From many perspectives, college football realignment looks like one big, shameless money grab. Heads from Texas and the Big 12 did their best to challenge that idea while answering questions from the media on Tuesday.
"There was no single issue that was a tipping point, this is a long-term affiliation," president Bill Powers said Tuesday morning in front of 14 video cameras and more than 50 reporters, eschewing the idea that money was the only motivator. He later pointed to the well-being of student-athletes and existing rivalries as reasons to stay, in addition to the academic benefits. "All things considered, this was not just one item or another. It's what is the most comfortable and best fit for the University of Texas. And our view, after going through all of that and giving it very careful consideration, is the new formation of the Big 12."
Said commissioner Dan Beebe later:
"Another inaccuracy is it's all about money and all of that that's been reported. Certainly resources are very important to provide the opportunities for the student-athlete...but a strong, strong consideration that I think went into the decisions by the institutions to remain in association with these schools is the fact that college athletics is very much a regionally supported endeavor, and it would be a great travesty for this part of the country if its major institutions located with conferences that aren't even in this region.
Agreed. Money's not the only consideration. There's no doubt that you don't want athletes getting back from away games at 6:30 with classes kicking off in 90 minutes. And ideally, fans would be able to attend at least a few away games, and hopefully all, within reason. And yes, the long-standing rivalries matter, too.
But money is the only reason any of those things matter. Without a high quality of life for your primary product, you lose high-quality talent. That means less winning. That means less money.
Without familiar opponents, you lose passion. That means lower TV ratings, and you know where that's headed.
Oregon has been a better team than Texas A&M over the past five years. On paper, that's an attractive matchup. But neither fan base is going to get as excited as they would for a Texas A&M-Texas game. Those rivalries may have never truly materialized in a Pac-16, and in the short term, you might find an apathetic fan base, even if the evidence inside the stadium insists otherwise.
Texas made the safe decision. They don't have any guaranteed money or guaranteed conference members, but they got enough assurance to feel "very confident" they'll be happy with both moving forward.
Beebe, Powers, Dodds and whoever else can deny money is the only consideration all they want. Everyone still knows the bottom line will always be the bottom line.