Thursday, September 1, 2011

Signal Watch Sports: College Football Ready to Go (and being a Longhorn fan at the moment)

Its almost Game Day! 

I imagine our friends Jake Shore and Fantomenos are quite excited about Oregon's prospects this year.  I know I am, and I'll be watching. 

I'll also be watching Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and a lot of others as well. 

But, oh my, my Longhorns.  And the Big XII.  And the @#$%ing Longhorn Network.

No doubt many are currently thrilled to hear that Texas A&M has left the Big 12 Conference, delighted that somehow this diminishes UT.  To this, I say:  quit listening to sports radio.  Its making you crazy and ignores the bigger picture.

Dealing with the Weird Cousin

The money, the contracts, etc... are all tied up in the fact that Texas has had a not-always-friendly rivalry between the two schools that has helped make Texas (as in the state, not the University of) football the powerhouse it is today.  As Texans, our high school friends went to A&M, our spouses and colleagues are from UT and TAMU wearing Maroon or Orange on Thanksgiving Day.  The match-up goes back 100 years and is core to what passes for a lot of tradition in Texas, our history being as short as it is.

Frankly, there's a huge information gap here.  I keep reading stories about TAMU leaving, but nobody who actually matters is willing to go on the record as to "why".  And, no, sports personalities do not count as people who matter.  Regents and University Presidents matter.  If they want to put numbers on the table, then fine.  But its just gotten dumb and ugly.

Yes, I understand that TAMU is saying "we'll always leave a slot open to play Texas", but the way this has gone down, its like your cousin spending all summer belittling and criticizing you, then taking the opportunity of the family reunion to drunkenly air their grievances, but sobering up and promising "don't worry, I am still coming to stay for a week at Christmas".  It puts UT and even UT's fans into an awkward position. 

Frankly, we've got OU, and that's the rivalry that actually matters for Longhorn fans.  They're much more in the "girlfriend" seat than the "nutty, acerbic cousin who loves in the country" role that Texas A&M plays in the Big XII.   If we always had sort of an affection for Ags as our in-State rivals (and I'm sorry, Red Raiders fans, we always see you as a tough match-up, but not as a tradtional rival) its just gotten weird.  A little too pyrrhic victory for my tastes.

The Longhorn Network

The Longhorn Network has, of course, been a pretty public debacle here in Austin.

I still don't think we'll see the game on Saturday, and its mostly moot at this point as we can't really organize beer and pretzels around something that might show up on TV.  I thought ESPN and UT were moving forward a little too enthusiastically with an utterly unproven concept, and now its done blown up in their faces and caused TAMU to scream about "last straw"s and whatnot.

There are only so many games in the year, and now I'll be seeing if I can hook my TV up to my laptop on Saturday to make a go of this mess.

The Actual UT Team

Who knows?  I'm no analyst.  I'll cheer for these guys no matter what, but UT's camp has been pretty quiet this year, and its certainly not the press-friendly fiesta that Mack brown has usually employed.  We just learned that Garret Gilbert is returning as QB1.  I have to guess he's had a year to get all cylinders firing with he and the receivers, but we'll know a lot more come Saturday, 7:00 Central.

Aside from that, I'm still trying to learn names, faces, etc...  its such a new team this year, and I only know about half the coaches by sight right now.

You know...

I hated it when UT would get ranked #5 or whatever at the start of the season, and I still don't like the BCS system.  I'm okay with low-ranking for the Longhorns until we demonstrate that we can play.  I saw the other side of this when Vince Young took UT to a championship, and literally up til kick-off, the commentators were suggesting UT didn't deserve to be there against the mighty USC team.  That team earned that victory.  And this team has to earn respect that its clear sports "experts" do not easily give, even when evidence is heaped in front of them.

So there you go.


tjeff said...

Is there evidence this year?

The League said...

So far, I consider this team a complete mystery. I have no idea what to expect. But after last year, if we win more than half, that's a big improvement.

People who have been watching ESPN recently likely no more than I do.

Anonymous said...

That kid from Aledo...I'll be watching him. I think he has talent, but he needs an offensive line that can make holes. I'm rooting for Whittaker too. He's been plagued by injuries. And that Bergeron is a good addition.

I like Brown's style. I do. I like that he's been secretive. He could have spent time talking or he could have spent time developing a forward push with his offense. Let's hope he's done the latter and well.

And to be honest, ever since I read a searing article on that Booster Shapiro from the University of Miami, I've decided I just don't care about winning. I really, really don't. Get a freakin' minor league already.

Hook 'em!!


J.S. said...

At this point, I'm not even sure why we need conferences at all. They seem sort of artifical and arbitrary (and create a lot of cpontroversy in terms of national rankings in terms of one conference supposedly being stronger than another), and if UT and A&M are still going to play nonconference games against each other, why not just find a way to do away with conferences altogether and mix things up a bit? I know it would be complicated, but we have a lot of sports nerds out there with computers, and I'm sure they could come up with a schedule each year, and probably one that ensures better competition, more interesting games, and even more fairness than a conference system.

thevike13 said...

Why does A&M want to leave the Big XII? In short, this is in A&M's best interests financially and in expanding their brand. Here are some more details:

1) Money. Some call it greed and ego, but some say the same about the LHN. I don't begrudge UT for the LHN. I'm very jealous of it in fact. I wish A&M had their own $300 million dollar 20 year deal with ESPN, but they don't and they won't get it. After the SEC adds A&M, they will be able to renegotiate their TV contracts. A&M will make more than twice of what they are making now in the Big XII and potentially 2-5 million more than the new Big XII TV contracts that kick in next year.

2) Branding. A&M moving to the SEC will greatly increase the A&M brand and allow it more national exposure than ever before. They will be the only school from Texas in the SEC. This allows them to differentiate from UT like never before. They can offer something different to high school recruits in the state.

3) Conference stability. The Big XII is a dying conference with no revenue sharing. In one to four years, there will only be three or four 16-20 team super conferences, and finally a playoff system (UT will probably be independent, or in the Pac12 with a reworked, regional LHN as opposed to national). The Super Conferences will be SEC, Big 10, Pac 12, and probably ACC/Big East merged together. A&M didn't want to get left holding the bag and kicked to the curb like the SWC did to TCU, SMU, Houston, and Rice. Which is what will eventually happen to Baylor.

4) As much as they try to hide the fact, the Big XII is actually run by DeLoss Dodds and UT. Not Dan Beebe. Dan Beebe is DeLoss's b@#$%. This is one of the reasons Nebraska left and another factor in A&M's decision. Last year, when the Big XII stayed together, the following was agreed upon by the member schools in regards to the LHN. No high school games and no conference games on the LHN. Flash forward one year later. LHN tries to televise high school games, A&M blocks it, ESPN comes back and says they will show high school highlights now. LHN announces they will televise a conference game exclusively on their network this fall. Last year, they agreed not to do it. Basically, the deal keeps changing. ESPN even tried to back door a deal with Tech to televise on LHN even offering to help setup a home and home with a big BCS school. Tech refused, so now they are going after Kansas or Kansas State.

5) The Board of Regents, the majority of A&M's fans and alumni wanted to go to the SEC last year. That number has increased dramatically this year. There is only so many times you can go against your constituents' wishes. Season tickets are completely sold out this year. Sherman has gotten approval for a 25 million dollar "football village". Donations are pouring into the 12th Man Foundation. The excitement is unbelievable right now and this is at a football school.

thevike13 said...

In regards to your drunken cousin's comments. :-)

That's why A&M and UT may not play each other any more. No one dares cross Texas. No one can dare criticize or disagree with Texas. I will tell you from an Aggie's point of view, the crap and disrespectfulness toward A&M by UT fans and alumni on radio, in newspapers, and on the internet has made it equally awkward for A&M fans. If we're the "nutty, acerbic cousin who lives in the country" and who no one cares about then why do people keep talking about it? I am to the point now that I really don't care if we ever play Texas again. I never thought I would say it, but A&M's stereotype of this backwoods, sheep screwing school is just plain false now. A&M is one of the best universities in the country (top 25). They still have work to do to catch up to UT, but they have made amazing strides in the last 30 years.

I think we've earned some respect as a university even though our football has been mediocre at best over the last 10 years (not counting last year).

What's been fascinating to me and has made me very proud to be an Aggie is the fact that most Aggies would like to continue playing Texas, but not at the expense of leaving to the SEC. They would rather end that rivalry for the betterment of A&M. It's like a leash has finally been released and it is very empowering. 5, 10, even 20 years ago I could not say that A&M would be so brave and bold enough to separate from Texas and risk ending their rivalry and facing UT's wrath.

By the way, you can have your OU as your "girlfriend". She is a perfect girlfriend. She always does what you want and she always listens to and believes whatever you say. I wish my wife was like OU, but she's a UT alum. ;-)

OU has shown their true colors as a rival. They are UT's b@#$% pure and simple. The reason is that OU is only as good as their Texas recruiting. If UT stopped playing OU, it would affect their recruiting pipeline into UT. That's why UT has OU on a tight leash. OU will do whatever UT wants.

Gig 'Em!!


Paul Toohey said...

I'd be game for beer and pretzels without football...just sayin'.

The League said...

Well, pretty clearly OU doesn't feel like UT's bitch, because it sounds like they're leaving, too.

Looks like there's something wrong way beyond UT's inability to negotiate well.

I'm just not sure TAMU's institutionalized issues with UT have served the campus terribly well from a psychic standpoint.

I'm sort of the opinion that the UT/ TAMU relationship is a bit like a Bugs Bunny/ Yosemite Sam cartoon with Bugs in the place of UT and, of course, Sam in the place of TAMU.

And I'm not talking about the current kerfuffle, but the ongoing conversation. I can sort of imagine Sam insisting "Say we're as good as you, varmint", and UT a bit puzzled by all this saying "We're as good as you." With Sam responding, "No, dagnabbit! Say we're better than you!"
"We're better than you."
"Rabbit, I hate you."

Look, I don't know any UT alums who think UT is a better school than A&M (we may think its more fun to live in Austin than College Station, but that's a matter of opinion). I don't know anyone working at UT who doesn't see TAMU as a peer, and I've been there on and off for about 8 years now.

But I also don't see how anyone is proving anything other than that the Big 12 is a poorly managed conference and A&M wasn't as good at UT at building a program in the 00's than UT.

Whatever. Its not like UT is going away. We'll see what comes next.

Jake Shore said...
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Jake Shore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jake Shore said...

Living outside of Texas, I can't speak to any of the in-house politics between the universities, or the between fans and alumni. So my observations are clearly from the outside looking in.

I don't blame teams for wanting to leave the conference and get better revenue deals elsewhere. It seems as if Texas' lordship over the conference has become more trouble than it's worth. It was clearly in the interests of Nebraska and Colorado to leave. But I'm not sure how A&M benefits. Despite the Aggies' strong showing last year, they've been a mediocre team over the last decade competing the Big-12. They may get a better revenue deal in the SEC, but in terms of football, how does A&M increase its prestige by getting killed by LSU, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn every year?

I think it's sad the regional structure of the NCAA is going away. If A&M's departure spells the end of the Big-12, and everyone jumps ship to the Pac-12, what will they call it? The West of the Mississippi-16 (or WOM-16)?

thevike13 said...

Wow. I just read a statement from OU's president on I never thought I would see the day that OU would actually do a move without checking with UT first. Well, good for them. We'll see.

Part of my disappointment with OU, is that if they would have been a more vocal school then Nebraska, A&M, and OU could have kept UT in check to make the Big XII a strong conference of the future.

I think the Big XII has been poorly managed for the last 5 years or so. Ever since Kevin Seifert left for the Pac 10, it's been run by a UT stooge. UT has bullied a lot of teams and the Big XII office for some time now and that's ultimately why Nebraska and A&M left. Colorado left because they thought everyone was jumping to the Pac 10 and they didn't want Baylor to take their spot.

I think it's a coin flip chance that OU leaves the Big XII for the Pac 12 soon to be Pac 16. They take OSU with them because they go as a pair. They then ask UT if they will take Tech and go with them. Tech will take what it can get.

UT will then have to decide:

* rework the national LHN to be a regional Pac 12/16 network


* go independent

Things could get really interesting.

My college realignment predictions may be on a 1-2 year time line rather than a 3-4 year time line depending on what happens with OU.
If OU leaves the Big XII, you can put a fork in it.

The Big XII can survive a few more years without A&M and Nebraska, but they need OU and UT to stay.

thevike13 said...

Maybe we just have a better class of friends, but I don't have any Aggie friends that consider us better than UT. We do consider them as peers too and my realistic friends (myself included) consider UT to be one of the best universities in the country (top 5) even better than A&M.

However, in the media, radio, newspaper, and television, there is a lot of disrespectful talk going on and a lot of old stereotypes of A&M.

In my opinion, if you consider overall academics, law school, med school, and athletics, UT is the best school in the country.

I would be ecstatic if both of my daughters went to either A&M or UT.

I really do not think A&M left because of an inferiority complex with UT although there is no question we have had it in the past (I understand the Bugs and Sam analogy). I really think A&M is just finally growing up, acting in their best interests long term, and not worrying about how UT feels about it.

To use the little brother analogy, maybe A&M finally decided they wanted to step out of the family business and strike out on their own.

thevike13 said...

In regards, to A&M getting their heads kicked in the SEC.

Yeah, it probably will happen next year as A&M loses quite a number of seniors.

A&M was dominant in the mid 80s and early 90s and dominated recruiting in Texas.

But to say A&M can't ever compete in the SEC is false. I think they can. It just might take a little bit of time. You can't look at the last 10 years and then base that for the next 10 or 20 years and think nothing will ever change. The reason I state that is because I think Texas has the best high school football talent in the country. If A&M can continue to improve it's recruiting (which under Sherman they have made amazing strides), then they can compete. That will be the question.

Furthermore, if we were having this same question in 1994, we would not hold UT, OU, or even LSU in such high reverence. All of those teams struggled mightily until they found the right coaches and had some continuity. There would be no LHN from ESPN in 1994. When I was in high school, you could show up at Memorial Stadium day of game and get a reasonably priced ticket because the games weren't sold out like they are now. Things change.

My boss is an LSU alum and he was telling me that historically, LSU was never an SEC power. It wasn't until they hired Nick Saban that they became the power house they are now.

OU was getting kicked around big time after Barry Switzer left. It wasn't until Bob Stoops joined that they became the power that they are now.

Now, I don't know if Sherman will end up being that kind of coach, but he is off to a good start and he is building a tremendous foundation. Plus, KareBear assured me in 2008 after his first 4-8 season (and a 49-7 loss I witnessed personally at DKR with the Steans family), that he would get things turned around because of his ties to the UP. I don't doubt KareBear. :-)

However, there is no question, it's a risk, the Big XII is certainly easier, but sometimes in life you have to take chances for a bigger reward and I don't think you can make decisions based on fear.

thevike13 said...

This was too good to not share. It's pretty funny. I got this from my boss (LSU grad).

I'm waiting for the Star Wars take as the analogy I have been hearing a lot for the LHN is that it is the Death Star of college athletics, a true game changer. Enough to make UT a more powerful independent than even Notre Dame.!

Paul Toohey said...

I'm kind of surprised that the Texas Legislature hasn't had anything to say about this. When the A&M leaving the Big 12 rumours first started I want to say that the State started spinning up a committee to look into it/keep A&M aligned with the Texas schools.

Another question is, what happens if A&M joins the SEC and starts competing, how do all the SEC fanboys explain how they really aren't some super-human-football-conference?

The thing most people forget about in the whole debate over the NCAA Conferences is that College Athletics is a LOT more then football (although, especially in the case of UT, football brings in the lions share of the revenue). One of the big reasons that UT was entertaining the PAC 12 was because we match up really well in some of the less then popular sports with the colleges in that conference (Swimming, Tennis...) so it made sense OUTSIDE of football to join them, not to mention we'd probably stay one of the top Football programs in our conference.

As far as A&M goes, they do still have some weird resentment of UT and as recently as 5 years ago my little sister went on a recruiting tour of A&M and was a bit shocked by all the Anti-UT stuff that they just had everywhere (and pissed off the tour guide by asking him if he thought UT really thought about A&M as constantly as they seem to think about UT).