Conference Realignment: OU & UT Talk with the Big 12; What is Texas Tech’s Value?

I don’t know that there was a ton of news this weekend, which I don’t necessarily think is a good thing. I’d like to hear rumors that Texas Tech is considering all options or that conferences are considering Texas Tech. I haven’t seen anything thus far.

That’s not to say that people aren’t at work, just not a ton of rumors. And it has been Texas Tech’s standard operating procedure to operate pretty quietly.

Every time I do these conference realignment posts, the comparisons to a failed marriage or relationship seem to always pop in my head.

For example, according to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, the Big 12 is willing to offer bigger shares to Oklahoma and Texas to not leave for the SEC (see below as this apparently happened Sunday night).

Big 12 officials have discussed a structure in which Texas and Oklahoma would receive additional revenue shares as a way of enticing the two schools to remain in the conference rather than pursue a future in the SEC, conference sources have told CBS Sports.

Such a structure would grant the Longhorns and Sooners an additional half-share annually (1.5 shares each), bumping their payouts to approximately $56 million per year. The other eight schools would decrease their payouts accordingly. Big 12 schools currently average $37 million in annual TV rights earnings, including revenue from bowl games and the NCAA Tournament.

This feels desperate, no? Feels desperate to me and any time there’s this level of un-equitableness in a relationship, one side always knowing that they’ve got an advantage is never good.

Although I cannot guarantee, my guess is that a certain STP writer had a decent sized hand in the letter from the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce to Governor Abbott:

This is the latest in a long line of instances where West Texans have felt left behind. Last session, Texas Tech fought tooth and nail for a new school of veterinary medicine to address a statewide workforce shortage of veterinarians. We have advocated for more than two decades for expansion of I-27 so that we can move products and services to the rest of the country.

Between 2004 and 2013, UT received nearly $1 billion from the state’s Permanent University Fund. These dollars are extracted almost exclusively from land in West Texas, but Texas Tech doesn’t receive a dime. Moreover, we now stare down the barrel of college athletics being relegated to irrelevance so that the state’s wealthiest universities can earn even more money.

Does the state of Texas want to fall behind Florida and California, which have three and four universities competing in major college athletics, respectively? For once, voters in West Texas – which currently have a significant amount of influence in statewide elections as the landscape of Texas has evolved over time – would like to be recognized as equally important to the rest of the state of Texas. The potential changes to the Big 12 show it’s time to decide whether the entire state’s portfolio of higher education institutions matter, or only a select few.

I would love for Texas Tech to receive a portion of the Permanent University Fund, but I won’t be holding my breath. Regardless, you don’t make it know that you’re interested in making a change without saying anything. Kudos to Kyle, I mean, to the Chamber for at the very least addressing the issue.

The question as to what value Texas Tech has to other conferences is a big one and I think that’s probably the thing that causes the greatest bit of concern. CBS Sports Barrett Sallee thinks Texas Tech’s next landing spot is the American Athletic Conference, while TCU and Oklahoma State goes to the Pac-12.

The Red Raiders could be desirable for the Pac-12 if it expands to 16, but they’d have to deal with other current Big 12 candidates as well as teams like BYU and Boise State trying to break down the door out West. The AAC, which can raise its profile in a big way through all of this, would be a much better landing spot. Imagine an AAC that adds Texas Tech and Baylor to a group that includes fellow in-state programs Houston and SMU, traditional powers UCF and Memphis and the rest of what already is a wildly successful Group of Five conference. That’d be pretty strong.

This USA Today article from a USC based perspective:

This isn’t an implied criticism of the school, which has a very good basketball program, a decent football program, and a generally respectable athletic profile. The point is that Texas Tech, by itself, won’t cause Pac-12 football media rights deals to become a lot more lucrative. Texas Tech, by itself, won’t change national perceptions about the Pac-12 on the gridiron. (Maybe hoops.) Texas Tech, by itself, won’t make Pac-12 football coaches or players excited to travel to Lubbock.

If Texas Tech makes sense for the Pac-12 — which is open to debate — it does so because it has fewer negatives than other expansion candidates.

It doesn’t have Baylor’s soiled track record. It doesn’t have the religious affiliation which has soured the conference in the past on other institutions such as BYU.

Lubbock isn’t as geographically removed from the Pac-12 as Oklahoma State is, in Stillwater. It would represent a third Southwestern university along with the Arizona schools.

Texas Tech doesn’t necessarily add lots of incredible, spectacular new features to the Pac-12, but it would create fewer headaches than most other options. That’s not insignificant. It might not be enough to recommend Pac-12 expansion into Lubbock, but it’s not unimportant.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement and these sorts of things are always tough to read. You’re not as attractive as you think you are, or as you’d like to be.

The Houston Chronicle’s Joe Duarte writes that the American Athletic Conference would be very aggressive in adding any leftover Big 12 schools:

The AAC will not take a wait-and-see approach and instead will be aggressive in pursuit of the Big 12’s leftovers, an industry source confirmed Saturday. The Athletic was the first to report the AAC’s intentions.

The source said it’s unlikely the Big 12 survives the loss of its top two revenue-producing school, which would set off a scramble for the remaining schools to find a new home once the league’s grant-of-rights agreement ends in 2025. However, if the Big 12 looks to expand, one source said there are no schools that would bring significant value.

If the Big 12 makes a call, Houston would most likely be at the top of the list. But would it be financially worthwhile? And it’s a certain that a reconfigured Big 12 would not possess the same clout. Right now, the AAC has something the Big 12 lacks: stability.

I think it would be safe to say that Texas Tech’s options are basically inclusion into the Pac-12 or inclusion into the AAC. That’s probably it. I’d love to tell you that there’s more options (maybe a Mountain West addition, but again, not sure this is much different than the AAC and probably a worse payout, although I haven’t looked at it).

Via Dallas Morning News’ Chuck Carlton, the two presidents for Oklahoma and Texas met with the Big 12 executive committee, which includes Bob Bowlsby, Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec, and Baylor President Linda Livingstone) with the thought that they would give OU and UT half of share at the expense of the other 8 members:

The source confirmed earlier reports that the Big 12 had discussed Thursday the possibility of awarding Texas and Oklahoma each an extra half share of conference revenue at the expense of the eight other conference members. It was described as one of several concepts discussed. The extra share would boost the Texas and OU share to close to $60 million, not counting third-tier rights. But the SEC deal with the two could mean even more along with stability, especially in the long term.

If Texas and Oklahoma go ahead with the notification to the Big 12, it would not represent an official withdrawal — for now — but something close to it with a departure point in four years.

Nobody really expects it will take that long for Texas and Oklahoma to get free of their respective obligations, but it’s still a possibility, which would be incredibly awkward. It’s more likely that the two could be at SEC media days in 2022 or 2023, although the timetable remains in flux.

There also reports from Thamel that the OU and UT presidents were there to listen, so if this was a one-sided conversation and they didn’t meaningfully participate, then yes, expect them to basically announce their intention today.

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