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Pac-12 Expansion: Will Texas Come West, Pick The ACC, Or Go Independent?

Meet the ten jubiliant people who've been able to watch Texas football on the Longhorn Network!
Meet the ten jubiliant people who've been able to watch Texas football on the Longhorn Network!

The Texas Longhorns in the ACC? Sure.

Yeah, I mean, it can certainly happen. It would be the logical move for a program that has been entirely motivated by pure self-interest since things begun. Texas couldn't placate their long-term rivals Texas A&M? So long Aggies. Texas can't convince Oklahoma to stick around? Fine, be that way Sooners. We'll do things the way Texas always does things: Our way.

Of course, Texas to the ACC would be an extension of the very same principles that killed the Big 12. Texas would wrestle top dog status away from, oh, everyone else, and the conference would be left looking up at the shiny Longhorn Network. The ACC (already geographically unwieldy) would stretch to almost halfway across the country. It would be a conference without any order, any principle, and everyone would be the poorer for it. Except for Texas, which will be Scrooge McDucking in their gigantic pond of greenbacks.

If the ACC decides to allow the Longhorns in without making any concessions, and if the current way Texas does business stays intact, eventually teams will recognize their place in the pecking order, and will start leaving the way teams have deserted the Big 12, potentially toward the Big East (welcome back Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami) and the SEC (hello Florida State). Soon the ACC will wither, just like the Big 12 is withering, and Texas will be left searching for their next victim partner.

If Texas is using the ACC as leverage to the Pac-12 to keep their network, they might as well be holding a pair of fours at the poker table. Commissioner Larry Scott has to know Texas joining the ACC might retain their academic and Olympic edge, but it will severely weaken their football brand and their overall status in the current BCS pecking order. Going from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech to Boston College, Duke, Wake Forest and Clemson is like replacing Matt Damon with Hayden Christensen as your lead actor. Oh yeah, your movie is still the same, except Anakin Stiltwhiner is everywhere and you want him to stop stuttering when reading the cue cards.

The Pac-12 still holds the high hand. They would take the Oklahoma schools and Texas Tech, retaining three of the four traditional Big 12 South rivals the Longhorns square off with, thus ensuring high quality football matchups. They would offer the Olympic tradition. And of course, other than the Big Ten, their academics are beyond parallel. I suspect that a vast majority of Longhorns fans would want to see Texas in the Pac-12 as well.

All Texas would have to do is compromise their Longhorn Network to Pac-12 standards--


I said, all Texas would have to do is compromise--


Oh yeah. I guess compromise might not be in the making. You see, this is about more than just the money for the Longhorns. This is about ego and power and all those things that usually come in the second act of a Shakespeare tragedy. They want their cake, they want to eat it, and they want to down it with a few mojitos.

Texas doesn't want to give up their Longhorn Network. They don't want to give up their contract with ESPN, and ESPN sure doesn't want them to give it up. Even though they wouldn't totally lose (as they are current co-holders of the Pac-12 TV contract), admitting that the LHN was a bridge too far is something that appears to be beyond the policymakers in the athletic department in Austin or Bristol. Not folding that vision into something more equitable that the Pac-12 Network would offer just doesn't seem to be good enough, because it's compromise, and compromise is so so bad.

("What, you mean a network that only broadcasts two lower-tier Texas football games along with a bunch of mid-level Longhorn basketball games isn't compelling enough? TAKE A LOOK AT ALL THESE UT-SAN ANTONIO FOOTBALL GAMES WE'RE SHOWING! How can you not get on board???")

So the only other option if Texas remains steadfast? Independence.

Obviously, there's a huge upside to Texas going independent. They could start working the LHN into bigger matchups. They can start paving out their own schedule to the highest bidders and schedule their own marquee matchups. And they could potentially work something out with the BCS, where their strength of schedule would be so strong, the computers couldn't possibly ignore their status, and would grant them preferential treatment compared to the other members.

Naturally, with an upside comes a downside. Based on all the bridges Texas has been carpet-bombing the past few years, it's not a guarantee that anyone would WANT to schedule the Horns in the near future. All their traditional rivals will be in new conferences and have other obligations to fulfill--and simply no time for Texas. Maybe Oklahoma, but that's about it.

The potential for a Conference USA-type schedule isn't out of the question. How's a healthy helping of Baylor, Rice, and SMU sound? Like yourself a UT-Austin/UT-San Antonio rivalry? I know at least a dozen people who would rather watch Austin City Limits. Consequently, that type of scheduling would help the Longhorn Network increase its profile and distribution by about two percent. Maybe one. I'm being generous.

And let's say Texas went independent, got a tough schedule, and then got those concessions from the BCS? Even if all that broke for the Horns, it could be the final straw for other major schools with the current football championship system and could hasten the path to a playoff.

It's bad enough major FBS schools have to deal with Notre Dame getting preferential treatment in college football because everyone born before the Korean War wants to win one for the Gipper. Having the new bullies get their way would just be too much to stomach. The race to the super conference and a playoff system would accelerate if the Longhorns inserted themselves that way. And Texas would be left in the dust, waiting for some invite to El Paso or Houston or someplace they can be cast aside.

Texas going to the ACC might give the Horns everything they want, at the cost of a huge hit to their football prestige. Texas going independent could come with great benefits, but also could backfire tremendously if no one buys into the product the Horns are selling. Texas to the Pac-12 might not give them everything they want, but it gives them most of what they want, it provides them with the most stability, and will preserve their status in the power hierarchy of college football. Perhaps Scott can also remove that part of Texas's functioning apparatus that energy leeches the resources of the rest of the conference, which would be a feat worthy of a NASA scientist.

Your move, Bevo.