Conference Realignment :: Asking Too Many Questions

Asking Questions:  I'm going to be asking a lot of questions this morning, and they aren't rhetorical questions.  Quite simply, these are questions that I don't necessarily have answers to, but would be really curious as to what you think about all of this stuff.

Boiling It Down:  I was talking with a handful of friends over the weekend and of course, the discussion was about conference realignment.  The more I talked, the more I thought that this discussion of realignment comes down to two things:  television markets and academics.  People all over the internets are opining as to whether or not a team deserves or does not deserve to get into any new conference based on the criteria of whether or not said university will bring a healthy television market and what kind of academics the school will bring to any new conference.  Any discussion of conference realignment first involves the athletic directors, just like last week where the athletic directors met prior to the school presidents and chancellors. 

Honestly, I can't give you the merits of whether or not University A deserves to be picked over University B.  That gives me severe tired-head, to compare resumes with other universities, but the academics of Texas Tech is often brought up as not being up to par with other universities.  I'm going to be using what I think are rational thoughts, but you tell me if I'm even close to being right. 

First, Texas Tech didn't start the university until 1923, in a fairly remote part of West Texas.  By this time UT (1883) has been a university for 40 years TAMU (1871) has been a university for 52 years (I just basing this off of dates from Wikipedia).  That's a fairly significant head-start.

Second, both the UT and TAMU systems are the only public universities that have access to the Texas Permanent University Fund.  The PUF earnes billions, not millions, in terms of income for both of these two systems: 

As of December 2008 figures, the PUF holds approximately $8.8 billion in investments and 2,100,000 acres (8,500 km2) of land located in 21 counties, mostly in West Texas.  Each year, five percent of the PUF's value is transferred to the AUF, which then distributes the money. The PUF primarily serves eligible institutions in the University of Texas System, which receives two-thirds of its proceeds. The remaining one-third goes to eligible institutions in the Texas A&M University System.  As of 2008, the University of Texas System received the fifth-largest endowment in the nation, and the Texas A&M System received the tenth-largest.  At one time, the PUF was the chief source of income for The University of Texas at Austin, but today its revenues account for less than twenty percent of the university's annual budgets.  Of the 2007-08 year's $1 billion core academic budget of UT Austin, the AUF's funding accounted for $143 million.

Now, I'm no math major, but I do get that if a university is receiving income from a revenue source that they receive just because they exist, then I'm guessing that this university is going to receive quite a bit more research dollars than say, I don't know, a university that has to rely on finding research dollars and just funding a university all on their own.

Third, much has been made at the fact that Texas Tech is currently a Tier 3 university, but is making a significant push to be a Tier 1 university within 2 to 4 years.  This seems improbable, but by the time that conference armageddon / realignment happens, Texas Tech will most likely be pretty darn close to being that Tier 1 that everyone seems to think is so important. 

But what about those academics.  I don't know how to quantify this.  All I can say is that Texas Tech was a tremendous school for me.  I think I received a pretty good education at Texas Tech, but I also believe that education is almost completely dependent upon how much a person chooses to invest in it.  Texas Tech has almost always been an incredibly affordable university and even with the latest tuition hike, it's still cheaper than the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at Arlington and University of Houston.

Questions: 
*If academics isn't really about the education that one receives, but is more about research that's done at a university, then why is the fact that Texas Tech will be a Tier 1 university in 2 to 4 years not being discussed when others talk about the lack of research at Texas Tech? 
*Does this push for Tier 1 status matter to anyone other than Texas Tech?
*Is this step towards Tier 1 not really important currently? 
*Why is the fact that Texas Tech has had to balance their budget without the help from the PUF not being discussed in terms of academics?

UT is the Overlord:  This is intended to be a bit tongue-and-cheek, but you guys have already discussed the idea that Texas holds all of the cards.  They have a handful of options, but from everything that I've read, Texas would rather the Big 12 stay together so that they can take advantage of their own network rather than merge with the Pac-10, where they would be forced to play along with all of the other universities.  Honestly, I don't bemoan the Longhorns for doing what's best for them, but this is what it comes down to, i.e., what does Texas do?  I would imagine that other universities would create their own television network and you would more than likely have your "haves" and then you would have your "have-nots".  At this point, it's a money game.  It's like the New York Yankees without a salary cap supposedly having the same shot for a World Series as the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Again, it's capitalism, and I don't fault UT for looking out for themselves, but at some point, without some sort of constraints put in place, then I think this spirals out of control for 99% of those universities not named Notre Dame and UT pretty quickly.

Questions: 
*If you're the Longhorns, what do you do? 
*Do the actions or ability of the Longhorns to make the decisions for the entire conference drive you crazy, or are you resigned to this being what it is?

What's Baylor Doing:  So it appears that those close with Baylor are trying to push the Bears to be the other university to be given an invite to the Pac-10.  I get the fact that Texas Tech is in a similar boat, but for whatever reason, perhaps, Texas and Texas A&M wanted to preserve what's become a pretty fun rivalry with Texas Tech.  I know, the only rivalry that matters to UT is OU and the only rivalry that matters to TAMU is UT.  Whatever.  I still think that there's a chance that this is true and again, without getting into the resumes, I think that if you were to take a public poll of games that people look forward to watching and Texas Tech is going to be in the conversation much more than Baylor and despite making improvements, the Bears haven't played a truly relevant college football game in a really long time. 

The Ralphie Report goes on the offense with the emails from the Baylor folks trying to sway the Texas legislature and the DMN has the emails from those Baylor folks:

Maybe if Baylor keeps talking, the Pac-10 and it's current schools will see what they are getting into. All of this might end up helping Colorado when it is all said and done, especially when you start trying to sell your religious background as a reason you should be invited into the Pac-10. Ask Cal, Stanford and Oregon how the feel about such comments. Pretty childish if you ask me, especially when you consider this is coming from a supposed "academic institution." Hopefully the University of Colorado is getting it done behind the scenes with the Pac-10 and they are noticing but I am very glad we haven't seen this sort of stuff from the Colorado side out in public (knock on wood).

Okay, so Baylor sends out a bunch of emails and asks that they call a bunch of folks.  That's the plan?

Questions:
*What's Baylor's leverage? 
*Could Baylor alumnus introduce legislation to reduce the PUF? 
*If that's so easy to do, then why don't Texas Tech alumnus introduce legislation to do the same thing to get a piece of the PUF pie? 

As an aside, I think that it's a ridiculous notion to think that a few Texas legislators will be able to change something that's been in place for over 100 years, but I don't think that this very coy game of "if you don't do what I want you to do then I might do something" is dumb.  UT could decide to whatever they want to do and it won't change a thing regarding the PUF or anything else.

Open Thread:  Feel free to post any and all additional links and/or news here today.  I thought that this  might be a good place to post anything and everything that happens today.

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