jump on board with that line of thinking, it should also be pointed out that Texas was in position to destroy that very landscape, and they would have done so in their own best interest.

Having spent a couple years in the Lone Star State, I saw, first hand, the power of Longhorn football. At the time, they weren't close to being what they are today, and that is a national title contender. Still, Longhorn fans, and boosters, are everywhere. Suffice to say, support for the program is quite healthy, in every corner of the state.

Texas held all the control in this recent game of conference musical chairs. They had their hand on the volume knob, and they were going to decide not just their fate, but the fate of other member institutions, which in turn, would have affected the conference. And by affect, I mean, it would have flat-lined if they left.

Don't think for a second, though, that they would have stayed had the money been higher elsewhere. They leveraged the future of one conference against the existence of another, and for its own benefit. There is a Longhorns TV network now? That network will pay the school $3-5 million per year? Oh, and now there is a new Big 12 TV package in the works, where the Longhorns will bring in $20-25 million per year. The same goes for Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The rest of the Big 12 schools will get less.

At the end of all this, it wasn't Texas' nobility that allowed the Big 12 to survive. It was the Big 12's fight for survival that kept the conference together (in spite of losing Nebraska and Colorado over the next 2 years).

Is there anything noble in Texas staying in the Big 12? No. Should they be applauded? No. Is the Big 12 thankful? Sure. Can Texas be trusted when this current TV deal expires? Probably not.

In this instance, as is the case more often than not in college athletics, the dollar spoke the loudest.

Mike Solarte

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