Texas is getting a lot of attention for rejecting the Pac 10’s overtures and stopping college conference Armageddon. But a fascinating report from Orangebloods.com, who has been out in front of a lot of the realignment news, lays out a timeline of the past week that shows Texas A&M and ESPN/ABC may have a lot more to do with stopping the dominoes from falling all over the college landscape.
The short version is this: the Pac 10 makes a play for Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M. But Texas A&M, led by Board of Regents member Gene Stallings, an A&M alum who won a national title as a football coach at Alabama, is also playing footsie with the SEC.
Texas and Texas A&M share a relationship much like UNC and NC State, where one is the flagship state university and the other is the insecure land-grant little brother. A&M starts thinking maybe it can go to the SEC and get out from under Texas’ shadow while being the top research university in the SEC. (A&M is also like NCSU in that the AD does things that make you wonder – while SEC commish Mike Slive is in College Station to discuss realignment, A&M’s AD, Bill Byrne, is at a family reunion in Idaho) By playing the SEC card, A&M can saddle Texas with the mantle of breaking up both the Big 12 and the Texas/Texas A&M rivalry.
Meanwhile, Big 12 commish Dan Beebe reportedly secures assurances that ESPN/ABC will honor its Big 12 contract, even though the league will have 10 teams and no title game. The rationale here is that A) Texas and Oklahoma would bolt to a Pac 10 network, purportedly on Fox; and B) if the Big 12 falls apart, then the SEC and ACC realign also, possibly forcing ESPN/ABC to renegotiate those contracts, and maybe at even higher costs than the $4 billion already promised. ESPN keeps Texas and Oklahoma, as well as the SEC and ACC, on its airwaves without spending any more money on contracts that are set through 2016.
Moreover, Beebe engineered a deal where the five Big 12 schools who would have been left out (Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Missouri, and Iowa State) are giving up their share of the buyout penalties Nebraska and Colorado will have to pay, to Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. Small price for the little five to pay to stay in a real conference.
So, it appears that by not blindly following Texas and pursuing SEC membership on its own, Texas A&M may have set into motion the chain of events that led to ESPN guaranteeing the Big 12 its TV payout and stopping realignment dead in its tracks, at least for six years.
Hard to believe that just one week ago the face of college athletics was about to change forever, and now the major change is just a minor ripple.