Over the last few weeks, rumors that Texas A&M was leaving for the Southeastern Conference have been percolating. Mostly, they've been percolating on Texas A&M fan sites and blogs, but of course they then got posted on Twitter, where we know nothing untrue has ever been tweeted ever.
Each time the rumors surface, they're a clear response to some news about The Longhorn Network. Texas and ESPN want to show high school games and a Big 12 conference game on the Longhorn Network? The Aggies are outraged and on the verge of leaving! And maybe Oklahoma or Missouri are going with them, because OU hates UT, too, and we all know Missouri is a conference slut.
After all parties announced a detente, in the form of a one-year moratorium on showing high school games, and restrictions on showing conference games, the rumors subsided. Then, an
enterprising way-too-bored Texas A&M fan put in a FOIA request and obtained the contract for TLN. Its contents were either outrageous or pretty standard stuff, depending on who you talked to. But of course, the same group of Aggies that was outraged by the possibility of high school games and Big 12 conference games on TLN were also outraged by the contract terms, and unsurprisingly, the rumors of an Aggie defection resurfaced. Missouri has kept her skirt down thus far, this time around.
Or not. I guess when some people latch onto an idea, no matter how hare-brained, they refuse to let it go no matter the evidence presented.
Anyway, A&M's threat to bolt was barely a credible threat to begin with, but it -- coupled with the possibility that showing high school games on a school-specific network could be a recruiting violation -- bothered UT just enough that the Longhorns backed off.
See, if UT had done what a vocal minority of its fans wanted it to do, it would have said "you know what, fuck y'all, we're Texas, we're gonna do whatever the hell we want, and there's nothing y'all can do about it because YOU'RE. NOT. TEXAS!!!" Never mind that such a reckless stand risked the possibility that Texas A&M, and possibly others, would flee the Big 12, leaving Texas three unappealing options, (1) rebuilding the Big 12 with MWC and C-USA replacements, (2) breaching its contract with ESPN for TLN so it could go to the Pac-12 or Big 10, or worst (3) becoming an independent.
Of course, that's not to say that Texas A&M's allegedly proposed course of action was all that prudent, either. Going to the SEC holds the appeal for some of the Texas tough-guys of pittin' thur Ags 'ginst the best damn footbawl progrums 'n the US of A. Never mind that in the last 20 years, A&M would have had nothing better than middling success in the SEC, would have a modest budget by SEC standards, and would open its own recruiting territory to said best footbawl progrums in the US of A. And that's to say nothing of the fact that it's an open question whether A&M even has a standing invitation to the SEC, or whether it could make the move in the face of political pressure from the Texas Legislature.
Through all of this, mind you, none of the above-described attitudes were displayed by the actual decision-makers. DeLoss Dodds and William Powers didn't tell A&M and everyone else to fuck off and just to be happy that UT was generous enough to share any of the revenue it made with the rest of the conference, and Bill Byrne and R. Bowen Loftin haven't shown to UT that backbone that Beergut is always talking about.
There's a reason for that. Berry Tramel hits on a lot of the reasons why. Vocal minorities of fanbases may be the group we hear from the most, but it's rarely the faction that represents the viewpoint that is in its athletic department's best interest. While the minority of UT's fanbase thinks UT is infallible and everyone is lucky just to breathe their air because THEY'RE. TEXAS!, its administrators realize that if they don't act prudently, the success of Longhorn, Inc., could fade quickly. Similarly, while A&M's vocal minority assumes that it will attract better recruits with a slate of SEC games and will raise its level of play just because it has to in order to stay afloat, its administrators realize that the money is going to be just as good, if not better, in the Big 12 and that there's a very real possibility that the SEC meat-grinder will leave the Aggies struggling to qualify for a bowl most years. It's possible the Aggies are a sleeping giant, but if they are, to rip off Adam Jacobi, it's been a long fuckin' nap.
In short, throughout this realignment process, try not to allow your perceptions of either program to be influenced too much by what you hear from their fans. Most Texas fans are proud fans who don't think the rest of the Big 12 is lucky that Texas sees fit to share a little bit of the money that it and it alone brings in. Most Texas A&M fans are proud fans who realize that while UT needs to be reined in, a successful future in the SEC is far from a guarantee. Their administrators realize the same thing. A relatively small number of reality-denying halfwits on the Internet won't be making important decisions for those universities any time soon.