While Texas A&M’s new chancellor is publicly all-in for a move by his new school from the Big 12 to the SEC, Oklahoma State mega-booster T. Boone Pickens said earlier in the week that it would be a big mistake for the Aggies to move out of their current conference digs.
A former Texas governor has subsequently one-upped Pickens’ mistake rhetoric while also adding a political twist to the situation.
Labeling a potential move to the SEC a “permanent mistake”, Baylor grad Mark White called on current governor and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Perry — an A&M grad and college football rumor purveyor, incidentally — and the state legislature to enter into what he described as “cool reflection”. And apparently, in Texas politics, part of the process of reflecting during a cooling-off period involves threatening to cut state funding from the school if it were to leave.
“What I would urge the governor to do is ask A&M to sit down with their counterparts in Texas and work out their differences,” White told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “They don’t have to act childlike and run off somewhere… A&M has a responsibility to taxpayers in this state. If you can show me where the state of Texas wins on this deal, I’d like to see it. I thought we’d put this to bed for 10 or 15 years [last summer].”
Thought they had put Big 12 stability to bed for a decade or more? Really? While White’s naïveté is cute and precocious and all, the Big 12 was kept together last year by nothing more than Elmer’s glue, masking tape and Texas failing to secure the rights from the Pac-10 to create their own television network.
Oddly enough, it’s that same network that, at least publicly, is driving A&M toward the SEC.
After Colorado and Nebraska fled for the Pac-10-now-12 and Big Ten, respectively, and Texas and three other schools openly flirted with bolting to join what would’ve become the Pac-16, the 10 remaining schools in the Big 12 pledged their decade-long love to the conference. The only problem with that? It was a nonbinding agreement; no documents or contracts were signed to express that loyalty.
Commissioner Dan Beebe said last year, shortly before naming the Easter Bunny as his deputy commissioner, that “trust between presidents and chancellors in this league is high enough to continue on” without a signed contract.
To further buttress his argument that A&M should stay in the Big 12, White cited a study by the Perryman Group — whose president received his bachelor’s degree from Baylor and PhD from Rice — which found that A&M’s departure without the conference finding a replacement school would, the Star-Telegram writes, create a loss of 3,050 jobs and $217.2 million in output (gross product) annually in Texas.
Now, I’m no economist, put wouldn’t all of those high school football players buying tickets to fly to SEC schools on recruiting trips somewhat mitigate those dire financial numbers, and actual increase jobs in the airline/travel industry? And that’s without even mentioning SEC coaches coming to Texas and staying for lengthy periods of time plowing the state’s fertile recruiting grounds, which would no doubt bolster the hotel industry.
Additionally, using numbers that don’t include another school to replace A&M in the conference appears to be nothing more than an attempt to stir up taxpayers. The Big 12 membership has been very open about the fact that, if A&M leaves, they will aggressively pursue another school to fill that void.
And, since White and the Perryman Group and others are so concerned about the damage to the State of Texas’ bottom line a departure would create, we’ll just go ahead and assume they’ll aggressively push for the inclusion of Houston, SMU or Rice as the Big 12’s 10th member. Certainly adding another Texas school into the Big 12 mix would help mitigate the loss of jobs and “gross product” created by A&M’s departure, wouldn’t it?