Five years ago, the Texas Longhorns were the linchpin in college football realignment -- the decision to remain in the Big 12 instead of helping to form the Pac-16 avoided a likely move to four 16-team superconferences.
Meanwhile, the old Big 12 lost four members, then added two more, decisions in large part blamed on supposed Longhorn arrogance and selfishness, leaving a league with decreased starpower and decreased georgraphic ties.
So with the value of the passing years providing hindsight on the decisions that re-shaped the college football landscape and almost completely altered its complexion, did the Horns emerge as winners or losers?
Here's what Stewart Mandel said about it on FOX Sports:
Interestingly, Texas, the school once at the epicenter of realignment mania, is arguably no better or worse off today than it was five years ago. On the one hand, staying in the Big 12 allowed the school to launch the Longhorn Network, which, despite its distribution struggles, affords UT an average $15 million in annual revenue. Combined with its roughly $25 million share of Big 12 revenue, the 'Horns easily cash more TV and postseason money than any other school.
On the other hand, Texas' athletic department, a picture of stability for the first decade of this century, has cast away its longtime athletic director (DeLoss Dodds), football coach (Mack Brown) and men's basketball coach (Rick Barnes) all since 2013. Not only have the 'Horns struggled on the field, they've seen three formerly downtrodden in-state programs -- TCU, Baylor and Texas A&M -- steal their thunder.
And two of those, TCU (Big 12) and Texas A&M (SEC), have benefitted immeasurably by jumping to other conferences -- moves that saw their first seeds planted during that tumultuous week in June 2010.
In a summer seemingly filled with hot takes as scorching as the August Texas sun, Mandel's portrayal of the current Longhorns situation feels tepid, though completely reasonable.
Perhaps it seems odd to assert that realignment hasn't made a net difference at all for the Longhorns, especially in light of the fact that two key rivals -- the Horned Frogs and Aggies -- are now recruiting at a higher level than ever, often at the expense of Texas.
In that area alone, the Horns seem like losers. Of course, it's hard to completely attribute that recruiting sucess to conference realignment, since the lack of on-field success also played a huge role in Texas losing the premier position as the relatively unquestioned recruiting power in the Lone Star State, but failing to win at a high level is hardly the only reason for those changes.
Clay Travis is gonna Clay Travis, but he's not exactly alone in questioning whether the Longhorn Network is a success. ESPN doesn't think so and it's possible to make a strong argument in support of that position given the money that Texas makes from the network. However, many fans are still upset about the lack of early distrubtion for the network and it's still difficult for some to get access around the country.
From a schedule standpoint, the conference home slate for the Horns in the new Big 12 is often rather unappealing, with the loss of the annual grudge match with the Aggies on Thanksgiving replaced by two schools that are hardly on-field rivals, leading to calls to move the game. Count that as a significant loss for fans and college football as a whole since the two schools don't plan on playing again any time soon.
There's also a growing feeling among a segment of the Texas fanbase that the decisions made during realignment lacked vision for the future. Though many consider the Longhorns a poor cultural fit in the SEC academically, what would Texas recruiting and overall cachet look like in 2015 had Dodds made the bold move of attempting to gain entrance into the nation's best football conference instead of Texas A&M or even with Texas A&M?
As Mandel points out, it's arguable that Texas is didn't benefit or suffer from realignment in any significant ways since the Longhorn Network and the Big 12's restructured television deal both provide a subnstantial income, but Longhorns fans clearly suffered, from enduring the lack of early access to the Longhorn Network to getting suck with unappealing conference road trips instead of the potential Pac-16 destinations to facing Aggie claims of running the state in recruiting, a situation largely created by A&M's move to the SEC.
Should Dodds have made a more bold move instead of essentially maintaining the statuos quo to the extent possible while maximizing television revenue in creating hte Longhorn Network?
It's a debate that isn't settled as easily as Mandel suggests.