Tag Archives: Big XII

A Sensible Way Forward For College Athletics During The Pandemic – Which They’ll NEVER Do

Clemson University quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a Heisman Trophy candidate and potential first overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft, tweeted this on Monday about the very real potential shutdown of college football because of the coronavirus:  

“People are at just as much, if not more [at] risk, if we don’t play. Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract Covid-19. Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/ their future and having to go back to that. Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football. Having a season also incentivize’s players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting Covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line. Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions. Let’s work together to create a situation where we can play the game that all of us love. Not divide and argue. There is a way forward”.  

Lawrence is not wrong – and I don’t disagree with him. There is a way, as Lawrence says, for colleges to positively advance their mission forward for athletes that, for the moment, does not include playing sports.  

There are a vast number of college athletes that, to paraphrase Lawrence, “will be sent home to situations that are not good for them.” For a good number of students, higher learning offers a functional community and, more importantly, a structure that they can’t get when they are not on campus accomplishing something that will constructively and positively move them forward towards better lives. In the case of on-campus athletes – especially the ones in sports that create great revenue for colleges – colleges have gone to great lengths to create this façade of athletes as students.  

The term “student-athlete” is a made-up term and concept coined in 1964 by Walter Byers, the first-ever executive director of the NCAA, to counter attempts to require universities to pay wages, salaries, or workers’ compensation. In the almost 60 years since, college athletics have succeeded in this aim, making staggering amounts of money in the process. This has been the ethic behind depriving millions of college athletes since any portion of that obscene monetary haul while at the same time making the flawed claim that “you can’t put a price on the college education they are getting”.  

Well, now is the perfect time for the NCAA and big time colleges and universities to put their money where their mouth is. Colleges are in a unique position to actually begin treating and dealing with these athletes as the first half of the term.  

If sports is not really an option for these athletes for the time being, then honor their scholarships. If it truly is safer on campus for athletes, like Lawrence claims, then let them stay on campus and reap the rewards of being in a “bubble” that best protects them during this uncertain and scary time during the pandemic, with access to health protocols and medical care they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford. Let them work out and stay in the shape and condition required for their sport (health and safety protocols allowing) when it is possible to carry on.  

Until then, the operative two words for these colleges should be “student” and “scholarship”. For the time being and despite the ethic the NCAA and big time colleges have pushed for over half a century, these athletes can’t really be “athletes” right now. So emphasize that they are there on a “scholarship” – which the last time I checked meant school (you know, college’s PRIMARY mission). Emphasize their education and encourage them to take as many classes as they can (virtually or otherwise according to health and safety protocols) in the time they clearly now have, and – heaven help – work towards a degree.  

These colleges and universities with big time multi-million dollar athletics claim they care about their athletes, and that you can’t put a price on a college education. Fine. Then right now make more of a priority out of helping your “student-athletes” learn something else substantive other that football, basketball, etc…  

…Of course, you as well as I know that the member schools of the Pac-12, Big-12, Big-10, SEC, and ACC will never do this. It makes way too much sense!  

Texas A&M Has To Go For It’s Own Good

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Rick Parry gave a Republican Party motivational speech in Dallas, and for whatever reason went off the fanatical right-wing track on a tangent to declare unequivocally that his alma mater, Texas A&M, would join the Southeast Conference. I’m not cynical enough to believe that with that statement the school was pushed into acting quickly now that their secret backroom negotiations were out, but I’m sure it didn’t help. Nonetheless, here we are three days later and the Division-I college football landscape has experienced another major tectonic shift, with it about to get worse over the coming year.


Don’t listen to the status quo apologists on the sports networks preaching that Texas A&M’s imminent move from the “Big XII” [insert appropriate snide misnomer here] to the SEC is motivated by ego. The move is motivated by what it’s always motivated by; money. And in this case, rightfully so.


The Big XII – which with this move will be reduced to just nine teams, making the name of this conference all the more asinine – is the only Division-I conference in which the revenue is not equally shared. Every other team in the conference is guaranteed $9 million dollars per year, even the teams that have made up this conference since its inception, while Texas gets $22 million.


The college football apologists will argue that Texas is deserving of this unbalanced revenue distribution because they are the Big Dog in the conference, the powerhouse athletic program in the pack. With the possible exception of Oklahoma, that may be true, but the other conferences in top-flight college football have their powerhouses (the Big Ten has Ohio State and Michigan, the SEC has Alabama and Florida, the Pac 12 has USC, the ACC has Miami and Florida State, the Mountain West has BYU, The WAC has Boise State), yet those conferences have more equitable monetary distribution.


No wonder Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten. Along with Oklahoma the Cornhuskers are an original member of the Big XII – and certainly nobody is going to argue that either the Sooners or the ‘Huskers’ athletic record takes a backseat to the ‘Horns – yet these two national powerhouses and the other six teams that made up the original Big 8 gladly accepted Texas (along with Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech) into their conference 15 years ago after the embarrassing collapse of the Southwest Conference only to be treated like second-class citizens.


It’s not as if nobody wanted to see Nebraska or Oklahoma before Texas joined. Before Texas joined the Sooners and Cornhuskers annually played in the best rivalry game in college football. To accommodate Texas and their unfair demands, Oklahoma and Nebraska were split up into different divisions, marginalizing their annual war to once every three years. When the economic distribution became untenable, Nebraska bolted for greener yet fairer pastures, eliminating the rivalry entirely.


Texas A&M doesn’t need Texas. TEXAS NEEDS TEXAS A&M! Texas’ historical reputation as a national force has been predicated on ruling a conference – any conference – with somebody to beat up on. It’s one thing to beat up on your conference foes on the field (A&M can live with that; it gives them something to strive for competitively and makes for a higher level of play), but a 5-7 team like they were last season that still insists on its overwhelming cut of the revenue is farcical. Under those circumstances, it’s not really hard to understand why Rice, SMU, Houston, Arkansas, and TCU couldn’t rid themselves of Texas fast enough.


Now the breakup of another conference that Texas is in is unfolding before our very eyes. With the loss of Nebraska and Colorado (to the Pac 12) the Big XII is currently down to ten teams, losing their status as a superconference and, even more importantly monetarily, their championship game. Yet they still maintain the misnomer “Big XII”, an illusion they must maintain to hopefully raid other conferences’ teams in the future to provide newer pigeons for Texas and get back to superconference status. And the conference commissioner, Dan Beebe, and its member athletic directors and presidents continue to genuflect at the Longhorns’ alter, under the mistaken belief that in order for their athletic programs to survive they need Texas. The reality is that Texas needs a conference to rule more than the Big XII – or any other conference for that matter – needs Texas, because if Texas was as powerful and influential as they think they are, then they would give up the illusion of being in a conference and just join Notre Dame as an independent…


…Which we all know they won’t do.


Is the move good for Texas A&M? Who really knows? I don’t like the SEC any more than I like Texas, but at least the Aggies will get revenue equity. Plus with the addition of A&M, the SEC is unbalance and will need to find at least one and maybe three new members to attain megaconference status (something I was hoping for the Pac 12 last year, but I digress). Are Clemson, Florida State and Missouri soon to follow? And what will the other conferences do to maintain their relevance? It looks like the free-for-all we all expected in 2010 will happen sometime in the next year.


I for one am glad to see that the Big XII is now in survival mode. If they continue to believe that their very existence is tied to Texas and their unfair revenue slice of the pie, then in the long run they will go the way of the dodo – and the SWC (the hitch they should hook themselves to is Oklahomas, but the Sooners will be fine wherever they land because, well, they’re the Sooners). Right now, Texas is like the sibling in the house that has joined a street gang, and the only way to get rid of him is to sell the house from underneath him…