Texas officials declined to respond today to a published report in a Kansas newspaper that the school has engaged in “preliminary exchanges” with officials from the Big Ten in response to that league’s stated expansion plans.
“We’re not going to comment on speculation and rumors,” said Nick Voinis, the school’s senior associate athletic director for communications.
Nor should they. Especially when the report, published in the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, is built around a quote from an unnamed person the newspaper identified as “a source with ties to the Big 10.”
And here’s the key paragraph, taken straight from the newspaper’s website: “There have been preliminary exchanges between the Big Ten and Texas,” the source told the Journal-World on Wednesday. “People will deny that, but it’s accurate.”
Despite leaning on an unnamed source whose “ties to the Big 10” may or may not be strong ones, the report may be accurate. But that does not mean Texas officials are eagerly perched, anxious to jump to another conference. Far from it, frankly, if you listen to the folks in Austin. Publicly or privately.
After news of the Big Ten’s expansion plans surfaced in December, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds made it clear that his school understands the logistical challenges (nightmares?) that would be involved with competing as a Big Ten member in all the non-revenue sports _ men’s and women’s _ fielded by the school.
“It (the Big 10) is a long ways away,” Dodds said at the time. “We’re a member of the Big 12. We helped put the Big 12 together.”
Notice that Dodds did not rule out the possibility. Neither did Voinis. Everyone likes to feel wanted. Every school likes to have leverage it can use, if needed, during the next round of closed-door meetings with league administrators.
But realize that, in a common-sense world, a Texas-to-the-Big-Ten move makes very little logistical sense. And maybe not much financial sense, either.
Granted, the school toyed with the idea of Pac-10 membership during the dying days of the Southwest Conference, which coincided with the formation of the Big 12. But at that time, Texas officials knew a jump to another league was inevitable and checked out the Pac-10 possibilities.
Another move is not necessary in today’s economic climate. And it only stands to reason that Big Ten administrators would sound out Texas’ interest as part of their due diligence in following up on announced plans to explore expansion options for the next 12 to 18 months.
At last count, the Big Ten _ which actually has 11 members _ has reportedly tried to gauge the expansion-related interest of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Syracuse and Iowa State. Others surely will follow.
Among that group, Texas makes the least geographic sense. Texas also plays in a league where it has helped shape the current revenue-sharing policy, which allows a larger slice of the overall TV pie to schools that make the most TV appearances. That benefits schools like Texas.
Even with the Big Ten’s TV network, it’s hard to imagine Texas would be in a significantly better financial situation by moving to the Big Ten when you factor in the increased travel costs for non-revenue sports. Longer road trips for conference games also would mean more missed class days for athletes, which would not appease UT faculty members.
So I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Longhorns’ first double-header at Purdue to open the Big Ten baseball season any time soon.
_ Jimmy Burch