Scott Fitzgerald's "Thesis" on Recent Events

Texas Tech alumni and fans are now angry and have a right to be. Tech was sold on a great Pacific cruise package deal by one of their neighbors. Only the Red Raiders show up at the dock to find out that the cruise was delayed because a few in their boat wearing maroon thought they should be on a better boat.

The Pac 16 was a dream. The Pac 16 would have been flip flops, ukuleles, and a Dos Equis on the beach in November. Fans and alumni surveyed the possible competitive landscape and saw a football conference that had one traditional power school (that ironically enough just got put on probation last week), and many that were programs similar to theirs that had good years and bad years. That's nothing they weren't already used to or couldn't handle on the football field. UCLA and Arizona basketball would be heading to Lubbock, in some form or fashion, on an annual basis. And I for one was drooling over the possibilities of the most uber-competitive baseball conference this side of the AL East.

Texas Tech alumni and fans are now angry and have a right to be. Tech was sold on a great Pacific cruise package deal by one of their neighbors. Only the Red Raiders show up at the dock to find out that the cruise was delayed because a few in their boat wearing maroon thought they should be on a better boat. And although the Red Raiders weren't going to let those people ruin their cruise, they would miss laughing at the maroons every once in awhile. Then, to their shock, during the delay caused by this maroon clan, Captain Dan and his luxury party barge and sailing casino comes sailing by and lures a few of the high rollers off the cruise ship as well. Now the cruise is cancelled. Tech comes home a little disappointed, only then to find out, their rich neighbors won the lottery on the cruise ship and the people who started the whole mess not only were allowed on board, threw in to the lotto pool just in time to get the big payoff. I think that about sums it up. There are a lot of questions being asked right now by all Tech fans and a lot of blame being passed around. I'm not saying don't be mad, but let's be mad at the right people.

I won't labor again about how this thing went down. We know the story and we know the ending for now. But what's fascinating is that there are really only two facts that have held true during this entire ordeal.

Fact #1: This was all about dollars television sets.
If you believe anything else, you're fooling yourself. Because this deal was dollar and TV driven, I feel that Tech made some crucial mistakes and didn't use this knowledge to their advantage. First, they had no backup plan or political leverage. Hindsight being 20/20, alums probably wish Tech had been in on the rumors of going to multiple conferences. Call the Mountain West, CUSA, or even the Big East. Just something to let Dan Beebe know that someone else other than the Pac-10 wanted them. According to Beebe's press conference today, that alone was worth $5 million. But in the end, Tech was along for the ride and they couldn't do much about it. Tech also believed that their place at the Pac-16 table was earned by performance, not by how many sets of eyes they could bring to a conference TV package. While no one was asking "why does Texas Tech belong in this conversation"-type questions like they were asking about our now allies in Stillwater, that gave Tech a superficial feeling that they would land on their feet.

Fact #2: Texas will take the deal that's best for them.
Tech alum, fans and administration knew this. And true to expectation, the longhorns took the best deal available. Why are you surprised? Now, DeLoss Dodds probably didn't roll out of bed on Monday morning expecting June 14 to be Christmas, but the first rule of negotiation is start with terms that border on absurd, knowing you won't get everything you ask for. What Texas probably didn't anticipate is getting everything they asked for and then some lovely parting gifts from Colorado and Nebraska to boot. That reminds me of the second rule of negotiation: Don't be the dumbest guy in the room. This is where Commissioner Dan Beebe comes in. Remember when Alex Rodriguez was a free agent in and signed with the Texas Rangers? The market dictated he would earn about $20 Million per season. Ranger's owner Tom Hicks wanted to do something historical, so he offered $25 Million per season. See rule #2. Now remember, Hicks is selling his teams and the Rangers still haven't recovered. The Texas administration might have settled for equal shared revenue in exchange for starting its own TV network, but something tells me Dan Beebe didn't ask. He simply gave Texas more than they wanted and the horns couldn't turn him down.

The above are really the only two consistent, true facts in this whole conference re-alignment saga. Knowing this, Texas Tech fans and OSU fans should direct their anger and animosity at one college and one person: Texas A&M and Dan Beebe. Why? Because Texas A&M held up the party. According to Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers on Monday's Williams and Hyatt Show, 4 of the 5 schools were on board with the merger with the Pac 10 a week ago. Texas A&M cited travel concerns and fitting in better culturally with the SEC, so they attempted to seek an invitation southeast rather than west. In reality, A&M was pitching a fit for one game on the west coast per year. I understand that the travel concerns are for basketball and other non-revenue sports, but with travel partners, charter flights and the major selling point of College Station being near Houston, there are ways to work around it. That and the aggies' announcement in 2009 that they had scheduled USC and Oregon in future seasons really give little weight to that argument. The other argument that A&M has more in common culturally with the SEC is also bogus.

What does A&M have in common with the University of Florida? Erin Andrews, have you met Gomer Pyle? Next.

LSU? I heard Aggies didn't drink. What will they do at night games in Death Valley?

Ole Miss? Have you seen anything resembling The Grove in College Station?

Vanderbilt? I can't even think of anything funny here.

Mississippi State? Jackie Sherill got you both on probation.

Alabama? Dennis Franchione ring a bell?

Tennessee? Found one, a rabid fan base with unreasonable expectations.

I won't go on for fear that I'll be censored. But you get the idea.

When it didn't work out with the SEC, Texas A&M came crawling home and took a deal that may well end up being a mirage. I think what everyone missed yesterday is that because the Big XII conference is still in tact, the Big XII television contracts are still in tact and won't be renegotiated until they expire. True, Texas A&M, OU and Texas will get to split the withheld revenue of Colorado and Nebraska, but that is all that is really guaranteed. (While we're on that subject, if Colorado and Nebraska are on television more next season to pad the number owed the Big 3, it won't go unnoticed.) If the Big XII dissolves and something new is created, that's when the television contracts get re-worked. The Big XII has no leverage with the television networks right now, and might have less when they renegotiate because of the loss of the Denver market. A&M either didn't see or didn't understand this, although when your athletic department is $16 million in the hole, they'll take short term gain for long term chaos.

As for Dan Beebe, to an ignorant some, you "saved the conference." If saving the conference means you allowed the University of Texas to commit extortion right in front of you and then paid off A&M and OU to keep quiet, then yes you did. And when you further cater to the "Big 3" over the next year or so, whether it be by television slots, bowl position, officiating (yes, I said it), suspending or not suspending a player (Chad Bettis, Brittany Griner) or any other benefit that Texas asks for, remember this: You created a mirage with handshakes and verbal commitments. And when Iowa State, K-State, Missouri, Kansas and Baylor wake up one morning and realize what they did and what you let the others do, there will be a revolt. As one of my boys from Stillwater sings, "Everything comes back around…." And that's when this conference will come crashing down. People say that you worked hard and saved, nay, did your job. Funny, I thought your job was to ensure competitive balance and look out for the best interest of ALL institutions in a collegiate athletic conference.

I have faith, however that despite what you did, Texas Tech will respond and be an even bigger thorn in the side of the foes in the Big XII. That's just the Red Raider way. And to show there are no real hard feelings, I'll send a gift to you at the Big XII office. I even encourage my fellow Red Raiders and Cowboys to do the same. And when the tubes of KY jelly arrive, put one in your briefcase before your next trip to Austin. Something tells me you might need it.


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