Greeson: Big 12 buys 'loyalty' of Longhorns

Greeson: Big 12 buys 'loyalty' of Longhorns

June 17th, 2010 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Who knew it's actually the "I's of Texas?"

The University of Texas Longhorns flirted openly with the Pac 10 and allegedly talked in secret with the Big Ten and even the SEC before deciding to remain put in the Big 12. Since Oklahoma and a handful of others had already hitched their schooners to Texas, the Longhorns' decision to stay ultimately saved the Big 12.

But for how long and at what cost now and in years ahead?

Texas officials said earlier this week they're in the Big 12 for the long haul. Sure they are, until the next chance to make an extra 50 cents appears and they jump on an offer to be an independent or part of the AFC South.

Holdouts are a part of sports. It happens at every level. Holding hostages, however, is something different.

The conference basically gave away its farm to keep Texas. The Longhorns will now get bigger shares of the conference splits and have the right to negotiate their own television deal for even more revenue. They have positioned themselves as the New York Yankees of that conference and have opened the door for possible power plays across the college sports landscape.

It's hard to blame the Big 12 for caving since the alternative was scrambling for spots in the Mountain West or Conference USA, but any notion that Texas was intent on saving anything more than money is hard to swallow.

And don't think for a single moment that football and its accompanying television revenue isn't driving this mad push. If any other sport matters at all in the eyes of these power brokers, then why was Kansas with its nationally recognized basketball program left standing when the music appeared to stop? Seriously, the Jayhawks playing basketball in the Mountain West would have been a tragedy.

The total overhaul of college football fell short, even if it's not totally over. Utah is mulling an invite from the Pac 10, which appears ready to settle for the 12 Pac rather than the Pac Sweet16 after Texas decided to stay in the Big 12. Assuming Utah joins -- and why in Heaven's name wouldn't it? -- I am eagerly looking forward to the 2013 Rose Bowl between Big Ten newbie Nebraska and the Utes. You bet, that Rose Bowl tradition, it'd be the Granddaddy of Them All, huh?

And don't bet on this being over. Other than the SEC, which has a secured television deal with ESPN and CBS well into the 2020s, most of the major leagues around college sports have broadcast deals that will be up in the next few years or are looking to renegotiate.

Plus, once Texas starts to reap the rewards on its two-step ploy to swing the pendulum of power toward Austin, the ripples will be felt from Los Angeles to Gainesville, Fla.

First, it almost appears to be certain that the Big 12 will drop to 10 teams in 2011 and do away with its conference championship game. In essence, that means the winner of the Texas-Oklahoma game will be bound for the BCS title game for the foreseeable future. Yes conference title games make leagues money, but without a conference title game, the SEC would have had an Alabama-Florida showdown for the national title last year.

That competitive edge in positioning for a BCS title shot will not go unnoticed for long.

Second, when the financial gains start to become difficult to ignore what's to stop an Ohio State or a Florida or a Southern Cal to start shopping around for a bigger and better deal?

Certainly conference loyalty and tradition carries some weight, right?

I wouldn't bank on it -- not when there's that much money at stake.

E-mail Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com