Viewpoint: Realignment signals future

By Matt Larsen
Focus magazine editor

When I first heard about Baylor’s threat to sue Texas A&M and the SEC if the Aggies left the Big 12, I thought we were kind of like the annoying little brother not letting A&M leave when it wanted to.

What’s more, I still believe we are fighting the inevitable. A&M is going to leave eventually if it wants to. While more than friendship bracelets and secret handshakes tie the Big 12 schools together, the Aggies, like any person, can only be forced to stay in a relationship for so long.

If they want to leave, it’s not a question of if they are allowed to. It’s a question of whether their departure celebrations come now, a couple weeks from now or a couple years from now when they’re legally allowed to leave but even more irritated (or insert a more colorful synonym).

Still, in some ways I must say I’m glad to see Baylor at least trying to not go down (and go down they will, if the Big 12 goes) without a fight.

Simply look at what Baylor has to gain if the Bears can buy themselves two more years in the Big 12: they have a shot to let Robert Griffin and company attract the kind of talent they need to become a consistent Top 25 team and simultaneously punch themselves a ticket to a conference they would want to be in (Pac-whatever-it-will-be-by-then or maybe the Big Ten).

Legally Baylor isn’t exactly pulling at straws either. Based on the $17 million to 20 million that was contractually guaranteed the Bears when the remaining Big 12 schools agreed to stay together in June 2010, Baylor has a legitimate legal argument that it would lose millions (as would each of the remaining 10 Big 12 schools).

Still, I think the Bears are fighting the inevitable and trying to hide behind a piece of paper with signatures on it because they don’t have any real muscles to flex … yet.

On a bigger scale, A&M is taking up the mantle of leadership that Texas dropped last season. It’s a mantle of leadership that I don’t think college football should be following: money, money and more money. There remains little to no consideration of tradition, rivalry and fans. A&M, along with the other big dog college football programs, is following the money flute’s tune while the smaller programs dance along in their wake. The schools are basically sending the message to the athletes that money matters more than tradition when tradition rather than money is the only thing that theoretically and historically separated college athletics from the pros.

Nevertheless, I think presidents, athletic directors and coaches are openly and unapologetically setting a tone for college football that is all about money. We wonder why college athletes care as much as they do about the money and fame? Their leaders do. I think coaches and athletic directors are losing all ability to criticize athletes for their ego-centric, money-and-fame-based decisions as they make decisions for the very same reasons.

I believe A&M fans are pretty gung ho about the SEC idea right now because Texas left the national leadership spotlight open for them to step into. I’m not sure they like what they’re finding about the leadership spotlight and however, and, I think a lot of the fans are so caught up with SEC dreams that they are forgetting the history and tradition they are about to throw away.

Maybe they’ll be just fine in the SEC, but I can see them having a tough time adjusting to the smashmouth, defensive-minded culture over there and quickly missing traditions like Thanksgiving games against Texas. They’re about to leave behind the school they wrote half their fight song against.

Sorry, Alabama, but saw Big Al’s tusks off just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Matt Larsen is a senior religion major from Katy and is an editor for Focus magazine.