When winning is no longer a top priority


On a wall here next to the sports department hangs a glass-framed copy of the front page of the AJ May 13, 1956 with the headline in capital letters “RED RAIDERS IN!” – white letters on a large red rectangle at the top of the page.

The day before in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the leadership of the Southwest Conference offered Texas Tech an invitation to the Southwest Conference, ending the school’s three-decade quest. Two front-page articles accompanied a photo of Technical Chairman EN Jones addressing a crowd of students and townspeople at a downtown rally.

“Saturday’s action by the SWC faculty committee put Texas Tech in the big league athletically; solidified its position academically,” an editorial said.

Since then, the Red Raiders have remained in the big leagues of varsity sport, attending conferences that made athletic and geographic meaning and have benefited the college exponentially. In the days leading up to 1956, I can’t think of a time when Tech was in a more uncertain position than today, put there with eight other members of the Big 12 by threats to exit Texas and the United States. ‘Oklahoma.

If UT and OU join the Southeastern Conference – as a Houston Chronicle report has shed light on their attempts – Tech, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia will be immersed in a period of discomfort without any insurance, there are no two ways to get around it.

Let me quickly add that Tech has the resume to find a landing spot in a setup of other power five schools, and that’s what will happen. But stay ….

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Undoubtedly, the best place for Tech is in the Big 12 as it is currently constituted. Since becoming a founding member of the conference in the mid-1990s, Tech’s annual sports budget, at least before the pandemic, has increased tenfold. The SWC and Big 8 people speak a similar language. And the Red Raiders have maintained an annual rivalry with Texas – and, until 2011, with Texas A&M. These were and are needed. Anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea.

The harsh reality is that no alternative is going to beat what the Red Raiders and Lady Raiders have enjoyed over the past 25 years. The Big 8 and the Southwest Conference formed a shotgun marriage that worked until egos and misplaced priorities – more on that in a moment – pushed the Big 12 into the position it was in. is today, perhaps on the verge of extinction.

Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks during last year's Big 12 Football Media Days at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.  The Big 12 Presidents voted on Monday to have their football teams play a 10-game schedule this season, including nine conference games and one non-conference home game.

Perhaps the Pac-12 and some of the remaining Big 12 members could give it a go in a 16-team conference that includes Texas Tech. Neither geography, nor increased travel, nor cultural fit – there is no cultural fit – make sense.

Sadly, university sports leaders have long shied away from their duty to make logical decisions. The fact that some of these buffoons have broken up rivalries such as Oklahoma-Nebraska, Texas A & M-Texas, Texas A & M-other former SWC rivals, Arkansas-former SWC rivals and Kansas-Missouri proves that they are not serving the best interests. of their fans.

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From a competition standpoint, teams like Tech and Oklahoma State that jump into a pool with countries like Washington, Oregon, Southern Cal, UCLA, and Arizona State have a certain appeal. From a football point of view, the Pac-12 offers many competitive programs that tend to take turns. Upward mobility is achievable.

That’s probably better than eight Big 12 survivors trying to hang on and add more lower party members of the five.

Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells chats with athletic director Kirby Hocutt ahead of their annual spring game on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Again, there is no option for Tech to trump what it has in the Big 12, even the 10-member Big 12.

Realigning and positioning Tech for the next time there is a seismic change is still on the minds of people like Tech Chairman Lawrence Schovanec and AD Kirby Hocutt. Schovanec, a sports-savvy guy, is always in touch with other college leaders, within the Big 12 and across the country. The possibility of what’s going on this week and planning the next steps in advance has never been far from his mind.

In light of Wednesday’s news and reports Thursday that the presidents of the UT and the OU declined to join a conference call with their Big 12 colleagues, Technology Chancellor Tdd Mitchell issued a statement :

“Like many in our state and in the imprint of our league, I have been extremely disappointed with the actions and intentions of our friends in Austin and Norman,” Mitchell wrote. “From day one of the Big 12 Conference’s existence, Texas Tech has been a proud and trusted partner.

“As the college athletic landscape evolves, I can promise Red Raider Nation that our leadership will diligently pursue all options to better position Texas Tech for long term success.”

Some have wondered why no one from Tech has spoken earlier. But let’s be realistic. There is little Tech and the other seven can say or do to stem the tide. This would involve reasonable discussions with other reasonable people, whose supply keeps dwindling.

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For some college athletes, winning games is now less important than bragging about their budget. That was the case with Texas A&M when it moved nine years ago and apparently now it is with Texas and Oklahoma.

The Sooners have won six straight Big 12 championships and have made the college football playoffs four of the past six years. Anyone think he’s going to repeat this as members of the SEC? I don’t, not even with a 12-team playoff.

Texas Tech Men's Basketball Head Coach Mark Adams chats with Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec during the annual Spring Soccer Game, Saturday, April 17, 2021, at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

And Texas. Will the consistently underperforming Longhorns finally find their place against Alabama and LSU – oh, and the Jimbo-led Aggies – every year?

Again, in some circles, hard to believe as it sounds, bragging about your wallet has become the most important thing. Winning is no longer what matters most.

Who would have thought this would ever happen?