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September 13, 2011

What's next for Texas?

Everyone wants to know what's next for Texas in realignment?

With Orangebloods.com's bombshell report Monday morning that the seven-member Oklahoma board of regents is unanimous in its desire to apply for membership to the Pac-12, the next question is: What will Texas do?

I continue to be told Texas is "looking at all options." So let's look at those options.

We will work under the assumption that Texas A&M will eventually get to the Southeastern Conference and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be accepted into the Pac-12 - although that is not a sure thing at this point.

(Beebe expressed that theory to Big 12 presidents during a conference call on Sept. 2 that did not include Texas, Oklahoma or Texas A&M. That's when Beebe told the rest of the league's presidents to "work on Texas" to stay in the Big 12, sources said.

Beebe believed if Texas would stay in the Big 12, OU would, too, sources said. Now that theory appears to be dissolving. OU's board of regents appears set on applying to the Pac-12 with or without Texas, sources say.)

So here are Texas' options as of this moment, fully knowing the options could change in a heartbeat. But these are the options on the table at this moment after talking to UT sources:

Option 1 - Hold the Big 12 together. Texas wants the Big 12 to continue for all the reasons it wanted the Big 12 to stay together last summer. Rivalries, tradition, friendly travel for the student-athletes and, now, of course, the Longhorn Network.

The Longhorns are more committed than ever to LHN. It is better than UT officials ever imagined from a content, programming and branding standpoint, and it is contributing $5 million per year to academics for the first five years of the 20-year contract with ESPN.

But Texas sources indicate the Big 12 would not be salvageable if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were to come out of it. There does not appear to be interest by Texas in trying to bring in the likes of BYU, Pittsburgh, Louisville, TCU and Houston to keep the Big 12 going.

Option 2 - The Atlantic Coast Conference. Texas has been looking at the ACC as a potential home because ESPN holds the TV rights to the ACC and because ESPN holds the rights to LHN.

UT is hopeful an agreement can be worked out that would allow the Longhorns to hold onto their network and still share in conference TV revenue.

Texas would love it if OU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would consider going east with Texas to the ACC, creating a four-team pod system in which most of their competition would be against each other (to reduce travel).

But OU and Oklahoma State don't appear interested in that. So who else would the ACC attract to the league if OU and OSU were unwilling to go east? Texas Tech and a couple Big East schools (UConn/Syracuse/Rutgers)? At that point, Texas would be on an island in the ACC, which is unfavorable.

Option 3 - The Big Ten. It would take a lot of creativity for this to work and for UT to be able to hang onto LHN. And it's a longshot. But the Big Ten wanted Notre Dame and Texas in the worst way. Jim Delany is going to have to think outside the box to attract Texas and/or Notre Dame.

The Big Ten would have to do something like allow Texas to hold onto the LHN and figure out some formula for UT to share some (if any) revenue from the Big Ten Network. How would the other Big Ten members feel about that?

Option 4 - Pac-12. The Longhorn Network definitely gets re-worked in this scenario, and the Pac-12 has the most restricting "all rights in" agreements in all of the BCS.

Before Larry Scott got to the Pac-12, that conference was so bad at maximizing dollars under Tom Hansen that Scott got the schools to turn over their rights to Tier 1, 2 and 3 television as well as the school's web sites.

Scott vowed to turn it all into a windfall of cash, and he has - to the tune of $3 billion in TV contracts with Fox and ESPN. But for Texas, joining the Pac-12 would be going from a free-market economy to socialism.

But if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are in the Pac-12 (and Texas Tech is praying for the Pac-12), Texas might bite hard and give up some of its revenue to be in a league with some of its long-time rivals.

Last summer, Texas president Bill Powers was chomping to get to the Pac-12 and had to be talked out of it by the likes of DeLoss Dodds and Chris Plonsky to hold the Big 12 together and give the Longhorn Network a chance.

Now, you can look back and question who was right. But as long as Bill Powers is the president at Texas, the Pac-12 will be an option for Texas because he likes the ideas of UT rubbing shoulders with academic powers like Stanford and Cal.

There is a lot of consternation about how the teams in the Pac-12 would be aligned if the Pac-12 grew to 14 or 16 teams. Everyone wants to be in the same division with USC and UCLA so they are guaranteed trips to southern California for recruiting purposes.

Larry Scott might have to get creative to make everyone happy - if that's possible.

Option 5 - Independence. This really is not an option in the minds of Texas officials. They will not go independent.

There are options that may not have even been thought of at this point. But those appear to be the options at the moment.

One other thing to keep in mind:

--Watch Texas Tech in this equation. Tech wants to go to the Pac-12, but if Texas doesn't end up leaning in that direction, what does Tech do?

They've always been hitched to Texas, but if they try to get into the Pac-12 without Texas, the Red Raiders might overplay their hand and get left behind.

--Texas enjoys a BIG seat at the table in the Big 12. In another conference, Texas' seat at the table may not be as big.

--Texas went out of its way to say last summer holding the Big 12 together was the most favorable scenario for student-athletes in terms of travel.

Going to the ACC and traveling from the east back to the Central Time Zone is better than traveling west and flying back in the middle of the night to Austin. But it's not much better.

In either scenario, Texas will be singing a different tune about what's best for the student-athlete.

Stay tuned.

This post was edited on 9/13 11:46 AM by Suchomel

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