Texas & the All-America Conference

The irony of college football’s version of a bloody MMA battle is that the bully finds himself on his back while being pummeled by a lesser opponent. Isn’t the University of Texas – armed with the lucrative ESPN deal that created the Longhorn Network – the meanest, nastiest business heavyweight in college football? Longhorn muscle comes in the form of money and power. But isn’t that supposed to create clout? Exercised effectively, shouldn’t UT’s prestige be used to lure parties into joining forces?

Instead, we are led to believe by a cadre of hard working and excellent reporters, who have worked fanatically on the chaotic story that engulfs college football, that Texas will follow Oklahoma to the Pac-12, which would become the Pac-16.

When has Texas followed Oklahoma in anything (well, besides the polls)?

If it happens, it will be forever puzzling why Texas did not assert itself to preserve the Big 12. You’d think that UT would look at Texas A&M leaving for what is surely decades of mediocrity in the SEC and OU leaving for those unnatural rivalries and perverse traveling conditions of the West Coast, and paraphrase an infamous 72-year-old line:

“Frankly you fools, I don’t give a damn.”

My suggestion would be for the Longhorns to think creatively. Ideally, they would simply turn the process over to Mark Cuban and Mack Brown, but since we know that won’t happen, they could simply listen and do exactly what Cuban and Brown suggest.

In early September, Cuban outlined reasons the Big 12 should stay together. A&M had made it clear it was leaving for the SEC and Cuban was urging Texas and Oklahoma to stay the course, pointing out negatives including the fact that changing conferences will not mean more money. That was only part of it and the rest of it was as good if not better.

Then on Monday during the Big 12 teleconference, Brown pointed out that leaving the Big 12 would have a negative impact on parents traveling to see their children play. It would be bad in football, but think about other sports. Instead of a drive to Waco to watch the baseball or softball team, the soccer or volleyball team, the golf or tennis team, parents would be faced with trips to Arizona, California, Oregon or Washington.

Instead of being led by the nose West by Oklahoma, Texas should simply take the initiative and form its own conference. First order of business – rename the conference with no numbers to prove once and for all that in some of the greater colleges in the United States, school administrators are capable of counting.  Avoid situations where the Big Ten has 12 teams and the Big 12 has 10.

For now, we’ll call our new Texas conference the All-America Conference (AAC) – as long as it is permitted in that $1.17 billion contract the league has with FOX. Someone might have the AAC name copyrighted, but it’s likely that it can be bought.

With OU and OSU gone, the All-America Conference would still have Baylor and Tech in Texas.

Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri will come along.

With the Big East breaking up, a school like Louisville – which has an inconsistent football history but is an excellent basketball school – could be recruited.

And then why not bring back some of the Southwest Conference neighbors, who once had strong rivalries with Texas? If there is no Big East, TCU could join the Big 12. So could Houston and SMU, who would add two of the largest TV markets in the country. Other programs like BYU and Air Force could be considered. Big East orphans South Florida and Cincinnati will be available. So will Memphis, another very good basketball school.

Think about this. With the right schools added, Texas could be in a conference with five other teams from Texas and teams from football hotbeds of Florida and Ohio. Yes, the travel will increase, but it won’t be like multiple athletic teams from UT making yearly trips to Washington and Oregon.

The obvious complaint from Texas – especially as it relates to the Texas schools – is that they don’t have the facilities and in recent years have not had the fan support necessary for big time college football.

And I would say to Texas that membership in a conference with the Longhorns and others would uplift those programs in a very short time. SMU and Houston either have or are building stadiums and each can have as many as 50,000 seats. They should be told to expand as a condition of acceptance.

In the meantime, when Texas comes to town, the games could be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and Reliant Stadium in Houston.

And make no mistake, if TCU, SMU and Houston were exposed to superior competition, their competitiveness would increase exponentially.

One example, which admittedly doesn’t involved football, but still makes a point:

In 1992, international basketball teams competed against the U.S. for the first time with NBA players comprising the Olympic team. The U.S. won games by an average of more than 40 points and at the time, it was popular to predict that international teams would never catch up. If they did, it would be closer to three decades than two.

Twelve years and three Olympiads later, Argentina won the gold medal. That’s what happens when high standards are set. People and countries and schools prove they simply will do everything they can to compete.

And here is one other point. Assuming the Big East breaks up, why not recruit some of the basketball schools and make the AAC the premier basketball conference in the country?

First invitation? Notre Dame, which could remain a football independent but play all other sports in the AAC. Then to the nucleus of Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Missouri and ND, you consider adding some of these non-football schools – Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul.

And what about having the conference basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden? (OK, that’s a little out there. The AAC can settle for American Airlines Center, which means the AAC tournament will be at the AAC.)

Can any of this happen? Probably not. But in that perfect world of a prestigious Texas bully, this is the sort of vision that we should expect.

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