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…