Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt on Thursday acknowledged the precarious position in which the Big 12 Conference finds itself. Texas A&M announced Wednesday this will be its last year in the league, and other members might be covertly making their own contingency plans.
“We’re in a nervous position,” Hocutt said, “and our commitment to each other face to face is that preservation of the Big 12 Conference is what we all need and what we desire. At the same time, to look at how vulnerable the landscape feels at this given moment, you cannot deny that.
“Is it a concern? Yes. That’s why I believe we have to get back to 10 members as soon as we can so we can solidify that we are together and we’ll have a league going forward.”
A&M’s pending departure means the Big 12 is losing one-fourth of its members in a little more than a year’s time, each to another major conference. The Pac-12 Conference annexed Colorado, the Big Ten picked off Nebraska and the Southeastern Conference is expected to take A&M.
“We’d be remiss if we said we were in a good position,” said Hocutt, who took over as Tech AD this year. “To be in this position two years in a row is not ideal. It’s not something that can continue to occur. It’s got to be resolved for the good of the group, and that’s what we’re working on today.”
The Big 12 Board of Directors has said the league would move to add one to three members as soon as A&M pulled out. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday that Brigham Young has had discussions with Big 12 officials in the past week. BYU just left the Mountain West Conference last year, becoming an independent in football and a West Coast Conference member for other sports.
It has its own network, BYUtv, and an eight-year deal with ESPN.
Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Arkansas have been mentioned as other possible Big 12 targets. On Thursday, University of Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds told the Austin American-Statesman that Notre Dame is “not going to change” its longstanding status as a football independent and “is not an option.”
Asked if concessions could be made to attract new members, Hocutt said, “The conference is prepared to get the number to where it needs to go, given the parameters of the conference bylaws. In the situation that we have, we are unique in that our league does allow us to retain certain third-tier rights for broadcasting of events, and so that’s what separates us to a degree from other leagues. If that criteria helps grow our conference, then I think that can be an advantage for us.”
The Big 12 appeared on the brink of collapse in the summer of 2010 when the Pac-12 considered inviting Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to expand to 16 teams. That shift depended on UT moving. When the Longhorns opted to stay with the Big 12, that killed, at least for the time being, the possibility of any of the Big 12 South bloc going west.
Hocutt didn’t deny the possibility the Big 12 might be getting ready for more days and weeks that could mirror the summer of 2010.
“Growing up, being such a college athletic fan, rivalries and tradition were important and that meant something,” he said. “To see those things erode over the last couple of years is concerning. If you think back to last summer and how fast things were moving, it was an alarming pace. Hopefully, that does not transpire over the coming weeks, but it very well could again.”
Tech Chancellor Kent Hance said last week that keeping Tech in a major conference “has been a priority of mine for the last five years.”
That hasn’t kept Red Raider fans from worrying about the chance of their team being left out of a major conference.
“I would say to have confidence and trust that, when you look at what has transpired over the last decade at Texas Tech University, we’ve positioned ourselves for greatness,” Hocutt said. “When you look at over $250 million of capital investment in athletic facilities, we can stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody in the country.”
Hocutt also cited the Tech football team reaching a No. 2 national ranking in 2008, men’s basketball making two trips to the NCAA tournament round of 16 since 1996 and women’s basketball winning a national championship in 1993.
“We’ve proved that we can succeed at the national level,” Hocutt said, “and that’s been recognized throughout the country.”
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