Brace yourselves - it's time for another round of the conference realignment blame game. Some Big 12 fans blame A&M for trading up, or Oklahoma's wandering eye, or Colorado and Nebraska for kicking off this round. But most blame Texas and their $300 million lovechild with ESPN, the Longhorn Network.
As a lifelong Texas fan, I can understand why people feel that way. Texas' Goliath of an athletic department - the wealthiest in the country - doesn't exactly engender a lot of popularity. But blaming the Longhorn Network is blaming a symptom instead of the cause. As long as schools are allowed to determine their own media rights business models, conference stability will be very hard to come by.
This doesn't go back to five years ago, when Texas first announced plans for the Longhorn Network, but almost 30 years ago when the Oklahoma Board of Regents and the NCAA duked it out over television rights in the Supreme Court. Under antitrust laws, the NCAA lost. Making the most of media rights was always in the cards; DeLoss and Co. were just ahead of the pack.
There is no doubt that this is a complicated issue. The Longhorn Network itself has been a mixture of the good (giving a spotlight to UT sports other than football), the bad (the failure to be picked up by major cable providers), and the ugly (going after high school game rights). I do believe that Texas is committed to keeping the Big 12 together - for now. The decision for the Longhorn Network to not cover high school content and Texas agreeing to the tier 1 and 2 six-year rights grant will hopefully help things settle down a bit.
What isn't complicated is how much I've enjoyed Texas being a part of the Big 12 basketball. Over the last couple years, I've bragged to my East Coast friends that my conference is just as tough as the Big East or the ACC. I've cheered other Big 12 teams during March. Playing Kansas is always the game I look forward to the most. If Mizzou does decide to leave, I'll be sorry to see them go.
I'm looking forward to tip off (only five weeks away!), when we can stop talking about media rights and money and start talking about basketball.