The Pac-12 decided not to expand on Thursday, killing Texas Tech’s ideal exit plan if the Big 12 collapses.
This isn’t the news Red Raider fans wanted to hear. Entering the Pac-12 would’ve given the Red Raiders a bigger chance to win a conference, more so than in the Big 12. It also would’ve allowed Texas Tech to continue to play in significant primetime contests against big names like USC and UCLA. Being in a conference with those two LA schools, as well as the Pac-12’s TV deal, wouldn’t have hurt Texas Tech’s bottom line either.
It would’ve been a smart move for the Pac-12 to expand as well. Adding Texas Tech would’ve given the conference a market in the central time zone, as well as an excellent athletic program overall. Texas Tech also brings the 4th largest market out of all Big 12 schools. Add the fact that Tech is an R1 university with above-average facilities; why wouldn’t the Pac-12 add a school like Texas Tech?
The only winner of this decision is the Big 12 itself. The conference now gains a little more stability without the threat of the Pac-12 raiding them. It also allows Bob Bowlsby and Co. to expand, with several schools in the American and the MWC being potential candidates to join.
The long-term impact this has on Tech depends on what the Big 12 does next. If it decides to expand, it could make up some of the revenue lost when Oklahoma and Texas jump to the SEC. The longer that decision takes, the longer Tech faces an uncertain future. No team wants to live in college sports limbo, not knowing if you’ll even be a Power Five school down the road. It affects recruiting, which in turn affects success, which in turn affects fan happiness. That’s not what Tech wants.
What Tech does want is a more proactive Big 12, and the Big 12 has no choice but to do that. The SEC will only get stronger with OU and Texas. The Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC have agreed to work together to combat the SEC. They, unlike the Big 12, are making moves not to be left behind. The longer the Big 12 sits on the sidelines, the more they will be left out in the cold. They will become the school outcasts that quietly show up while the rest of the Power Five enjoy their spotlight as the popular kids.
Ultimately, that’s where we’re at in college sports. We have the have’s and the have-not’s, and the Big 12 can’t risk being a part of the latter category.
We can’t trust Bowlsby to lead the conference out of the hole he’s put them in. This means Big 12 members, like Texas Tech, must actively push Big 12 leadership to do something now before it’s too late. It needs to force them to add schools like Houston, Memphis, and Cincinnati. Schools like these have big-city markets and good enough football programs. It could add Tulane, giving the Big 12 the New Orleans market. Adding BYU would give the Big 12 a national fanbase, and adding Boise State would give them the winningest program in history by winning percentage.
Why not go outside the box too? Contact schools like Tulsa, UCF, and SMU, all of which have good-sized markets and football teams. Adding around 2-6 schools would increase the Big 12’s revenue. It wouldn’t make up the lost revenue from OU/UT’s departure, but it may give Texas Tech and others a reason to stay.
Texas Tech’s best option might be to stay anyway. ESPN is pushing them towards the American, a move which the Red Raiders understandably don’t want. Not only would Tech lose the Power Five label, but it would also sink what already has become a mid-tier football program. The Red Raiders have to stick it out and hope for the best despite the unknown road ahead.
After the Pac-12’s decision, it’s best if the conference sticks together. However, it can no longer stand idly by. The Big 12 is the only Power Five conference that hasn’t been proactive. That needs to change, else it and its members risk dropping further down the college sports hierarchy.