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Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Exiting Big 12 risks UT's home cooking

By Jeff Caplan

At some point, and probably sooner than later, the Big Ten is going to grow. Sure, you've heard Missouri and Nebraska as the likely candidates to flee the Big 12 for the "greener" pastures of the Big Ten and its lucrative TV network.

But, let's get real. The Big Ten wants powerful Texas over them all. UT has the academic standing, the fan base, a sold-out 100,000-seat stadium and all those big-city Texas television sets that make Big Ten officials salivate.

Talk of Texas to the Big Ten was a conversation topic at the Rose Bowl during the national championship week. But, I've never believed Texas would find a better life in the Big Ten as opposed to the Big 12. Here's why: Take a look at Texas' annual favorable football schedule. The conference's largest athletic budget -- heck, the nation's largest athletic budget -- spends next-to-nothing on travel, not to mention the tremendous road-game accessibility for its more-than-ever rabid fans.

The 2010 football schedule includes 10 of 12 games in the state of Texas. Seven games are in Austin. The season opener against Rice is at Houston's Reliant Stadium. Who's the home team is in that game? The Longhorns play at Texas Tech in Lubbock and against Oklahoma in Dallas. Their only other road games are at Kansas State and at Nebraska. That's it.

In 2009, Texas played 9 of 12 regular-season games in Texas, plus the Big 12 title game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Again, home team? Against Baylor at Waco, Floyd Casey Stadium, 90 minutes north of Austin and barely that south of Dallas-Fort Worth, shimmers with burnt orange. In 2008, 10 of 12 games were played in Texas, and 9 of 12 in 2007.

Football is one thing, but the bigger travel factor comes down to the seven men's and 10 women's non-revenue sports. Joining the Big Ten would be a logistical and budgetary nightmare. This week's Big Ten baseball tournament is in Columbus, Ohio. The Big 12 baseball tourney starts today at Oklahoma City.

I haven't worked out the financial figures, but take those 17 non-revenue teams and tally up airfare and buses to travel to and around Columbus, Chicago, Champagne, Ill., Minneapolis, State College, Pa., Ann Arbor, Mich., East Lansing, Mich., Bloomington, Ind., West Lafayette, Ind., Madison, Wis., and Iowa City, Iowa.

Now, want to talk travel and weather, especially for men's and women's basketball in the dead of a Midwest winter? And how about all that additional lost class time for those student-athletes due to travel that the NCAA seems so stressed out about whenever the subject is a football playoff?

As attractive as it sounds to play annual football games against Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, the overall picture would seem to make little sense for Texas to take its substantial muscle to the heartland.