Big 12 Lives - But Still Has a Texas Problem

By at June 15, 2010 | 8:45 AM | Print

With bluffs and threats and proverbially shaking fists, Texas tried to bully the Big 12 South into bending to its will and heading to the Pac-10. Or so it seemed.

Master! The Big 12! It’s alive!

It’ll be Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, of all people, who inadvertently helped save the league. His refusal to play the “UT says” game – and his keen understanding of just how awry “Pac-16” travel schedules could get – was the lone stumbling block in the plan of Texas President Bill Powers, a California-Berkeley graduate – to send Dust Bowl football on the last train for the coast.

That stumbling block bought some key people – whom ESPN says you’ll never know- enough time to cobble together a weird, long-term TV deal – that, as of this hour, has remained oddly secret – that satisfied UT enough to make the Horns’ final demands to the Pac-10 utterly unreasonable.

Long story short: The TV, BCS and NCAA people weren’t ready for interstellar war and the Congressional snooping that was sure to come with it. Weren’t ready They pulled Texas back from the brink, intervened on the behalf of the hapless Dan Beebe and saved a lot of butts.

And Nebraska slipped out of one hot mess of a league just in time.

It’s going to take years to truly unravel what happened over the last several months.

Because seems to have funneled its coverage through the reporter with the chattiest source, you’ve primarily heard UT’s side of the story. And what a side of beef it is! Somehow, while Texas flirted with three different conferences – the Pac-10, the Big Ten and SEC – while stringing along its Big 12, and it remained a steadfast savior, the Boss Horn.

Garbage. Until Monday, the Longhorns appeared willing to drag a coalition of the half-willing to the Pac-10. It would have been, over time, a disaster. To repeat: Texas was courting its own demise trucking itself to a league that has been, and will continue to be, irrelevant to the East Coast unless USC’s on the tube.

The “savior” will now get to own and control its Longhorn Sports Network while Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri lick cowboy boots. They’ll be thankful, of course – what choice do they have? – but they’ll be hired hands on UT‘s ranch.

A&M survived a slew of Texas threats but stood firm, using a threat of its own: The SEC. The Aggies’ surely intended to make the leap. Their intent staved off the Pac-10’s power play.

If you wanted to know what scares Texas, the Aggies unloaded the kryptonite. If Texas is Sentenza il brutto, the SEC is Tuco il cattivo. If the A&M gave the keys of Texas high school football to the SEC and its greasy palms, UT could no longer so easily usher in its preferred prospects on Junior Day and pressure them into committing. You don’t want a guy like Nick Saban sniffing around the DFW Metroplex and Houston, selling kids on the best football conference in the nation (which it still is).

But A&M’s bluff had a lot more bite than UT’s threat to disavow College Station. An encroachment from the east by the SEC, coupled with an inevitable partnership with the West, would have put Texas in a kind of checkmate. Far from consolidating its power from Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, the two moves combined would have eroded what makes Texas…Texas.

Now, the Longhorns don’t turn in to the Roman Empire, don’t erode the traditional Pac-10 brand and maintain a Midwestern presence.

Minus Nebraska, of course.

The Big 12’s survival will cause some NU fans to glance back at a league that may dump its conference title game and create a round-robin scheduling format that would have allowed the Huskers to renew their Oklahoma rivalry.

Maybe they‘ll ask: If we could trade places with Missouri right this second – would we do it?

(And Mizzou says: Sure!)

But Nebraska should be thrilled with its choice.

The “Texas problem” is never going away. Not for the Big 12, not for Beebe – who will try to jump ship at the first sign of shore – and, perhaps worst of all, not for Texas, whose appetite is insatiable and antithetical, frankly, to good sense. The Horns’ reaction to the mere prospect of realignment was both childish and hypocritical, an impulse of jealousy and base greed. Think Jett Rink. Or Hud. The efficiency with which UT controlled and spun the story through the media is startling. Lone Star state politics is a cutthroat game in its own right.

And mark these words: Texas will test the open market again – with its Longhorns Sports Network firmly in place – and present itself to whichever conference is willing to bend its rules to fit UT under the umbrella.

Don’t forget this little nugget from the Denver Post, which quoted an exasperated Pac-10 negotiator: “At the 11th hour, after months of telling us they understand the TV rights, they're trying to pull a fast one on the verge of sealing the deal in the regents meeting. They want a better revenue sharing deal and their own network. Those were points of principle. (The Pac-10) wants to treat everyone fairly. It's been that way for months of discussions."

M-o-n-t-h-s of discussions. Texas can and will flirt. Long-term TV deal or not.

So Nebraska needs to walk away. No regrets.

And in a decade, you’ll see why. NU will be in a coffee shop talking research with its new friends. The Big 12 will be in another barroom brawl. Texas will be standing on a table, looking to dive into the scrum, a broken bottle in one hoof, a money clip in another.

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