An Independent Texas
August 18, 2016 by Jean Neuberger • Print Story •
There's a lot of talk over who should join the Big 12.
BYU. Houston. Cincinnati. Memphis. Tulane. East Carolina. UConn. San Diego State. Colorado State. The fact is, no matter who the Big 12 chooses, the conference is slipping. And there's really only one solution.
The University of Texas needs to leave the Big 12 and go independent.
No matter what conference they belong in, Texas wants to call all of the shots and take the biggest financial piece of the pie. They did this in the former Southwest Conference, which in turn sparked the first move of the Power Five expansion. Frank Broyles, who was athletic director at Arkansas, saw the writing on the wall in the late 80s. Arkansas finished the decade on a roll, winning the SWC football titles in '88 and '89, going to the College World Series in '87 and '89 and reaching basketball's Final Four in 1990. It was then that Broyles started engineering the transition of the Razorbacks to the SEC, successfully becoming the 11th conference member.
Fast forward to the breakup of the SWC that followed shortly after Arkansas's move to the SEC. Four Texas teams move into the Big 12 and Texas, though new to the party, immediately starts throwing their considerable weight around. Other member schools were a bit irked at what was going on and, two decades later, Tom Osborne starts the domino effect again, pulling original member Nebraska out and into the Big Ten. Colorado jumped to the Pac-12 and Texas A&M and Missouri leaped to the SEC.
Granted, Texas had an opportunity to head to the Pac-12 and take a few of their Big 12 brethren, including Oklahoma, with them. But losing their network, along with the inability to sit at the head of the conference table, had them rallying to keep the Big 12 alive.
That same network that kept Texas in the Big 12 seems to be destroying it at the seams.
There's no doubt, while LHN has failed for ESPN, the SEC Network has been a tremendous success. The Big 12 Network started slow but has done well ever since. The ACC is set to join the ranks in 2019 with their own ESPN-based channel. The Big 12 has no network; therefore less exposure, less viewership and less money.
It's why Oklahoma fans have been pushing for an option to the SEC. That, and the ability to gain some pride back that OU President David Boren took from them when he sold the Sooners soul to Austin in the last realignment sweepstakes. Boren, who seems to be happy working with Texas, reminds me of Kevin Bacon in Animal House, screaming "All is Well" in the middle of the parade chaos. Make no mistake, if the Big 12 doesn't find a network solution soon, Oklahoma will try and get out, which means Boone Pickens and OSU won't be far behind.
So, even if you take BYU, or Houston, or Cincy (Personally, I'd take Colorado State with their enrollment, stadium expansion, Denver market and New Belgium brewery), it doesn't appear that the conference will get a network, just a football title game. The member schools will start falling further behind in revenues and exposure, forcing a long-term depression in Big 12 athletics.
There's only one way to fix it: Texas has to go on its own, where they can survive, given their vast financial resources and lack of Steve Patterson running things. The Big 12 needs to land quality teams with big markets and athletic success and form a network as soon as possible, allowing for the chance to stay at the main table.
Otherwise, the Power Five becomes the Power Four. Frankly, 16-team conferences just seem a little too big.