Commentary

Big 12 now has 10; Big 10 has 12; and Pac-10...

“One thing most alumni won’t stand for is a college football team that plays like a bunch of amateurs.” — G. Norman Collie (1859-1942)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Collie’s remark is perhaps more pertinent today than at any other time, given all the recent uproar with colleges changing conferences and the attempts to form two or three super conferences. These attempts were made, despite all the century-old brags about tradition.

Obviously, college football has taken care of football players (and other athletes as well) for years. But, the advent of television and the ultimate flooding of the tube with college games has made the pursuit of the almighty dollar the number one priority.

TV networks are paying obscene amounts of money for broadcast rights so that these “amateur” teams can afford to bring in the best players possible.

We all know the state of Texas is a hotbed for football. It has the largest high school system in the U.S. and Texas colleges face national competition for the talent Lone Star State schools produce.

In this pigskin-crazy land, our largest state university (the University of Texas-Austin) has managed, for most of its history, to have an outstanding football program. Therefore, it commands a bigger say than any other college in Texas on those things that affect universities’ financial maneuvering in athletics.

For years, Texas was home to all but one member school (Arkansas) of the old Southwest Conference. Fifteen or so years ago, TV began pouring even larger sums of money all over college football and the old SWC schools, prompted by UT, became restless and decided to expand their horizons. Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor got together with what was then the Big Eight (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa State) and formed the Big 12. More games against tough competition means more TV money.

Left out in the cold were TCU, SMU, Rice, Houston and Arkansas. Arkansas opted to join the Southeastern Conference. TCU, SMU and Rice signed up with the Western Athletic Conference while Houston chose Conference USA. Later TCU moved to the Mountain West while Rice and SMU decided to join Houston in C-USA.

Restlessness (read: “greed”) has overwhelmed the college game again.

First, Colorado announced it was leaving the Big 12 to join the Pac- 10, quickly followed by Nebraska’s declaration of membership in the Big 10. Utah jumped from the Mountain West to the Pac-10.

Now the Big 12 has 10 teams, the Big 10 has 12 teams and the Pac-10 has 12. Understand?

During all of this maneuvering, rumors were rampant. UT, A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were reportedly headed for the Pac-10, which was trying to make it to 16 teams with two divisions. Baylor was to be left with its collective mouth agape.

Next came the rumor that A&M wasn’t going to follow UT and the rest to the Pac-10 but was rather going to the Southeastern Conference, which already had 11 teams and was hailed as the “best college sports conference in the country.” Tougher schedule, more ticket sales.

Suddenly, UT, A&M, Tech and the remainder of what was the Big 12 (remember?) decided they’d make a go of it and preserve some traditions. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the TV networks sweetened the pot to where “most” schools in the Big 12 (10 remaining) would get $14-$17 million per year with UT getting $20 mil and the right to create its own cable television network.

The Longhorns and Aggies will continue to play on Thanksgiving Day, or sometime during that holiday period, whatever suits the TV schedule.

The rich get richer.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Willis Webb is a retired community editor publisher of more than 50 years. Email him at wwebb@wildblue.net.


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2010-07-08 digital edition



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