The University of Texas has declared its independence.
Maybe not technically, since the Texas Longhorns have formally announced that they will remain in the now 10-membered Big 12. But with the Longhorns' new-found perks (and realized bargaining power), they will certainly enjoy independent-like benefits.
After weeks of speculation, and nearly having a deal with the Pac-10 in place, Texas had all but packed up the U-Hauls for their trek out west. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott had even invited Bevo's buddies to tag along.
But in the 11th hour, a yet-to-be-named television network saved Dan Beebe's conference (and perhaps, job) with an offer to pay all of the Big 12 (minus two) SEC-type money. (The deal is expected to pay Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M in the range of 20 to 25 million, and the Baylors of the conference around 15 million.)
So how exactly has Texas gained its independence?
On top of the conference money that they will earn, Texas reserves the right to launch its very own network, a right reserved by all members of the conference. The Longhorn Network, according to UT sources, could generate an extra three to five million. The two television deals combined could earn Texas between 25 and 30 million dollars, a figure more than double of what independent Notre Dame earns from its NBC contract.
In the middle of all the conference realignment hubbub, Texas and the rest of the Big 12 conference shed the dead weight of Colorado and the Texas-hating ways of Tom Osborne. Colorado was under the impression that the Big 12 was not going to survive. And Osborne has never liked how the balance of power of the old Big Eight shifted south when Texas joined in 1996.
With the Cornhuskers moving on, the Big Ten took away the Big 12 north's only legitimate program. A conference that was bottom-heavy is now even more-so, with Texas and Oklahoma as the only marquee programs left standing in the Big 12.
Also gone with Nebraska and Colorado is the conference championship game, since there are now only 10 teams left. But the Longhorns can look at it as one less stumbling block on the way to the BCS.
The Big 12 championship game has been tricky in the past, and has derailed a few championship runs along the way. Nebraska in 1996. Kansas State in 1998. Texas in 2001. Missouri in 2007. And Texas almost got nipped in 2009. Like Notre Dame, Texas will have one less game at a neutral site where upsets are plentiful historically.
If anything has become obvious in the conference realignment process, it's that Texas yields quite a bit of bargaining power. Painfully so to some members of the Big 12.
Texas A&M regents and fans alike were halfway in the door of the SEC. Gene Stallings went on a national radio tour, spouting off about how they didn't need their old rivals as long they were to become part of the the SEC. They were ready to move out of big brother's shadow, and find success on their own. Well, turns out the Aggies must not be that in love with the SEC. And they kinda like being around the Longhorns, too, since they weren't ready to end their long-standing ties with Varsity.
Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were going to follow Texas wherever it decided to go. Baylor was practically begging to tag-a-long to the Pac-10. And the remaining Big 12 north schools are just glad that they aren't homeless anymore.
So while Texas, again, may not really be independent, it's just as well. Clearly, the Longhorns are the ones that are dictating most of the dealings of the Big 12. (If Tom Osborne thought that the Big 12 was Texas-centric before, I wonder what he thinks now.)
Big money, a clearer path to the BCS, and a comfortable spot upon the Big 12's throne. I'd bet that DeLoss Dodds and company like this conference realignment thing just fine.
*Image courtesy of twominutenews.com