Texas football is a joke now, but move to SEC will help revive Longhorns | Toppmeyer
One of most entertaining parts of conference realignment is the sniping that accompanies it.
And the state of Texas is the king of delivering parting shots that age poorly.
After the SEC announced in 1990 that Arkansas was being added from the now-defunct Southwest Conference, Baylor football coach Grant Teaff pondered, “Who is the SEC, anyway?”
Today’s youth now ask, what was the Southwest Conference? Meanwhile, Baylor endured 14 straight losing seasons from 1996-2009 while the SEC ascended to college football’s throne.
Then-Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds supplied an infamous barb in 2013, following Missouri’s first season in the SEC, when he claimed, “Our bad years are better than (Missouri’s) good years.”
Missouri went on to play for the SEC championship in 2013 and ’14 while Texas compiled a 14-12 record during that stretch.
Now, it’s Texas’ turn to be on the receiving end of jabs after the SEC’s addition of the Longhorns and Oklahoma. The two Big 12 schools say they’ll join their new conference in 2025, but the move could happen sooner.
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Baylor AD Mack Rhoades told The Athletic that the Longhorns are leaving the Big 12 because “they felt too little of themselves.” That’s funny, coming from Rhoades, whose own SEC foray as Missouri’s AD went so poorly that Tigers fans probably would have offered to pay for his gas out of town when he bolted to Baylor, ending his tumultuous 14-month tenure.
Meanwhile, Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a TCU alumna, quipped that maybe Texas “would rather lose to Alabama than TCU.”
That zinger has merit. The Longhorns would rather lose to Alabama than TCU, because it’s more lucrative to do so.
Get those jabs in now, because the Longhorns will get the last laugh.
For the second time in about a decade, the Big 12 is teetering on the brink of collapse. You can bet that if the SEC offered Baylor or TCU a lifeline out, they’d grab it.
Considering the Big 12 is set to reduce to eight teams after OU and Texas bid farewell, perhaps it should dust off the old Big Eight logos.
If Texas A&M or Missouri harbored any lingering regret about leaving for the SEC – and I doubt either did – this latest Big 12 exodus proves those schools were wise to get out of Dodge when they had the chance a decade ago.
Texas and OU will further strengthen the SEC’s place as the richest and most powerful conference.
But Texas’ conference swap should improve more than its finances. Joining the SEC also should help accelerate Longhorns football.
Yes, you read that correctly. Joining the nation’s best conference will improve Texas football, at least long-term.
Don’t believe me? Check out what’s happening at Texas A&M.
Certainly, hiring Jimbo Fisher is a key component in the Aggies’ ascent, but a place at the SEC’s table also lifted that program’s standing.
First, let’s back up a second. It’s all too easy – and in some ways, appropriate – to crack jokes about Texas football. The program’s production the past 11 years hasn’t matched its hubris.
But don’t conflate Texas’ underachieving football program with an underachieving athletic department. The Longhorns are the reigning winners of the Directors’ Cup, which is awarded for success throughout the athletic department.
In the 27 years the Directors’ Cup has been awarded, Texas has 21 top-10 finishes. Three Texas programs won national championships – men’s swimming and diving, women’s rowing and women’s tennis – in 2020-21, and its volleyball program finished as the national runner-up. Its baseball program reached the College World Series semifinals.
Expect Texas to annually rival Florida for the SEC’s best athletic department, top to bottom.
Now, as for football.
Being in the SEC should help Texas’ already affluent athletic department increase its cashflow to spend on the facilities arms race, coaching salaries and recruiting budgets.
During the 2011 fiscal year, while still in the Big 12, Texas A&M athletics generated $87.3 million in revenue. It brought in $212.7 million in revenue in 2019, a 143.7% increase. The Aggies’ revenue hike partly stems from a surge in donations connected to the Kyle Field renovation, but media rights and licensing revenue also soared.
Texas led the nation with $223.9 million in revenue in 2019, up 72.2% from its 2011 figure.
A home in the SEC should help Texas in recruiting battles, too.
Programs throughout the nation swoop in to poach prospects from Texas’ fertile recruiting ground. Top prospects previously had to decide whether they wanted to play for the state’s most visible school, or play in the nation’s best conference. Now, prospects can do both.
Again, use Texas A&M as a reference as to what this should do for recruiting.
The Aggies’ 2011 recruiting class – their last class before they accepted an invitation to the SEC – ranked 34th nationally in the 247Sports Composite. Their 2012 signing class ranked 16th, beginning a stretch of 10 consecutive top-20 classes, half of which ranked in the nation’s top 10.
So, get those wisecracks about Texas in now, because this move to the SEC should serve as a catalyst to awaken the Longhorns.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.