The Texas Conference

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boognish_bear
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The Texas Conference: A Plan to Save College Football in Our State

What if Baylor, Houston, TCU, and all the FBS schools in Texas besides UT and A&M came together to form their own conference?

By Scott Bedgood July 31, 2021 5

Illustration by Texas Monthly; Getty
With Texas and Oklahoma joining Texas A&M in the SEC, the remaining schools in the Big 12 have been left in the lurch. For fans of Baylor, TCU, and Texas Tech, this means the terrifying prospect of deciding whether loyalty to the Big 12 is the best play, or if it would be better to heed to the siren call of conference realignment and seek membership in the ACC or Pac-12.

But neither is a good option for those Texas schools. Loyalty to the Big 12, with its unsteady leadership, faltering reputation, and lack of big-money member schools is not the right choice. The Big 12 is just as likely to be heading to the conference chop shop as it is to be heading into a prosperous future. But waiting for overtures from other major conferences might be just as unlikely to work out. For universities like Baylor and TCUsmall, private, religious institutions that lack the athletic tradition of UT or A&M, their recent football success is unlikely to appeal to a major conference. And Texas Tech, way out in West Texas, is at risk of being grafted into a conference that operates two time zones away.

No, now is not the time for loyalty or to sit around and wait for rescue. Now is the time for Texas's remaining college football powers to take control of their own destiny, to band together with their historic rivals in the same way Texas did with Oklahoma. Now is the time to form the Texas Conference.

The proposal for Baylor, TCU, and Tech is to create a new, Texas-only conference with all the other Division I FBS schools in the state. This would be: Baylor, TCU, Tech, SMU, Houston, Rice, UTSA, UTEP, UNT, and Texas State. Of course, many of these teams were in the old Southwest Conference together, but Rice, TCU, SMU, and Houston were left out of the initial formation of the Big 12. This could right those wrongs and add other Texas teams.

Before anything else, let's acknowledge that there are major hurdles to overcome to accomplish this. In fact, it's a near certainty that the Texas Conference will never come into existence. The legal battles, the lack of a national TV audienceit's just about impossible. But it's a fun thought exercise, and Texas and OU just proved that in college football, anything can be accomplished if enough money's at stake.

Fans of Texas schools in the Big 12 may balk at this idea. Visions of competing against USC and Oregon in the Pac-12 or Clemson in the ACC may seem more appealing than Saturdays in El Paso or San Marcos. But there are reasons why now is the exact right time to establish the Texas Conference.

For one, the move would give Baylor, TCU, and Tech control over their own situations. Instead of being subject to the whims of larger universities or the inept Big 12 leadership, they will be in charge. In the Texas Conference, they will be what UT and Oklahoma were to the Big 12. Would you rather be the twelfth most important team in the Pac-12 or the most important team in the Texas Conference?

But won't such a move take these teams out of the conversation for the College Football Playoff by relegating them to a nonPower Five conference? With the proposed postseason expansion that grows the playoff field from four to twelve teams, the six highest-rated conference champions will automatically make the bracket, along with six at-large selections. In this scenario, if Baylor goes undefeated with a couple solid non-conference wins, it would easily be one of the six highest-ranked conference champions. In fact, the Texas Conference could give programs like TCU and Baylor a better chance than they've ever had to make the playoff. And if you're concerned about the level of competition, look at that list of teams again.

Under head coach Sonny Dykes, SMU has turned into a DallasFort Worth regional recruiting powerhouse, an offensive juggernaut, and the best Mustangs team since the Pony Express. Houston has strung together a half-decade's worth of impressive seasons and is now led by coach Dana Holgorsen, who left West Virginia for the Cougars. Barry Switzer once told me that if a team could just recruit the Houston and surrounding area's top talents, they would be the best team in the country. This would give schools in the Texas Conference a chance to step that recruiting up even further. UTSA and UNT have been on the rise in recent years, and both are large universities in major metropolitan areas. And, sure, UTEP, Texas State, and Rice haven't been good in a long time, but every conference needs some basement dwellers. Plus, the goal of the Texas Conference would be to raise the level of all its members.

What about money? The money is there. The branding for the Texas Conference is obvious. Think about the appeal for potential in-state corporate sponsors like H-E-B. If a business wants to be seen as being for Texans, associating with the conference that consists entirely of Texas schools is a no-brainer. It's easy to imagine advertisers playing off the loyalty to the state (with a knowing wink toward the two universities who threw in their lots with southeastern states). Major corporations will throw huge money at UT and A&M, but there are plenty of companies that will want to play ball with the smaller conference. The state of Texas is synonymous with football. Now imagine being the only major college football conference made up of only Texas teams. The potential is astounding.

Athletes also stand to benefit from the NCAA's new rules regarding name, image, and likeness (NIL), which allow players to be paid by sponsors. Imagine a three-star wide-receiver recruit from Houston with offers from UT, A&M, and UH. At the SEC behemoths, this player would compete for playing time against four- and five-star receivers throughout his college career. He might earn playing time by the time his senior year rolls around, and by then he might get some sponsorship money. But what if, instead, he played for his hometown Cougars, became an immediate star, and began appearing in commercials for Houston-based companies like those owned by the chairman of the UH board of regents, billionaire Tilman Fertitta. Imagine if this wideout led Houston to the Texas Conference title and the College Football Playoff. What company in Texas wouldn't want to pay him over the Longhorns' fourth- or fifth-string receiver?

Finally, the Texas Conference would deliver significant cost savings for non-revenue sports. If realignment meant TCU wound up back in the Mountain West Conference, the Horned Frogs baseball and soccer teams would have to travel as far as Wyoming, Utah, California, Colorado, and New Mexico for games. This would take not only a financial toll on the university, but also a physical and mental toll on the athletes. Cutting travel distances by keeping the competition within Texas would allow these schools to save moneymoney they'll need for all the legal battles that are sure to erupt over the creation of the Texas Conference.

It will be complicated. It will be costly. And it will drive college football fans from all 49 other states insane with jealousy. But hey, isn't that the most Texan thing we could do?
PartyBear
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An idea that would make everyone less than if they were a member of the AAC right now.
DanaDane
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I'd rather abolish the football program altogether, pour all of our money into Scott Drew and the basketball program and basically be the Southwest's version of Gonzaga before I'd support a football conference like that.
boognish_bear
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What little national viewing interest the Hateful 8 might be able to generate would tank if the Texas teams broke off to be in a Texas only conference.

I would have zero interest watching a California or Florida conference on a Saturday.
whitetrash
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Go into the Texas Monthly archives and find an article from the September 1974 issue, which stated that the private schools in Texas had no chance, would never have a chance, and should go form a new league with Tulsa and Tulane. The tag line for the article: "only two things are certain: death and Texas."

Less than 3 months later TM had lots of egg on their face.
blackie
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Texas Monthly is only working at the request of UT to do everything it can to see that UT doesn't have to pay the massive exit fee. They couldn't care less about the schools remaining in Texas. And let's suppose that what is suggested in the article is done. Anyone want to guess how many articles they would write concerning these schools. (Is it possible to have a number lower than zero?) All you would see is the glorification of UT's 6-win season.
Johnny Bear
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PartyBear said:

An idea that would make everyone less than if they were a member of the AAC right now.

Exactly. What a stupid notion.
Bandito
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Whatever Texas Monthly says I would recommend doing the opposite.
ImABearToo
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Texas Monthly in the headline, no thanks. We would appreciate you retracting your articles on the fake scandal in Waco though. POS magazine.
hey32g
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Worst idea I've heard so far!

ACC!!! Keep improving the program and beat Texas and OU in the playoffs (if they can make it out of the SEC).

Win 5 more National Championships in basketball.
coldhardtruth
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This is almost as bad as the plan someone suggested stating that adding the service academies would save the B12.
You best remember me my friend
I am the cold hard truth
-George Jones
Stefano DiMera
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I read Texas Monthly for their BBQ reviews...thats it..
Grizz Air
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Thanks for posting OP. I know it's not your idea, it's TX Monthly's, and so I'm just gonna say it... It's a terrible idea.
BUGWBBear
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whitetrash said:

Go into the Texas Monthly archives and find an article from the September 1974 issue, which stated that the private schools in Texas had no chance, would never have a chance, and should go form a new league with Tulsa and Tulane. The tag line for the article: "only two things are certain: death and Texas."

Less than 3 months later TM had lots of egg on their face.


Their own Bum Steer Award.
Crap in the woods bear
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This was tried and it was called the SWC from 1991 - 1996
SandiesCreekBear
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what if....Texas Monthly never sold another magazine and had to close its doors
CSIBear
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From a money standpoint, I guess I get why everyone in here is bashing the idea of a Texas conference but from a traditions or rivalry standpoint I think it would be really fun.

I never run into Iowa St or WV grads while traveling/working around the state but I am always bumping into UH, SMU, Tech or TX ST grads. It would be fun to play them and be able to talk trash at work. That is what Mondays and Fridays used to be about.
historian
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It's a stupid idea for the reasons mentioned above & others. For example, if could never make enough money to last long. (as someone mentioned, non-Texans wouldn't watch the games). Also, recruiting would be decimated as all th red teams competed for the same players. It's bad enough with A&M & now Texas taking talent to the SEC (probably most of the best) but it would be far more difficult for Baylor or anyone else to put together a squad that could compete outside the new conference.

It makes no sense.
CSIBear
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I feel like it's just as silly to think that anyone outside of Texas, say NYC, LA, Wyoming, Michigan etc would want to turn on their TV to watch TTech, Baylor or any other Texas school (even UT). Unless you went to the school there is no draw. Honestly, the same can be said for the SEC. Unless they are playing in the NC game most people are not looking forward to watching Alabama play Kentucky or Arkansas.

A Texas league would grab the eyes of a state with more than 25 million people. Travel costs would go way down. Every game would impact people in Texas one way or the other. There are plenty of Texas-centric brands that would find that appealing. Why does the conference need to make 100s of millions to billions of dollars anyways?
saabing bear
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When Arkansas left the SWC became the Texas Conference. A big reason the SWC cratered.
drahthaar
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Playing "down" in terms of leagues will always be available to us. Our best moveand the remaining 8 better grasp that nowis to remain together even with only 8 currently. It is the first step in future P5 participation. Fall apart or take any port in the storm and horns win on every count, plus keep their $$$.
historian
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There's a big difference nice between $20-30 million and $100s of millions of billions.

Short answer: schools want to maximize revenue because athletics is very expensive & the #1 source of revenue is football, especially from TV. It's not complicated at all.
CSIBear
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That's a fair take. I guess I'm just not aware of how much football revenue impacts the daily life of a student. Do UT kids pay less bc the football team brings in so much? If it is just about covering the excessive costs of having a football team then all they need to do is become more efficient or drop the sports program. If Baylor football doesn't make money will the school have to close down?
historian
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I don't think athletics directly impacts academics a whole lot. But it does provide a lot of PR for the university. Maybe some high school kids will pick a school because they heard about it on TV while watching football. The media can provide lots of publicity as well. When RGIII won the Heisman the university estimated the got $500 million in media exposure. That kind of "free" advertising can do wonders. Just look what our MBB program did for Baylor this year.
thomasjurisd
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Sounds like a great idea if Texas Monthly can get UT, A$M and Arkansas on board lol
historian
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And the two schools from Oklahoma
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