Texas College Football Ponders Changes
June 11, 2010
by: Gail Delaughter
Football fans can expect big changes this upcoming season as a couple of football powerhouses announce they're moving to another athletic conference, a move that could affect Texas' biggest college football teams. As KUHF's Gail Delaughter reports, the move is about much more than action on the field.
Next week the University of Texas Board of Regents will meet to ponder a major question concerning the future of Longhorn's football: Whether the school will remain in the Big 12 conference — membership which it currently shares with rival Texas A & M, along with other big football schools, or or consider an offer from another conference.
The move is prompted by two defections. Nebraska has just announced it's applying for Big 10 membership, while Colorado joins the Pac 10. Vermont Law School professor and sports law analyst Michael McCann says conference membership is about much more than competitive football.
"These conferences are voluntary associations of schools that schedule sporting events, and those schedules impact whether or not schools compete, and how they would compete for a title game or a bowl game. But fundamentally they are driven by economics."
And McCann says conferences are designed to put schools in the best position possible for national exposure.
"The more recognition schools get in sports, typically the better off they are in admissions and the better off they are in raising money. Whichever conference they play in has a pretty big impact on the school itself, much more so than what happens on the football field."
Also attractive is the fact that conferences air their own games. McCann says that allows schools to maximize their TV and internet revenues, along with other broadcast rights.
"The conferences themselves see that by establishing a cable network they're able to reach out to audiences that are national and will generate revenue for them. And they're able to distribute revenue through a TV station into individual schools."
But what about calls for hearings and investigations as to whether the realignments violate anti-trust laws? McCann points to the recent Justice Department investigation into the BCS championship, but he says college football conferences have made changes in the past.
"We haven't yet seen someone who says that clearly is a violation. So I still think we're a ways off before we see an actual legal action preventing a school from joining a conference or not joining a conference."
And if more school defect from the Big 12, what happens to the schools that stay behind?
"It's a struggle. Those schools will likely be in a far less marquee conference. It will impact their TV ratings. It will impact their prestige. It could have incidental effects on admissions and fundraising and the like."
Here locally, the University of Houston has just announced plans for a new 120 million dollar stadium, and while athletics officials say UH remains a proud member of Conference USA, they want to put themselves in the best position possible for football's future.
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