Staying in a conference makes sense

When Bill Powers gathered the Big 12 powers around the conference realignment table a year ago he had one message for everyone.

"We are for the Big 12," the Texas president said. "We want everyone to go around and commit to the Big 12."

Texas A&M's commitment lasted a year. Now everyone is wondering if Texas' will last much longer.

If Powers still holds the same values he did last year, Texas may elect to rebuild the Big 12 rather than bolt to the Pac-12 or become an independent.

"The number one topic of discussion was the impact it would have on the student-athletes and their families. From scheduling, to travel, to course disruption to ability of their families [to] drive to the game or at least a lot of the games," Powers said in early August. "That was the dominant, overwhelming topic from the coaches to the athletic directors to the staff to myself."

To say Texas is completely dismissing the economics of college athletics would be naive. But Powers insisted that was not the No. 1 factor. Still, it is hard to see a scenario in which Texas would strike out as an independent, traveling the country to find games in volleyball, softball and all the other sports.

"The fact of the matter is Texas and other FBS schools have been expanding schedules, negotiating contracts, doing everything possible to expand their economic fortunes," said noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist.

Whether it's the Big 12 or not, it makes sense for Texas to preserve its foothold in a conference. OK, so in the Big 12 that is more of a stranglehold. But the other schools in the conference clearly profit from the Texas name, and their concessions when it comes to revenue split are more equitable than most perceive.

With A&M's exit, Texas has the opportunity to shape the Big 12 in its image. As long as there are no more defections -- Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-12 for instance -- Texas and its lure of helping fill other schools' coffers will be tough for some schools to resist.

While those programs that could come to the Big 12 might not have fans bases the size of A&M's and Nebraska's, Texas is still a school that is in demand in the college landscape and will do what it thinks is best for the Longhorns.

And if Texas stays in the Big 12, it allows the school to do what Powers says it believes in.

"That is another way that you keep these core values,'' he said. "You actually act on them. You don't just have them on slogans, but they actually become part of the decision-making process, and [looking out for the student-athletes and their families] was the key in the decision-making process."

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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