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Texas notes

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 11, 2010, 08:29

From InsideTexas. Please don't copy & paste this anywhere.


It was a week in which the college football landscape not only began to change but, in all probability, shifted for the remainder of our lives. It was also a week where nearly every media outlet referenced source after source who was "˜close to the situation', in retrospect some obviously closer than others. Late Thursday afternoon, I conferred with a couple of members of the Austin media -- and each of us had different stories (based on what trusted sources had told us). One person had Texas going to the Big Ten, another to the SEC and another to the Pac-10.

It was a week where I leaned very heavily on a trusted source with longstanding ties with the UT Men's Athletic Department that I tap only on special occasions. In such a fluid and highly-charged atmosphere this week, I had to ask myself -- on several occasions -- if I trusted my source. The answer was always "˜yes'. Still, you cross your fingers each time you assign your own name to a national story.

According to my source, higher-ups in the Texas Men's Athletics Department pushed to maintain the structure of the Big 12 -- and, in fact, expected the league to remain intact -- until just a couple of days before the first domino fell with Nebraska's Big Ten plans reported on Wednesday and Colorado's announcement Thursday that the Buffs were jumping ship. Several members of the UT brass simply did not believe Missouri ever had enough clout to join the Big Ten independently (which may still hold true), our source said, and that Nebraska -- despite its loyal fan base -- could not command the national television to further the Big Ten's expansion plans (which appears not to be true with the Big Ten and Huskers expected to announce their marriage later today).

There were "a few days when nobody knew for sure what was going to happen," our source said, and that uncertainty stemmed, in part, from "the idea that Notre Dame might be warming toward joining the Big Ten. From what I was hearing, Notre Dame would have insisted that the Big Ten not invite additional teams -- and that would have slammed the door on Nebraska." The Big Ten, though, is expected to continue to court Notre Dame as 13th, 14th, 15th or 16th team, my source said.

When the landscape shifted late Wednesday, UT and A&M athletics department officials met on Thursday morning, in part, to discuss the viability of the Big 12. UT officials specifically wanted to keep intact the "natural, in-state rivalries and traditional match-ups that had been in place for decades," our source said.

But Aggie officials, pushed by the likes of Regent Gene Stallings (an A&M grad and former Aggie head football coach who also spent a good deal of time in the SEC as head coach at Alabama), want to continue to explore the option of a move to the SEC rather than the Pac-10. An A&M source still rates the Pac-10 as the "slight leader" but don't underestimate the desire of certain Aggies, even those in positions of prominence, to allow the emotion of seemingly "˜sticking it' to t.u., or at least attempting to get out of UT's immense shadow, affect their decision-making. There's also that huge budget deficit to consider, meaning that if A&M officials believe the SEC is the better future financial package, they may have to take it due to the financial mismanagement of the past.

So headed into the weekend, Oklahoma and Texas are "more joined at the hip" than Texas and A&M right now. Added our source: "(Texas) Tech will follow the Longhorns, and Oklahoma State will follow the Sooners (into a new league)." Another source close to the Texas athletics department said both Stanford and Cal have voiced concerns about "lesser" academic institutions (as they view the one in Lubbock) being allowed into the Pac-10 but those concerns do not appear to have derailed the process of adding these "lesser" institutions. Ultimately, the almighty dollar won out.

Aggie officials have reportedly said they need a few days to consider their options, which would push their decision into next week. (Baylor, for all intents and purposes, is out of the equation unless A&M decides on the SEC or the Big 12 against all odds remains intact, after Colorado, weary of the legislative forces that thrust Baylor into the Big 12 in the 90s, preempted anything the Texas legislature could do this time around to compel the Pac-10 to make a choice between the two schools. Expect that Baylor officials and sympathetic lawmakers will continue to make noise about blocking a potential move of the state's big three programs, but as we reported earlier this week, the political power and will is simply not there for the Bears to get another free ride.)

While Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have agreed, in principle, to align with current members of the Pac-10, no formal announcement from the group, even before A&M's foot-dragging, was expected until after Nebraska makes official its anticipated move to the Big Ten on Friday afternoon. Now, those four schools are expected to give the Aggies some deliberation time, but A&M's Pac-10 invite could be in jeopardy if that timeframe is extended past early next week.

Is it possible that, in the meantime, Texas would consider an SEC invite? Our source confirmed that the SEC has had "informal" conversations with Texas officials about joining its league but is absolutely convinced Texas will not look east."¨"¨"The UT faculty would have a s---storm if Texas joined the SEC," our source said, citing the relatively poor academic track record of its member institutions. Only two SEC universities (Vanderbilt, Florida) are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, designating the top 63 research institutions in the country.

The other question is, is it possible that A&M's hesitance saves the Big 12? Perhaps. ESPN affiliate reported today that the remaining Big 12 schools asked the BCS yesterday if the league's automatic bid would remain if the conference only had 10 teams and the answer came back "yes". And given UT's public and private stance that saving the Big 12 is the school's first choice in this realignment roulette, tapping the brakes could allow the league to coalesce again. The Sooners, said, are on board. It's an unlikely outcome, but possible.

Our source believes it is "unlikely" A&M will eventually join the SEC, even though he concedes the SEC would "covet" a television presence in Texas. Said our source: "The Aggies only think they want to be in that league. You remember what Georgia and Arkansas did to A&M last year? And Georgia and Arkansas teams were not good."

If A&M was barely a .500 team in the Big 12, what makes it think it can compete in the SEC?"

I mentioned that a close A&M connection of mine thought joining the SEC would help A&M in recruiting. Once my source stopped laughing, he replied: "If A&M couldn't effectively recruit Texas while playing in-state schools, how is it going to improve recruiting if all of its conference games are against out-of-state teams? The thing that helps recruiting is when you start playing for championships. If A&M hasn't done that since Mack Brown's first year (1998), how are they going to do that in the SEC? Just look at Arkansas. How many championships have they won since joining the SEC? (Note: that would be none.) Now, Arkansas is trying to schedule games in Texas because it's recruiting in Texas has slipped since joining the SEC (in 1992)."

Obviously, there's been plenty of finger-pointing relative to the Big 12's potential unraveling. My source with longstanding ties to the Nebraska Men's Athletics Department likened Texas' "loyalist" stance to the Big 12 to a "teacher's pet who wanted to keep everybody from graduating." In other words, the insinuation is Texas' intent was inherently self-serving.

Conversely, Texas officials privately pointed to the Big 12 North's gradual drift toward mediocrity and irrelevance on the national football landscape. Longhorn brass privately observed that Big 12 South programs had made commitments toward expanding stadiums, improving facilities and beefing-up non-conference schedules to off-set the mitigating influence of the declining North division.

Texas "wasn't going to back off easily" from its goal of establishing its own multi-media network independent of the league's television contract, our source said.

Texas eyed, essentially, the same kind of television package that's been operative for several years in the SEC. For example, Florida netted a reported $10 million in 2009 in addition to its revenue share from the SEC. (Texas' revenue share from the Big 12 last season was reported at approximately $13 million.) Other Big 12 programs did not cater to the notion that Texas could forge its own network -- especially A&M.

"Some of them saw it as the rich getting richer," our source said. "And A&M knew it couldn't earn the millions in independent television revenue that Texas can get."

Meanwhile, the Pac-10 has never "warmed toward" the type of independent television contract that Texas envisions, our source said, but it's not "the deal-breaker. The TV contract that can come from this Pac-10 re-alignment will be unprecedented."

There remains "legitimate concerns" within the halls of Bellmont of the logistics of a "16-team conference that spans three time zones," our source said. The most likely scenario for an expanded Pac-10, according to our source, is to create two, eight-member divisions that would, in essence, function as separate conferences under the same television contract. There may not be a conference championship game, but there would at least be an attempt for the expanded league to garner two automatic BCS bowl bids. (Note: this is informed speculation from our source based on the information he has received not only from UT officials but also officials at affected programs. The logistics of a 16-member league will obviously be hammered out in subsequent months.)

Will the fall-out of conference re-alignment affect football recruiting for Texas? One of our sources believes that some sort of Pac-16 super-conference would cause Texas to lose ground to LSU in the Golden Triangle and the Houston area. Said our source: "Families of recruits from that area aren't going to want to fly to California, Oregon or Washington to watch their kids play ball. LSU already recruits that area hard, and they'll be able to get more kids to stay closer to home. LSU is licking its chops at the thought of Texas being spread halfway across the country." Bill Frisbie (Clendon Ross and Ross Lucksinger contributed to this report)



Thanks for posting that Jay

by hobbs, San Diego, Friday, June 11, 2010, 09:24 @ Jay

that read filled in a lot of the background holes that I didn't understand.


thanks for posting this

by HumanRobot @, Cybertron, Friday, June 11, 2010, 09:13 @ Jay

Meanwhile, the Pac-10 has never "warmed toward" the type of independent television contract that Texas envisions, our source said, but it's not "the deal-breaker. The TV contract that can come from this Pac-10 re-alignment will be unprecedented.

I'll really be interested to see if that ends up being the case. I have my doubts they'll get a much sweeter deal than the Big Ten, but we'll see.


footnote on Mizzou

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 11, 2010, 08:37 @ Jay

"Hey, we were just joking around with that whole Big 10 thing. We want to stay with you guys. Really, we do! Please don't leave!"

Forsee, Deaton address uncertainty

By Dave Matter

Posted June 10, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.

The first day of the UM System Board of Curators has wrapped up at Reynolds Alumni Center with no semblance of clarity on Missouri's future. Shortly before the board broke from its afternoon closed session, Chancellor Brady Deaton and System President Gary Forsee addressed reporters.

"Rest assured," Forsee said, "our Board of Curators, all of our administrators are on top of these issues."

Deaton said the board has been monitoring all the conference alignment developments but insisted his focus is preserving the Big 12.

"We feel very strong sitting on top of it and looking at all options for the conference as a whole," he said. "Missouri is very proud of what we've done with the Big 12. We've said that all along. And we continue to be. We're working hard to preserve that and strengthen it and move forward. That's where we are right now."

Asked point blank if Missouri has received an offer from the Big Ten, Deaton offered little.

"We've said all along we're making no comments on conference realignment," he said. "We're trying to have responsible discussions with our curators on these matters right now and watching what happens out there as the world goes on."

Asked if he was troubled by the way Missouri has been characterized as starting the conference game of musical chairs, Deaton changed his tone to defensive.

"You can sort of judge from the beginning to the end what's been perceived there," he said. "Missouri early on took the position we're proud members of the Big 12 and we're not going to speculate about conference realignments. And we appreciate the interest people have shown in the university. That's all we've ever said from the beginning to right now."

Then why all the angry finger pointing coming from some media outlets in the Big 12 South?

"Gosh, I would never begin to try and explain that," Deaton said. "I was going to call Bill and ask him."

Bill, as in Bill Powers, the president of Texas and chairman of the Big 12 board of directors. Deaton said he immediately called Powers when news broke that Colorado had officially left the Big 12 for the Pac-10, but as of 5:30 p.m., the two had not spoken.

Forsee reiterated Deaton's urgency on preserving the Big 12 and declined to address any questions touching on alignment speculation or offers or invitations from other conferences.

"We can't say it any more strongly and we continue to say it: We have been loyal members of this conference alignment, going back to the Missouri Valley, the configuration of the Big Six, the Big Eight, the Big 12," Forsee said. "There shouldn't be any question about where we have built our record, where we've built our legacy, where we've built everything, including the rivalries. To see sit here today and say what's going to happen to the Big 12, I don't think we have to justify our loyalty. That's been in place for 104 years."

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