The Big 12 Conference and Texas Longhorns, ‘Friends with Benefits!’

by Travis Normand

Doesn’t everyone enjoy a good conspiracy?  Just before 4:30 pm on January 25, 2013, Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman posted a story at Statesman.com about the Big 12’s possible alliance with the ACC and two other conferences.

I found Bohls’ article via another website that linked back to the original post at Statesman.com.  After a quick Google.com search, I found that every article I could find on the matter cited back to Bohls’ Statesman.com article.  In other words, the Big 12 Conference has something in the works and it is the Austin American-Statesman that “breaks” the story.

However, what strikes me as odd is that the Big 12 has apparently decided to NOT do itself any favors in dealing with this information.

If you have been paying attention to college football realignment, you know at least two things: (1) that the University of Nebraska claimed to be fed-up with the University of Texas and therefore decided to move to the Big Ten, and (2) that Texas A&M claimed to be fed-up with the University of Texas and therefore decided to move to the SEC.

While the proof was never clearly laid out for everyone to see, both Nebraska and Texas A&M made it known that they were not happy with the way the Texas Longhorns and the Big 12 Conference worked in tandem for the benefit of the Longhorns (and not for the conference as a whole, or any other individual member institution).  The Longhorns were never actually caught driving the Big 12 Conference bus, however, many fans and alumni are still operating under the impression that the University of Texas controlled the Big 12 Conference.

With this being the case, why would the Big 12 break this most recent news in the Austin American-Statesman?  There are plenty of other newspapers in the state of Texas, as well as newspapers in other states that are within the Big 12, that could have covered this story.  The Austin American-Statesman isn’t even the biggest newspaper in Texas, nor does it have the furthest reach.  As a native Texan, I always known about the Austin American-Statesman, just like I know about the San Antonio Express News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Houston Chronicle, and Dallas Morning News.  However, unlike the papers in Dallas and Houston, the Austin American-Statesman has always been nothing more than the city of Austin’s local paper.

So why would the Big 12 Conference, with its headquarters near Dallas/Fort Worth, break such a story in the local Austin paper?  One answer for this could be that Bohls asked about the story first and was therefore given the opportunity to break the news.  Another answer might be that Bohls is the only person who knew what questions to ask in order to get the story.

The difference in those two answers is a minor one, but it’s there.

In the end, I could be making a mountain out of a mole-hill.  After all, it is Bohls’ job to seek out the news, get the interviews, and write the story.  The last thing I want to do is cry “conspiracy” every time the Austin American-Statesman breaks the news on anything Big 12 related.  On the other hand, if I was the Big 12 and/or conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby, I would be looking to spread the wealth around to all the media outlets.  If for no other reason than to avoid blog postings such as this one.  Bowlsby has to know the history of the Big 12 and that it has lost several members (recently) due to their impression that the University of Texas was “in bed” with the conference.  Why not do yourself a favor and have the local paper in Ames Iowa break the news every once in a while?

What?  Is the local paper in Ames (home of Big 12 member Iowa State) not good enough?

The point is this:  after receiving a fair amount of criticism concerning their relationship with the University of Texas, after losing several member institutions to other conferences, and after nearly collapsing as a conference, one would think that the Big 12 would want to appear as impartial as possible.

Oh well, I guess its good to see that some things never change.

More to consider:

  • Like I stated above, I don’t believe there was any real wrong doing by the University of Texas or the Big 12 Conference.  Any speculation on my part, or someone else’s, that the Longhorns or Big 12 were working closely together is just that…speculation.  However, this speculation was formed by watching the events of conference expansion unfold and listening to what was said (or written) about the matter (sometimes having to read between the lines, and sometimes reading the plain text).
  • Also, like I said above, this is a hard thing to complain about.  After all, am I claiming that the Big 12 Conference should quit working with the Austin American-Statesman?  No.  Am I claiming that anything the Austin American-Statesman prints about the Big 12 Conference was gathered by unfair means and is therefore not to be trusted?  No.  I am merely stating that the Big 12 could do itself a favor by at least appearing to work closer with the other newspapers that cover the conference.
  • If I had one conspiracy theory with which I could tie all of this together with, what would it be?  Simple.  The Austin American-Statesman (and Kirk Bohls) is a mouth-piece for the University of Texas, and they are therefore also a mouth-piece for the Big 12.  Is this true?  I have no idea, but to me, it has (at times) certainly appeared that way.
  • If the Big 12 is considering an alliance with three conferences, one of which being the ACC, who are the other two?  I actually have two guesses:  (1) The other two conferences are the Big 10 and the Pac-12;  (2) There are really only two conferences involved (the Big 12 and the ACC) and the entire point behind this news story is to somehow “scare” the Big 10 and Pac-12 into thinking that the Big 12 (and ACC) are somehow about to gain the upper-hand in realignment (and television deals).
  • What would be the best evidence against Kirk Bohls being the conference mouth-piece?  Easy.  If Bohls and the Austin American-Statesman were nothing more than a PR “rag” for the Big 12, you would like to think they would have not printed Bowlsby’s “friends with benefits” comment.

Yes, in describing the reasons for aligning with the ACC and two other conferences, Commissioner Bowlsby said: [emphasis added]

“It’s purely exploratory,” said Bowlsby, who added that the leagues involved have had “multiple discussions” about the subject.

Bowlsby said the potential move should not be interpreted as a precursor to future expansion in light of the SEC’s additions of Texas A&M; and Missouri and the Big Ten’s more recent move to invite Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big Ten.

“If anything, it’s the opposite,” Bowlsby said. “You can begin to get some advantages without taking on any of the disadvantages (of expansion). It’s one option that allows benefits. It’s kind of like friends with benefits.”

Click HERE to read the original story in the Austin American-Statesman (Statesman.com)

* Note: In the block quote above, I am assuming Kirk Bohls meant to write “. . . and Rutgers from the Big East.”

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