Thoughts on where UT athletics (football) might go

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

How did that tire commercial go? "Where the rubber meets the road." Today, we put tread to asphalt. We go to the prognostication/evaluation/options process as I wrap up my thoughts on Texas’ possible future athletically, the state of the Big 12 in football, and what our choices might be. Since nobody would parry with me, I’ll do this Q-and-A style: Me doing the Q’s. And the A’s. (Hey, this was always a fanciful exercise, at times imbued with some maybe thought-provoking ideas or possibilities.)

**You’ve said you’re opposed to Texas remaining in the Big 12. What do you see happening?

I’ll give two answers: (1) what I expect, and (2) what I’d like to see. (1) I do not expect the Big 12 to go the way of the Southwest Conference. Wishes and theories are just that. (2) I’d like to see Texas withdraw from the Big 12, unless the conference is significantly expanded/remodeled.

**You said you expect the conference to continue. What are Texas’ options?

Drive on as is. (I didn’t use muddle for the verb; it did cross my mind) . . . OR, spearhead an expansion, or a re-formation, of the conference . . . OR, withdraw, probably with some fellow members who have similar views on the Big 12 . . . OR . .

**Withdraw. Wasn’t expecting that. Just, drop out? How do you see that playing out?

About the same way four schools, including Texas, left the Southwest Conference almost 30 years ago. At that time, the athletic and administrative leaders at Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Texas banded together to make a joint announcement of their exits form the SWC. Those schools leaving an 80-year-old conference already knew where they were going. Presumably, that would be the case again. If, UT chooses on the withdraw option.

**Besides Texas, who would withdraw?

Possibly, no one. Realistically, Texas wouldn’t leave the Big 12 solo – UT would surely have at least one partner (Oklahoma or Texas Tech), and possibly three (those two and Oklahoma State).

**Who else would you like to see withdraw, with Texas?

**You didn’t answer. Are you thinking?

I did answer. See the sentence above that begins "Realistically".

**You wouldn’t include Baylor and TCU? The Kansas schools?

Short answer: No. Those schools have a lot going for them. But they are not the University of Texas. Bluntly, they NEED us (and Oklahoma).

As a start point for a new conference, we don’t NEED them. OK: Kansas basketball is an asset. We shouldn’t ignore that. But Kansas and Kansas State are Tier 4 entities in football; weak Tier 3 at best. You might fill, or complete, the membership roster of a new conference with some current Big 12 schools. You don’t start there. You start with schools that have stronger athletic, and football, programs. Or, and this is critical to think about, the potential for a stronger program. Schools that have more students, more alums, more growth potential. Or, will in the future. Schools we have more in common with, meaning size (of state and university). Public/state schools. Hopefully, schools in larger states.

**Such as?

In my previous story, I listed 14 possible expansion targets. Some of these could be charter members of a "new" conference. Six of the 14 are west of Austin/Norman. Six, including two in Florida, are to the east. Two border a current Big 12 member state, Kansas. I included the three major service academies.

**Do you have a preference?

Sure. Missouri and Arkansas. They’re geographically close, and they have a past with Tech and Texas. They’re small fish in the ocean that is the SEC. Any of the six schools currently in another Power 5 conference would be attractive. Texas and Oklahoma are major assets. Looking to the future, we should be seeking the best new assets we can find. If they’re in Florida or Tennessee or Arizona, that’s fine. Maybe not ideal, but workable. Surely as workable as two church schools in Texas, and West Virginia and Iowa State – the latter two hundreds of miles from Texas. (Parenthetical insert: What do the Mountaineers bring? That state is shrinking faster than any in the nation. It’s way out there, like Neptune from the Sun . . . how many TV viewers are TCU and Baylor worth, when Texas and Texas A&M dominate the airwaves when those schools play a football game?)

**Do you have a sense of whether any of this is possible? Likely?

My sense is we’ll start the 2027 football season with the same Big 12 configuration we have today. Or one that’s very close . . . But in 1985, my sense was the Southwest Conference was like the Great Wall of China; neither was going anywhere.

**Near the start of this, you typed a sentence that, on three occasions, had the word "OR" in capital letters. If I’ve got it right, from Texas’ perspective, your options are: Stay in the Big 7 as it is . . . maybe, hopefully, make some changes but pretty much keep the current conference intact . . . withdraw from the Big 12, hopefully with other schools joining the process, and start a new conference. What was behind that final OR? Your thought was not completed.

Buckle up. I’ll call this the nuclear option.

**Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Indeed. My nuclear option is to pack my bag, shed my conference partners, go to another store, and open a new account. One like Notre Dame has. (Several posters suggested this yesterday; they’re thinking like me. That may be good, or not so good.)

Yes: Go independent. Why not? I think we could schedule easily. We have our own network: It’s not NBC, but it’s ours, it’s a cash cow, we don’t have to share Longhorn Network monies (or much of it) with the partners. We have the largest stadium in the Big 12. The biggest, likely the best-financed, fan base. Why should we be one of the biggest fish in a mid-sized pond, sharing revenues and accepting rules and guidelines that largely serve others, when we can write our own ticket? Notre Dame writes its own ticket, has been in a couple of football playoffs, gets New Year’s Six invites when the team is strong. We can’t do the same?

**I’m digesting the concept. Go it alone? How would we schedule? Who? What about sports other than football?

To the latter: We’d go independent ONLY in football. We would place our hoops, non-revenue sports, women’s athletics, in another conference. Or, leave them in the Big 12.

As to football scheduling: Start with desirable regional opponents. Oklahoma, of course. No change there. Ditto, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Those games would be separated in the schedule, probably one in September, OU in October, the third game in November. That’s three.

Next, three Power 5-level opponents from around the country. We’ve played Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC ,and LSU in recent seasons. We have Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, and Florida on future schedules. We would supplement these "Top 10" type games with meetings with schools like Arizona State, Indiana, Pittsburgh, North Carolina State, Miami, Stanford. Three per season from this group. That’s a total of six games.

Next, games with teams generally in the central part of the country . . . some of them former conference opponents: TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, Nebraska, Iowa State, Missouri, Arkansas. Another two or three games. Total of eight or nine.

Finally, from the Group of Five opponents that often comprise our non-conference slate, three more games: Louisiana Tech, BYU, UTEP, Tulsa, Houston, UTSA, Rice, SMU, Tulane, UAB, New Mexico, UNLV, Boise State.

And, clear the decks: Maybe a resumption of the Texas A&M series.

Doing that today would be dicey, and from our point of view, not overly attractive. A&M has a season-ending rivalry with LSU that’s worth preserving for both those schools. More important, does Texas, does Texas A&M, want any part of renewing the rivalry the last week of November, with a conference championship game coming the first week in December, for conference division winners? A restart of Turkey Day would be more logical around All Souls Day. (Heaven help us.)

Thanks for reading.

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