Texas Tech President Guy Bailey said he would’ve wanted Tech to have been part of any mass move of Big 12 Conference schools to the Pac-12 Conference, but wasn’t surprised when Pac-12 presidents voted against expansion late Tuesday.
Published reports this week indicated there was a chance Tech, Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could be added to the Pac-12, but Tuesday’s vote nixed the possibility.
“Had our three biggest rivals in the conference gone to the Pac-12, we’d have wanted to go,” Bailey said Wednesday. “The key thing for us, and the reason the Big 12 is a good fit for us is we have three — really four; put Baylor in there, too — very good rivals.
“If we played Texas here or OU or OSU, we’re going to fill the stadium, and we have very long rivalries with those schools. ... We want to be in the same conference with them. That’s our interest, being in the conference with those schools.”
Bailey would not say to what extent Tech might have had conversations with the Pac-12 and what form such talks took, but he indicated Tech would have been part of any move alongside Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“If they moved, the Big 12 would have fallen apart, and we would have certainly gone as well,” he said.
One of the apparent sticking points was the Pac-12’s unwillingness to make special accommodations for Texas’ Longhorn Network, the 20-year, $300 million arrangement between UT and ESPN. UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds told media Wednesday in Austin that sharing Longhorn Network revenue is not a consideration.
Though the Longhorn Network has been a source of contention among some Big 12 schools who see it as an unfair advantage, Bailey said he doesn’t blame UT.
“What I’ve told people all along is, if I could have done the Longhorn Network at Texas Tech, I would have done it,” Bailey said. “I would love to have Red Raiders sports in everybody’s home and have the profits from that as well.
“They were doing what was in the best interests of their institution, and that’s what all of us have to do. The thing that caught people off-guard is most people didn’t realize how successful that would be. UT licensed their third-tier rights to ESPN, and most people didn’t realize how aggressive ESPN would be. There was some initial shock over that, but Texas didn’t do anything we wouldn’t have done had we been able to do it, and that’s simply monetize third-tier rights.”
The Big 12 has been in peril for more than a year. After Nebraska and Colorado decided to leave the league in the summer of 2010, the Big 12 seemed on the verge of dissolving when Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott investigated the possibility of adding several schools, including Tech, from the Big 12 South.
The mass exodus west didn’t happen then either, but Texas A&M recently set off another wave of instability when it announced plans to leave the league in 2012.
Bailey said Tech has had to consider its options carefully in the last few weeks and is reluctant to break with the other big instate schools such as Texas.
“We would like very much to be in a conference with Texas — even better in a conference with both Texas and Texas A&M,” Bailey said. “If you simply come to a game with one of those schools, you understand why — it packs the stands. If you have Texas on your schedule, you have a sellout, and you also know there will be some Texas fans who will buy (Texas Tech) season tickets just to be at the Texas game. So it’s very important for us to have that rivalry.”
Bailey said Tech splitting from Texas would be akin to Alabama and Auburn deciding to abandon their bitter rivalry by one leaving the Southeastern Conference.
“They’d have to do a whole lot of thinking before they did anything like that,” he said. “That rivalry is part of what makes football in the state of Alabama so exciting, and we think our rivalry with Texas is part of what makes football in Texas so exciting. Breaking those bonds would really require a lot of thought. You really don’t want to go too far away from your rivals.”
Bailey said he thinks there’s a good chance the league will survive, but recognized there’s “still a lot of work to be done.”
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, an advocate for keeping the Big 12 together, said after Wednesday’s practice the tide might be turning in that direction.
“I think everybody wants to keep this thing going,” Tuberville said. “There have to be some things happen, and I think we’re getting more talk of that happening than we are this thing splitting up.”
The Oklahoman, using an unnamed source, reported Wednesday that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State informed the Pac-12 early Tuesday they wouldn’t apply for membership. The two schools were actually using the Pac-12 threat as leverage, the Oklahoman reported, while trying to unite other Big 12 members on league reforms. Among those reforms was seeking the removal of Commissioner Dan Beebe, revisiting revenue-sharing issues and seeking five-year commitments from league members.
Bailey would not say whether Tech would support a push for Beebe’s removal, calling it an issue that should be determined in a closed forum.
On Sunday, the Austin American-Statesman and Orangebloods.com, a Rivals.com network affiliate, reported that the Pac-12 was working on final details to bring the four Big 12 teams into their fold. The reports said it wasn’t a done deal.
Bailey said there was never a formal proposal, and he wasn’t surprised when Pac-12 presidents said no to expansion two days later.
“The whole situation is very complicated, but we didn’t expect any expansion to the Pac-12,” he said. “There was never a formal proposal and never really very extensive discussions. I think some preliminary discussions, but nothing ... . What you read about was way ahead of anything that was actually ever happening.”
Bailey said by late Sunday and early Monday it was “clear to me that it wouldn’t happen.”
Asked why, he said, “There was still a great deal of interest at that point in preserving the Big 12. Even though we certainly have some issues to work through and everybody would acknowledge that, there was still a great deal of interest in preserving the Big 12. I was a little surprised at everything in print, because it was way ahead of what any of the institutions were thinking.”