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Adding Texas: The Texas Tech Dilemma

Submitted by on June 4, 2010221 Comments

Yesterday, we heard news that basically signaled the impending destruction of the Big XII.  The Pac-10 was “on the verge” of issuing invitations to Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, creating the first 16-team superconference, and getting out ahead of the Big Ten in expansion.

And in response, I wrote why Texas wouldn’t be like to take them up on that offer.  There have been consistent rumors swirling of Texas getting an invitation to the Big Ten–not quite as strong as the whispers linking Nebraska or Missouri or Rutgers, but the general consensus is that the Big Ten would love to land arguable the biggest fish in the pond. And for Texas, well, there are about 15 million reasons why the Big Ten offers a better package than the Pac-10

But now, it seems the biggest player in Texas-to-the-Big-Ten isn’t Texas. It’s not Jim Delany, either. No, not Joe Paterno, who presumably still wants that eastern rival.  It’s the Texas state legislature.  Lost yet?  Let me explain:

Last night, the Columbus Dispatch, citing “right-to-know” laws, managed to get their hands on a series of emails exchanged between Ohio State’s president, E. Gordon Gee, and the Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delany.  As I suggested yesterday, they echo a willingness for Texas to join the Big Ten, and the Big Ten’s desire to hit a home run in expansion.

“We are fast-tracking it but need to know the $ and observe contracts,” Delany wrote. “Also need to make sure we leverage this to increase chances of hr additions. Finally double chess # of moving parts including not harming brand as we executy.”

And what would harm the Big Ten about adding Texas?  Having to bring along their red-headed stepbrother, Texas Tech.

Don Hale, Texas’ vice president for public affairs, said he did not think the three Texas schools had a legal commitment to be in the same conference. But he said the Texas Legislature may apply pressure for that to happen.

“I think it’s a political issue,” he said today. “Because they’re state institutions, I think the concern is that one can’t move without the others.”

In another email, the Ohio State president wrote that Texas would love to hear from the Big Ten, but that the albatross of Texas Tech looms large:

“I did speak with Bill Powers [the President] at Texas, who would welcome a call [but] say they have a ‘Tech’ problem,” Gee wrote in an e-mail

It’s not too hard to decipher that comment.  If indeed Texas Tech is tied to A&M and Texas, the Big Ten would likely give up their pursuit of the Longhorns.

Be sure to note: the problem is not adding Texas A&M.  The Aggies offer a strong academic profile–they’re ranked #61 in US News & World’s ranking of the nation’s top universities, tied with Minnesota and a just notch below Ohio State, and would surely welcome an invitation to the CIC.  They also have strong programs in a number of sports, and have finished in the top 20 of the Director’s Cup standings the last three years.  Sure, the football team hasn’t finished the season ranked since 1999, but they’ve reached both the NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournament in each of the last five years.  They’re a baseball powerhouse, and have strong track and field, softball, and golf programs.  Sure, Texas A&M wouldn’t bring in much that Texas didn’t–but if those two are a package deal, it’s one that Big Ten has to take.  Hell, on their own, A&M offers enough that they’d be worth adding for the SEC or Big Ten.

So it all comes down to whether the Big Ten would jump on the Texas Tech grenade.  Unfortunately, there is very little to like about that school, from our conference’s perspective.  I’m sure I’ll get some angry TTU students complaining, but academically, they don’t compare to the rest of the conference.  Ranked a “Tier 3″ school, Texas Tech does not boast a strong academic profile.  Unlike the other two big state schools, they’re not a member of the Association of American Universities, which indicates a college with strong research programs.  Already, they don’t fit in to the Big Ten brand.

And they don’t exactly boast the kind of athletics that would blow you away.  Other than women’s cross country and men’s outdoor track, Texas Tech hasn’t won a single Big XII championship in any sport since 2000, and boast one NCAA championship, women’s basketball in 1993, in their entire athletic history.  Though the football program had a couple nice seasons under Mike Leach, they don’t exactly boast a superior track record.  In basketball, they’ve made the NCAA tournament twice in the past decade, but haven’t continued that success since Bob Knight retired.

Texas Tech wouldn’t have made the Big XII if it wasn’t for political pressure, and, well, there’s a reason why.  It’s the very inclusion of Texas Tech in this discussion that makes these rumors so palpable: not having to take this to the Texas legislature speeds up the process considerably.

In short, there isn’t a single redeeming quality about Texas Tech.  And for the Big Ten, adding Texas simply isn’t worth ruining their academic reputation if they have to bring along Tech.  The Pac-10 can afford to bring along a school like Tech, since they don’t offer the academic consortium as the Big Ten.  Though schools like Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC, and Washington are among the top 50 in the country, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, and Washington all rank in the 100s.  Oregon State, like Texas Tech, is a tier three university.  In short, they’re not harming their brand at all.  That’s proven by the fact that they’re also reportedly set to offer Oklahoma State (tier 3) and Oklahoma (#102) in this batch of potential expansion.

So in the and, we’re left with three question. the Pac-10′s offer to Texas Tech conditional on bringing along Texas and A&M?

If indeed those three are the package deal as described earlier, it makes sense to offer all three at the same time.  But what if Texas and A&M are going to play it slow?  There are rumors of SEC showing interest in Texas A&M, and that the university is reciprocating.  Texas has, obviously, been courted by the Big Ten.  If it all fell through, and the state of Texas was to let those three schools split up, would the Pac-10 be willing to find themselves stuck with one ugly consolation prize just to say that they’d expanded into Texas?  Or would all 6 of these schools need to “sign on” before the invitations are officially offered?

Will the State of Texas let it happen?

We’ve thought of this expansion in terms of football, conference commissioners, and university presidents, but state governments have a role to play as well, especially as it concerns Texas.  Looking at the potential revenue that would go to its flagship university, can the state pass up on $25 million–roughly the difference in television revenue between what Texas makes now and what it could, by 2015, if it joins the Big Ten?  A&M would be set to pick up close to $15 million by joining the SEC, as well.  Lastly, we can all joke about the backwards culture in Texas, too, but the research opportunities that the state would open up by Texas and A&M joining the CIC could be substantial as well.

If those three don’t split up, can the Big XII be salvaged?

If Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech are indeed a package deal, them joining the Pac-10 is no done deal.  If the proposed Pac-16 becomes just the potential Pac-13, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Oklahoma and Oklahoma State passing up on the invitation.  For Colorado, it would seem that the Pac-10 is where they truly belong, but for the Oklahoma schools, staying put might make the most sense.  Even if the Big Ten snags Nebraska and Missouri, the Big XII could jump on TCU and get back to 10 teams.

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