Why Should Missouri Stay? (Why UT's Leadership Needs to Pull Their Heads Out)

Tobi WritesAnalyst IOctober 5, 2011

Who is in charge?
Who is in charge?Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

I woke to find the rather unsurprising news that Missouri's curators voted unanimously to grant Chancellor Brady Deaton the power to move the conference to another conference if he finds a better home for the school.

I say it wasn't surprising because even though Deaton was the Chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors and seemed very much a proponent of the BIg 12, the writing was on the wall when Missouri did not immediately commit to the plan to turn over all media rights to the conference.

And why would the curators favor the current plan?

The agreement and the lead up to it amounted to UT athletic Director DeLoss Dodds saying,

"Since we have lost the votes to prevent equal revenue sharing of tier 1 TV revenue, we will turn on OU and take the extra $5 million or so they make and we make and allow that to be divided equally. But you can't have any LHN money. That is ours.

But you know the LHN is doing pretty poorly right now because UT fans never really wanted it and it is being blamed for the collapse of the Big 12. With that in mind, we can't go independent right now. If we left, a lot of you guys wouldn't play us.  We can't sell UT vs. Syracuse games every week to UT fans on a network they largely don't want and cable companies largely do not want to carry.

Well, yet anyway.

We haven't negotiated in good faith with the Big 10, PAC-12, and ACC, so they all want to drag us over the coals to get a deal done, so we can't go there.

We need the Big 12 to survive for 5 years so our corporate partner ESPN (who also has deals with the SEC) doesn't take a financial bath in lawsuits from Fox, Baylor, Iowa State, and the rest of you guys.  We need it to survive until the ESPN deal ends. Then ESPN is off the hook and we can leave allowing Fox to terminate their deal with you guys and renegotiate at a much lower rate.

So lets all work together as a team!

Oh yeah, and screw you guys,

Longhorn Network forever!

--- Dodds"

Dodds has run off Nebraska and Texas A&M and allowed Colorado to go.  The conference footprint has shrunk to 41 million residents.  That is tiny by BCS AQ terms.

Academically the loss of three American Association of University members was brutal and appears to have not been thoroughly considered by Dodds.  With A&M in the SEC, now the SEC—the poster child of crappy academics in a BCS AQ conference—is a better academic conference than the Big 12.

Don't believe me?  The average rating of the Big 12 schools in the US News rankings is 105.  The SEC's is 99.  The Big 12 has one university that does over 250 million in research.  The SEC now has a surprising six.

With A&M and their large share of Texas' 25 million viewers in tow, it seems fairly likely that an SEC equal share is going to be at least in the ballpark of $25 million dollars annually.

And the SEC has no exit fee, because no one ever leaves.

So if you are Missouri and covet a Big 10 invite why would you not bide time in the SEC instead of the Big 12?

The honor of playing UT?

And why are we at this point?  Because UT has lost sight of the larger financial potential being in an elite BCS AQ conference offers.   It is obscured behind Dodds' myopic sports only vision of transforming UT from a  regional brand that dominated every aspect of the region around Texas into what will likely be a much lesser version of Notre Dame over a 15-year, torturous transition to the Longhorn Network.

This is all on the head of UT President William Powers

The buck stops at the top.

It has reached the point where I have to ask, "Is this latest black eye and all the others acceptable to UT fans to protect the aging DeLoss Dodds' legacy piece (The Longhorn Network)?"

Lets consider what UT's ineffective (on these issues anyway) President William Powers has allowed Dodds to piss away.

PAC membership (twice)

Powers twice allowed Dodds to screw up deals with the PAC-10.  A degree has a pronounced face value in your local area, be it a city for a school like UT-Arlington, or a state like the University of Texas.

Affiliation in a BCS AQ conference allows the extension of the footprint of the value of that degree across a conference footprint via sports fans.  There is a subconscious association that takes place in fans minds that makes it seem like the degree of one conference member should be in a similar ballpark to that of another.

This kind of thinking is stronger among fans of the better academic conferences.

Now get what I am saying. People still recognize the UT degree as a good one outside of the conference footprint, but it is not a familiar one to them.

UT had a chance to join one of the elite academic conferences in America.  The UT degree holder had a chance to be seen as a peer degree holder with alumni from schools like Cal, UCLA, USC, Stanford and Washington.  And more, as Big 10 and Pac-12 fans see each other's conferences as peers, that UT degree would have been more highly regarded in Big 10 territory as well.

How many jobs could this have helped out of state UT grads into?

Then there is the fact that a number of university academic evaluations like the US News rankings are based in part on peer evaluations.  If you are not interacting with professors and administrators at the better schools what are the odds that your evaluations are going to accurately reflect your merits?

UT allegedly wants to be the highest rated public university in the country.  How are they going to get there if the entire nation's only impression of UT is the badgering, arrogant caricature they know of the DeLoss Dodds.

The Pac-12 has a culture that supports inter-university co-operative research.  How many well paying research jobs would that affiliation have brought to UT and the state of Texas?

It is not like UT wouldn't have been able to supplement great Texas recruiting with more top California talent.  It isn't like UT would not have been able to be just as dominant in a PAC-16.

Texas A&M

I know that a lot of UT fans were glad that UT stayed in the Big 12 last year.  There were thoughts that leaving would amount to joining someone else's conference.

Well that would be fine if Powers and Dodds tried to grow the Big 12 into an academic peer of the PAC-12, but they haven't.

With UT, A&M, Kansas, OU, Baylor, and Missouri the conference had a pretty good academic spine to build around.

Instead Dodds tormented A&M AD Bill Byrne to the point where the 2nd best academic school and the #1 school in research expenditures left.

Way to maximize your assets, Dodds!  And way to make sure the academics at UT were not trampled by ill advised athletic posturing by your employee, President Powers.

How exactly is the Big 12 not going to erode away if every action is an attempt to tread water and not to improve the caliber of the conference?

This narcissistic love affair with the LHN needs to end

Legacy be damned.  It is past time for Powers to step in on this.

I know he weighed in on this a few weeks back.  When pressed about revenue sharing he said, "We are open to every idea ... We've never said that's off the table."

Powers bit his tongue as his underling corrected him to the media.  Dodds posted to the media that the idea of UT sharing revenue from the Longhorn Network is “non-negotiable.”

I guess we know who has the power in Austin.

If the argument from fans is to stay in the Big 12, it is time to build it into something worth a damn

It is high time for Powers to man up and straighten out this mess.  A&M is gone, but Missouri may not yet be.

If UT and ESPN expanded the LHN into a national network for UT, OU, Missouri, and Kansas, it would have the legs to pull subscribers across the nation, which it currently does not. If ESPN is willing to give UT $15 million a year for the LHN, I would have to think they would give $30 million a year for these 4 schools tier 3 rights.  Split evenly that is $7.5M a year to start and the money will increase far quicker because it would vastly increase the number of interested buyers across the nation.

That money and a commitment to Missouri, Kansas, and OU would likely be enough to keep Missouri around.  Those are all great academic schools with well developed athletic programs.

The LHN is already in place.  Potentially a re-tasked LHN would give those four schools a jump on other conferences like the SEC who are just starting out their networks.

If you tie UT football and basketball, OU football, Kansas basketball, and the Missouri markets together long term, you have something to build a top level BCS AQ conference around, even if you split from the rest of the Big 12 down the road.  Those four schools represent most of the revenue (~$155 million annually) the Big 12 attracts from the networks.

With that kind of money the four could buy schools they favor out of better conferences. Finishing out the football side with BCS level academic schools like BYU, Colorado State, Arkansas, (and perhaps even higher caliber candidates like Texas A&M and Notre Dame) could be very possible.

If you let Missouri go, it is much, much tougher to have any realistic options that involve building a top notch BCS AQ conference in the middle of the US.

If you aren't willing to save Missouri, your options are only to continue down the path to being a lesser version of Notre Dame, playing half or more of a schedule that none of your fans care about, or tucking tail and taking whatever terms the Big 10, Pac-10, or ACC insist you take.

Now is the time to build your better future.  Will UT's leadership have the vision and (in the case of Powers) the spine to stomp out Dodd's dream and get it done?


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