The Big 12 is playing out the string, a dead league walking with an end possibly already orchestrated. I guaran-damn-tee it.
And the ripple effects will change college football as we know it.
When I tell non-Texas friends this, they say “How do you know? Who is saying this?” As we in Texas like to say: You ain’t from around here, are you?
I know like I know it is not going to rain, like I know it will be 100-plus degrees every day in August. I know because I know Aggies.
The New Yorkers and Californians don’t have the sense God gave a horned frog when it comes to understanding Texans. Just look at all the word salad being tossed and good hyperbole sacrificed on our governor, Rick Perry, or Governor Goodhair as we lovingly call him, as he prepares to announce his run for president. You would think Satan himself was declaring, with all the rhetoric about his Bush-on-steroids affect and so much emphasis on his Texas-seceding-from-the-Union remark.
All you need to know about Rick Perry is he’s a Texas A&M Aggie and the least dangerous among them right now, by a country mile. So he did a little public praying as he prepares to jump into the mosh pit of presidential politics. A good many of his fellow Ags are up to their hip waders in the far more dirty politics of college athletics. And there is no bigger pull-back-the-curtain moment in college sports than possible conference realignment. It reveals the motivations and characters of all the participants, shows us who they really are, uncovers how little it is about the kids or academics — so I say, let’s let this play out.
They have been fighting a civil war in College Station for more than a year now, trying to decide whether to SEC-ede from the Big 12 minus 2, or stay and play. Why that debate has been resuscitated and why the Big 12’s death is imminent is because this is personal between Texas and Texas A&M. What was once a rivalry between equals has become less so thanks to The Longhorn Network and an unholy alliance with Bristol, and no way this can stand in Aggieland. And while The Aggies-to-the-SEC move might be delayed beyond 2012, a lot of Ags want gone from a relationship that feels very pro-Horn. In this instance, the devil they don’t know is better than the Horn they do.
And just like 14 months ago, all hell will break loose if the Aggies bolt. There is not one pocket of the country likely to be unaffected.
Get ready for dominoes to tumble, and there isn’t a conference boss out there who won’t be affected by this mess. Texas might be a fly-over state, but the hell we’ll bring with us to the coasts will be unavoidable. The SEC, for sure. If Texas A&M joins, will Oklahoma be invited to go with them? Does the state legislature allow the Sooners to break up with Oklahoma State? Does the SEC add only two? How do they realign divisions, with Auburn going East? If so, what happens to rivalries?
And the Pac-12 has to decide what to do — stand pat, or make another play for Texas? Or do the Longhorns go independent, a soft landing spot provided by their ESPN partnership?
Does the Big Not Ten go bigger, with Missouri begging for the invite that did not come last summer? What fallout results as Kansas hopes to turn its hoops success into a major conference invite? While Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor have a prayer meeting to avoid a blood match for a spot in the Mountain West — loser goes to the WAC.
And if Texas is able to go independent, how long until schools with that kind of cache — Florida, Alabama, Southern Cal — start kicking around the idea of doing likewise? The SEC money is obscene. The Big Ten money is crazy good. The Pac-16 is bathing in cash.
The money Texas stands to earn from this is, well, Texan.
We knew this, cerebrally, when Texas and ESPN announced The Longhorn Network. It was a concession, a way to keep Texas from bolting a year ago, and a harbinger of problems to come. Fast forward to July, when plans were announced to televise a Longhorn Big 12 game on The LHN, as well as high-school games (a clear recruiting advantage), and all of that angst and anger came flying back up.
Band-Aids were applied — a year ban on high-school games, the NCAA stepping in (late and useless as usual) and a few muttered mea culpas.
Let’s be clear. Aggies wholeheartedly believe Texas plans to air high school games as well as Big 12 games on the LHN. And they’re probably right.
And now, thanks to the power of the Freedom of Information Act, Aggies now have proof of every one of their fears. The devil is in the contract details, which clearly state “the parties acknowledge their mutual desire that the Network telecast no less than two (2) such regular season games per college football season.”
It also details how the University of Texas will help land Texas state high school championship games for the network, and how Texas cannot be on a Big 12 channel in any way, and how they are contractually wedded even when/if the Big 12 implodes. And then there is the money — straight cash, homey — that allows the Longhorns to keep 70 percent of profits once $275 million has been breached.
By all means, keep a playoff away from this beautiful unspoiled vestige of athletics untouched by money.
I cannot blame the boys from College Station for being upset, just as I cannot blame the boys in Austin for signing on. What I cannot quite fathom is how anybody believes the Big 12 can be viable long term with this in place. It is dead.
So expect to keep hearing rumors. Eventually Texas or Texas A&M will leave, and the ripples will hit both coasts.
I know this like I know the best chicken-fried steak in the world is in Strawn, and like I know the best Dr. Pepper is found in Dublin. I know because I know Texans.
This is why you cannot rule out what Perry is actually announcing Saturday in SC is that his Aggies are SEC-eding.