By Joe Glover
Storm’s A ‘Comin
By the end of Summer 2011, conference realignment talks started heating up again. In July, it became obvious that Texas A&M was intent on leaving the Big XII. After a conversation with Baylor’s Athletic Director, Texas A&M’s Athletic Director wrote this email entitled, “Death By A Thousand Cuts“. In the email, he outlined what he found to be the most egregious violations committed by the University of Texas and the Longhorn Network. Specifically in point seven when he wrote…
ESPN is pushing hard to help tu (Texas) recruit high school prospects. They along with tu lobbying the NCAA hard to get an interpretation that permits high school games on the Longhorn Network… We worry about ESPN financial ties to the NCAA, worry about tu personal ties to NCAA staff.
A few quick things to take away from this quote. The first is obviously the amount of disdain Texas A&M has for both ESPN and Texas. The fact that he is openly referring to Texas as “tu”, instead of the more typical “UT” is dripping with it. The second thing that should not get overlooked is the fact that he just puts out into the open that the flow from University to NCAA goes directly through ESPN. So the fact that Texas A&M wants to leave the Big XII could be blocked by the NCAA, which could be blocked by ESPN. A very real scenario since the Longhorn Network obviously has less appeal now that the annual rivalry game between the two schools would no longer exist. If you’re a college football fan though, the leadoff to that quote is what should be putting chills up your spine. “ESPN is pushing hard to help (Texas) recruit high school prospects.” Just to make sure we have this all clear, ESPN, the most powerful name and network in sports history is openly recruiting for Texas.
Side Note: [The other cool thing to take away from this, is that if you’re the athletic director for Texas A&M, you give your emails awesome names. This practice is actually pretty sweet.]
Getting Busy (And by Busy, I Mean Cockblocked)
Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and on September 2nd, the commissioner of the Big XII Dan Beebe sent this letter to commissioner of the SEC Mike Silve assuring him that if Texas A&M truly was intent on leaving the conference, because of their anger with the Longhorn Network, then they were welcome to leave.
With that assurance out of the way, on September 5th, Texas A&M put its intentions down on paper. While little of what is said in the document is news or noteworthy, what should stand out is the fact that they have now publicly thrown it out there that they are officially, and formally (as opposed to rumors and backdoor meetings) looking to leave one conference for another.
The only problem with all of this? You may recall when Dan Beebe wrote,
the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors unanimously authorized me to convey to you and their colleagues in the Southeastern Conference that the Big 12 and its members will not take any legal action for any possible claims against the SEC or its members relating to the departure of Texas A&M University from the Big 12
It turns out that that wasn’t completely true. As it luck would have it, the day before Baylor made public their intentions to sue Texas A&M to try and block the move, Baylor President Ken Starr sent this email to Texas A&M’s President R. Bowen Loftin,
begging asking that they reconsider. Whatever was spoken in that telephone conference was never made public, but the next day Baylor launched a Public Relations campaign that reached epically comical proportions. Entitled “Don’t Mess With Texas Football” where they attempted to publicly shame Texas A&M into staying by saying gems like, “Will Texans sit and watch as Texas’ flagship universities pledge their loyalties to other states?” They had absolutely no problem with a Texas flagship university pledging their loyalty to a television network, but God Forbid they pledge their loyalty to another state!
Okay, Foreals This Time
While all of this was playing out in the Lone Star State, the East Coast was starting to get antsy. (Perhaps New Englanders were worried about too many stories being posted about people other than them, who knows?) In any event, on September 18th, suddenly out of left-field came the announcement that the University of Pittsburg and Syracuse University would be leaving the Big East, and joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.
While that seemed shocking, the real shock came when Boston College University Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo decided he’d give his opinions about the conference realignment that was sweeping across the nation. In an article with the Boston Globe, DeFilippo finally said what everyone had largely been suspecting. From the Boston Globe,
The overwhelming force behind the move, DeFilippo insisted, was television money… The ACC just signed a new deal with ESPN that will increase the revenue for each school to approximately $13 million. With the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, said DeFilippo, another significant increase will come… We always keep our television partners close to us, you don’t get extra money for basketball. It’s 85 percent football money. TV – ESPN – is the one who told us what to do. This was football; it had nothing to do with basketball.
Again, it’s moments precisely like this one that mandates we stop for a moment and ponder just what was said. “ESPN is the one who told us what to do.” We’re talking about an Athletic director from a major East Coast university not wanting to vote into the conference two other members, but being ordered otherwise by a television network. And they did it! ESPN has now succeeded in ripping apart two of the four major conferences that they own. The other two, the ACC and the SEC being the direct beneficiaries. It seems that ESPN has determined to cannibalize itself for the sake of television football dollars.
Back to Leaving Texas
On September 26th, word became official that Texas A&M would finally leave Texas and the Longhorn Network behind them, and become the 13th member of the Southeastern Conference. The 18 month battle with the self proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports was finally behind them.
While final for those three teams, it would not be the final domino to fall. For that we look to the final installment, part 5. A Tentative and Temporary Truce
1. Death By A Thousand Cuts
2. Bill Murray, “Who’s Awesome?”
3. Dan Beebe Letter
4. TAMU Intent to Leave Letter
5. Baylor to Sue TAMU
6. Starr Letter to Loftin
7. Baylor: Don’t Mess With Texas Football
8. Conference Realignment Summary Video
9. Announcement (Pitt and Syracuse)
10. Gene DeFilippo interview
11. TAMU Officially Leaving
12. TAMU and God Billboard