June 16, 2010
To paraphrase Jimmy Johnson - How `bout them Aggies! Back-to-back, to back-to-back national championships in men's and women's track and field. What an accomplishment. Never in the history of Texas A&M have we had such success, and I am so proud of our athletes, coaches and staff.
Nationally, we are getting some recognition for our success as well. Unless I can't add right, we will finish in the top 10 of the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings for the first time ever in Aggie history. This is also an incredible accomplishment for all our athletes, coaches and staff. We are definitely going in the right direction and Building Champions.
Let's talk about conference realignment. We have said from day one our goal was to stay in the Big 12, and we are doing that minus two. We were asked to provide conference realignment options for our University leadership to consider, and we did. With all the information available, I believe they made the right decision.
I hope you'll remember as discussions of conference realignment began to surface, I said someone has to stand up for the student-athletes. It is my sincere belief that staying in the Big 12, where we compete in the same time zone, get our athletes home from competition at a decent hour, and where they can play in front of their families and friends, are all very important things to consider. Our athletes and coaches have skin in the realignment game, and all our coaches and the vast majority of our student-athletes want to stay where we are. That was a key decision point to me.
Now, I've heard from many, many of you who do not agree with the decision that was made. I understand that. Every choice we had contained pluses and minuses, and arguments can be made for and against each decision. Obviously I cannot respond to each and every one of you individually, so here is a response to the various compiled questions and arguments many of you have made:
Statement One: Texas is going to have a cable channel like the Big Ten Network that will give them even more money and recruiting advantages. After all, it was reported in orangebloods.com and many media outlets picked it up, so it must be true.
Here are the facts. The bottom line is NOTHING HAS CHANGED! They could have had their own network for the last 14 years of the Big 12 and so could we or any member of the conference. Our friends have been bringing their Longhorn Sports Network television mic flags around for years. Their stand alone network has still not happened yet.
ABC/ESPN and FOX continue to have rights to the league's vast inventory of home football, men's basketball, and women's basketball games. For specific's regarding the Big 12 TV Contracts, click here.
There are quite a few baseball and softball games, tennis matches, swim meets, women's basketball and even a few men's basketball and football games that are not selected by ESPN and Fox Sports. And it's those contests, and only those contests, which may be broadcast on a school's own network. We call it a third-tier network. We broadcast many of these contests for free on our Aggies All-Access website powered by CBS Sports. I'm proud to say we have more viewers of our contests than the next three CBS Sports powered websites combined. In effect, that is our Aggie Network and we offer it to you for free around the world.
When we built the 12th Man Productions facilities, our plan was all along to eventually put together an Aggie Network. We are better positioned than any other conference school to do it. Having said that, we would still need to invest millions of dollars to hire the staff, and purchase the equipment and air time to do our own network. And while we would have some live programming from what ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports did not select, the bulk of programming would be replays of recent games and rebroadcasts of historical games. Even ESPN does not have enough live programming to fill its' schedule each day. That's why the Aggie Network is still on the internet.
Today, the financial numbers simply do not work in our favor to produce 168 hours of TV every week. If you think about it, a separate school network does not work unless it's public television, and they need all kinds of institutional and federal government funding. Last time I checked, the college athletic departments are not eligible.
On the other hand, a conference television network can work. There is enough live and delayed inventory to fill the week, although, even then, the live programming would be skimpy. I would support the new Big 12 doing developing its own network. If you have your own network, the paradigm has shifted on how you build a conference. You ultimately want to expand your footprint to increase the number of cable/satellite viewers who pay a monthly fee to receive your network.
Statement Two: By joining the SEC, we would finally get out of the shadow of our friends from the state capital.
We are our own great institution. Our university leadership considered all the information at their disposal, weighed the options available, and made a decision they felt was in the best interest of Texas A&M and our student-athletes. There was no consideration of what was in anybody else's best interest. If anyone feels that a shadow is cast by our friends in the state capital, the way to remedy that is to beat them on the fields of play along with all of our other opponents. And that is our mission.
Statement Three: You are DeLoss Dodds' lapdog and things worse, actually much worse.
After reading over 200 similar e-mails the other night, I finally had one set me off and I called the writer. I'm a very competitive person and like many of you, I was raised not to back down when challenged. I've also got a bit of an Irish temper which came across in my voicemail. I regretted what I said as soon as I hung up. I should have been above that, and I made a mistake. For those of you who were offended by my response, I apologize, and I assure you that it will not happen again.
Statement Four: I'm done supporting Texas A&M and will not return until you change conferences.
I regret that very much. One of the challenges we face at Texas A&M is we have never sold out Kyle Field in season tickets. I attributed that to a margin of our fans that focus on who the Aggies are playing instead the fact the Aggies are playing. Folks tell me they take pride on being big Aggie supporters. To the fans on the margin it means they have never missed a game against our friends from the state capital or a big game in general. Great program's fans support their team regardless of the opponent. They are grateful to be in the stadium. My hope is we can build Texas A&M football to be one of those great programs.
Statement Five: Are we better off in Big 12 or Pac 10 or SEC.
The answer is Big 12. Here are some reasons why. First, we are still in the same time zone competing. That means we can get our student-athletes back in class the next day after a road trip. It's one of the reasons our student-athletes were so supportive of us staying in the Big 12. Second, we are receiving the same financial dollars would have received by going east or west. Plus, our operating costs are reduced. Our estimates said it would cost us an extra million dollars a year in travel to go east or west. Third, by adding another conference game to our regular schedule in football and two more conference games in basketball, we will have more attractive schedules. And, we won't have to pay as many exorbitant fees to get non-conference teams to come play us in Aggieland.
Statement Six: You passed up the stability of the SEC.
There are almost as many opinions on collegiate athletics stability as there are fans of college athletics.
Statement Seven: The TV dollars Commissioner Dan Beebe conned you with to stay in the Big 12 are just projected dollars and are not real.
We are starting negotiations with FOX. I thought our Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe did a masterful job convincing our TV partners we needed the Big 12 to stay together. The dollars are real, but we can't put anything in writing, because the current contract has clauses which allows for certain negotiating periods. Now it's a legal issue. We have long term relationships with these TV partners, and we accept their good faith assurances that they will do better by us.
Statement Eight: A&M got played.
No, if anything we were very diligent. From many of the national sportswriters' prospective they said we did the right thing by taking a considered approach and making a thoughtful decision.
Statement Nine: The Aggie fans were energized with the notion of going to the SEC.
I appreciate the fact our fans were energized. I was too. In the end, we did what we thought was best for Texas A&M, our student-athletes, and the State of Texas. Given the changing landscape of college athletics, the fact we are Texas A&M University, and with the improvements in our overall athletic program and University, we continue to make ourselves more attractive on the national scale.
Statement 10: Texas saved the Big 12.
There were several schools that "saved" the Big 12. The conference was on life support and the continual releasing of information to Orangebloods throughout this process only intensified the situation. If we've learned anything from this process, it's that negotiations and discussions of this magnitude are best to take place behind closed doors.
Statement 11: What is our share of the Big 12 revenue each year?
Our revenue share from the Big 12 this year is $9.2 million. In the new agreement, we will have a base of $20 million. The Big 12 generates revenue in four ways: television rights agreements with ABC/ESPN and Fox, participation in the NCAA men's basketball championship, participation in football bowl games, and from revenue associated with postseason Big 12 championships and the league's football championship game.
The bottom line to all of this is to say our friends in the state capital have a great program and a great brand. They could go to any conference they choose. I found an article describing what may have turned our friends around that you might find interesting. They eventually made the same decision we did to stay right where we are and have been for many years. Throughout this I said we are committed to the Big 12. We never wavered and our future is financially better.
Have a great summer!