Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Texas Could Survive As Independent Should Big 12 Collapse

     For the last two weeks, the headlining talk in college football has been about possible expansion, or dissolution of the Big 12 Conference. At the center of the storm (once again) is Texas, and their death like grip on their beloved Longhorn Network. Of course, the Longhorn Network has largely been a financial albatross, but ESPN and Texas will never admit that publicly, and will even likely doctor numbers to make it look differently, but it is a large scale mess, and is just another in the large crap pile outside the front door in Bristol these days. ESPN is hemorrhaging cash, and the LHN isn't helping matters. That being said, the Texas powers that be are not letting go of it until they get what they were promised.
     That issue is huge for the other members of the current Big 12 lineup. Oklahoma officials, while largely split on conference expansion, all will agree that the LHN is a huge no go if the conference were to expand, because expansion would necessitate the creation of a Big 12 Network, and that will not happen if the LHN still exists and is not disbanded to make way. That has created some stirrings in that Oklahoma could take an out, and leave the league altogether, and if that happens, the league comes apart in their wake, and Texas may be the first school out the door.
     Several options have been discussed if this should occur. Oklahoma and Texas could both be fits in the Big 10, but that conference today spoke out against any future expansion at this time, so that door could be closed. The SEC would, I am sure, open any door for future revenue streams, but Texas A&M and Arkansas, I am sure, would vote against Texas having membership. The PAC-12 has been rumbling again, and could be a fit in the Southern Division, as the conference is looking to increase their profile yet again. That being said, the LHN is still a roadblock, as the PAC-12 Network would likely not exists side by side with the LHN.
     It would seem that Oklahoma would have no problem finding a home, even if they teemed with in-state rival Oklahoma State. Texas, on the other hand, for reasons mentioned, is not such an easy fit. Texas fits the same profile as Notre Dame. Notre Dame does not have their own network per se, but they do have what seems like a lifetime deal with NBC that they are not all too quick to desolve, much like Texas and the LHN. Notre Dame, even in bad years, has been an earner for NBC, and the love is mutual. Notre Dame would not simply dump that deal to join, say, an ACC network and join the ACC fully in all sports, unless said network (and again, we're talking ESPN here) would fork over enough cash to make it worth it. ESPN is tapped out people. They are bleeding viewers as people are dumping cable at an alarming rate, and the money is drying up after ESPN spent ridiculous amounts of money on their current contracts. Have you noticed the purge recently? That's not a shuffling of the talent deck...that's a paycheck purge, a dumpster fire, and a sale at Crazy Henry's appliance store...everything must go!
     Notre Dame has thrived as an independent. They also have what Texas (and Michigan) have. Tons of cash. Texas is one of the three wealthiest athletic departments in the nation. They have a massive international alumni association, and they draw wherever they go. If the Big 12 fell apart, and if giving up the LHN is a no go item, there is only one other solution that doesn't do a thing to ruffle feathers, and that is to go it on their own. They can do it, and they can succeed.
     Texas would have no issues with scheduling, because they could pay large sums to get people to come to Austin. They could line up yearly battles with BYU and Notre Dame, and play Army every year, which would make a good PR showing for the massive military presence in the state. They could schedule dates with SEC and PAC-12 schools as a norm, and would likely never have to worry about fluffing up their schedule with weak sister FCS opponents. This would be a football dreamscape.
     There is an issue when it comes to basketball. The ranks of the independents have died out in college basketball. Even New Jersey Tech found a home (Big South, as if that makes any geographical sense). Notre Dame plays in the ACC, and BYU plays in the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga and St. Mary's. Finding a basketball home would seem dubious, at best. The Big East could fit them in, but Texas does not fit the model of religious based institutions (Big East is largely Catholic), which is a reason why BYU did fit in the WCC. Gone are the glory days of basketball independence when Notre Dame, DePaul, Marquette, and even UNLV once ran wild. Maybe Texas could re-fire those days (I wish someone would), but that is doubtful.
      Just a few years ago, there was a strong presence for Baseball independents, but even that market has dried up, as the only independent left in college baseball is New York Tech. I am not certain that independence could work in that sport for Texas, as they are having a down year, but if anyone could pull it off, Texas certainly could. It is a much higher percentage of possible success than it is in basketball.
      I don't see where any argument could be made against Texas as a strong and successful independent in football. If the basketball and baseball questions could find an answer, it would almost be a no brainer.

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