It’s no secret that universities in Texas do not get along well. There’s a reason Texas A&M went to the Securities and Exchange Commission, wanting to go there instead of the Big 12 in the ’90s, while Texas looked elsewhere. Texas Tech and Texas A&M recently got into a big fight over Texas Tech’s bid to open a veterinary school in Amarillo. Other schools in Texas have always hated each other, and there is resentment from Houston and UCSD to Baylor for taking the last 12 places. Thanks are to be given to Governor Anne Richards, and Governor Lieutenant Bob Bullock, who both had degrees from Baylor and Texas Tech. Houston was upset for so long that, after entering the Southwest Conference back in 1976, they went on to win at least a share of the conference for three of the next four seasons, including blocking Tech National Title hopes in 1976. Rice worked hard to block the entry of Texas Tech To the Old Southwest Conference. SMU was hated by everyone for a few dozen other reasons, including trying to introduce the NIL some 40 years ago.
But it looks like Texas may, and I would say probably, visit Lubbock for the last time in the foreseeable future. A report came out last season that there seemed to be an agreement between Texas Tech, and Texans to keep doing home and home for another 20 years, a report I didn’t think would come to fruition by the time I knew those two things. That possibility now appears to be gone, as it emerged two weeks ago that while Texas Tech officials believed the deal was done, the Texan side said they were vaguely discussing playing several different Texas schools. So I wanted to take a look at the history of relations between Tech and Texas.
Texas Tech’s entry to the Southwest Conference
While it may seem that these two administrations cannot agree or work together on anything at the moment, this was not the case in the 1950s, when Texas was in fact an important ally of Texas Tech in entering the SWC. If you thought Houston, or the TCU’s quest to get into the Big 12 was a long, arduous ride, it’s not at Texas Tech’s level. At the time it was called Texas Tech College, and she spent 29 years, being rejected on eight different occasions while trying to join. Their research began in 1927, and was rejected three times by 1931. That same year, Texas Tech Dr. D.A. Penick told Texas Tech officials that they should join some conference. By September of 1932, Texas Tech had been accepted into the Frontier Conference.
At the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, there were mixed opinions about whether Texas Tech would be accepted into the SWC. At the time, teams played a ten-game schedule, and SWC was at seven members which meant they could play four games without conferences. But in 1950, five of the seven SWC schools had Texas Tech on their schedules, so for most schools, it wouldn’t be much of a change. The two who didn’t play them? Arkansas and SMU were two of the three main votes, plus Rice in all schools. Arkansas really felt like an outsider, and Lubbock in the 1950s was a tough place to get to. SMU and Rice were perhaps the most elite schools of the time and did not want to be associated with a new small technical college. Another reason for opposition from some schools would be surprising given the idea of conscription in Lubbock now. But a school in West Texas, which at the time was a force in high school football in Texas, would be a huge advantage with Texas Tech being the University of West Texas.
But despite it all, Texas Tech had two major allies, one of them TCU and Texas Tech alum Amon G, Carter. But Texas is probably the most important. If we’re being honest, despite all the hatred for the Longhorns, if you have an ally you’re good to go. Texas Governor Thomas Seely Jr. was from Midland and came from an oil background with strong ties to West Texas. He and Texans were in the Texas Tech corner. After operating in Arkansas, putting economic pressure on SMU, Dallas, and the Methodist Church, SMU also underwent a Yes vote. Finally, finally, in 1956, Texas Tech was admitted to the Southwest Conference, with Texas being a critical ally and voting yes, they would be chained together for another 65 years. One school rejected at the same time was Houston, which was to sit outside the Southwest Conference for another 20 years.
The Fall of the Southwest Conference
In 1990, Arkansas announced that it was leaving the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it seemed inevitable that the Southwest Conference would eventually collapse. With conventions turning into a TV deal negotiating body, and television becoming more patriotic, it was inevitable that the One-State League would not be able to continue. A year before Arkansas joined the Big 12, the Securities and Exchange Commission was courting Texans, and that wasn’t the only place Texans were looking. Texas was considering a Pac10 by the early 1990s, and the Texas legislature would be a problem.
Texas A&M’s preference was SEC, Texas Pac 10, although Big Ten and SEC were also considered. But if the breakup takes place, Texas Tech will be disqualified, and the Pac 10, like last summer, had no interest in Texas Tech at that time. Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock allegedly told representatives of Texas and A&M “I don’t care where you go, but Texas Tech and Baylor will go with you.” Fortunately for these four, the Big Eight was also going through a crisis at the time, many of the same concerns, and the SWC teams seemed to be a logical partner.
While it was just talk, during the early 1990s, by 1994 all sixteen members had met at the Big Eight and Southwest Conference in Dallas. When they explored the possibility of a merger, 15 presidents were in favor, who was hesitant? Texas. Bob Birdal, then-president of Texas, told the Chamber he would have to move it to the board of governors, also saying, “If it’s my way, we’ll join Pac 10.”
A big problem for the merger wasn’t just Texans though. ESPN wanted to keep the Big Eight together but didn’t want the entire Southwest Conference. They wanted Texas and Texas A&M and would afford to take two more. So with Texas and A&M certainly in place, six schools were fighting for the last two places. Rice lost the political allure of the 1950s in which she opposed Texas Tech. SMU was dead in the water, still reeling from the death penalty. According to Missouri AD, Joe Castiglione, the expectation was that the four public schools would be Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Houston. But it wasn’t the case for the Coogs, Baylor still had the Governor of Texas on their side, and ended up taking the fourth and final spot on them. There are still plenty of arguments that Baylor has made sense as the Fourth School all along, but no one honestly knows that.
Reorganization of the recent conference
Texans didn’t make their 12 peers happy, to say the least, and it wasn’t just their fault. Nebraska was the Longhorns’ strongest opponent in boardrooms with three major issues, Gate Receipts, Prop 48 players, and the Big 12’s headquarters. Most of them go the Texas Road, in large part because of the smaller schools that allow them to. Even Kansas President John Wevald said “I voted for whatever Texas wanted. Whatever they wanted was fine with me.” The main reason Nebraska went to the Big Ten according to Joe Walden was because they were tired of Texas.
The Longhorn Network was another huge point of contention that frustrated Texas A&M, which wanted to have a common network, leaving for the SEC a year after leaving Nebraska. By the time the dust settled, the big 12 had fallen to 10. The Longhorn Network took center stage in the Texas Tech Battle.
In addition to the Longhorn Network that broadcasts a single game without conferences, it also wanted a conference game for 2011. ESPN’s choice was Texas Tech, telling them it was unlikely to be ported on any other ESPN network. This has never been a good thing, Texas Tech President Kent Hanes said, “I don’t want a tech fan having to give a cent to the Longhorn Network.” So it was dropped, but another slap in the face was coming for Texas Tech in 2012. ESPN selected Texas Tech – Texas State for the Longhorn Network. Texas Tech went so far as to threaten to drop the game, playing the 11-game schedule instead. In the end, Texas Tech also won that battle with ESPN dropping plans for the game on the Longhorn Network.
After Texas hired Chris Bird away from Texas Tech in April 2021, another blow was dealt that summer when it was announced that Texas would join the Securities and Exchange Commission. It looks like a deal was struck last year that Texas and Texas Tech would continue to play annually for another 20 years. It’s a deal I saw and immediately doubted. In the original report, Texas AD, Chris Del Conte said it was unfinished and premature. This was confirmed this month when news broke that Texans would not play Tech continuously for 20 years, saying that they had discussed playing all Texans schools, not specifically Texas Tech. In fact no one really knows what was said, fans can have their own opinions. Texans could have misled tech officials, or tech officials might have misunderstood what Texans said.
In general, the break makes sense for both schools. For Texas, that’s a lose-lose scenario for, yes, they’ve got the Texas Tech number, especially over the past 13 years. But Texas Tech won 4 times each in the ’80s and ’90s and twice in 2000 and 2010. It’s a game that Texas is expected to win, but Texas Tech definitely can win. While the Texans have not lost at Lubbock since 2008, their last three games were one possession, and a 2008 loss cost Texans a place in the National Title game. For Texas Tech, getting out of Texas, and the shadow of Texas A&M could benefit them. They needed Texans to get involved in the Southwest Conference in the 1950s, but the time for tech to tie themselves up to Texas must be over. Technology has a huge alumni base and they can benefit from seeing what they can become, on their own.
While it’s been an exciting game to watch, and the arrival of Texans into town benefits Lubbock as a whole, it’s time to take a break in the series, and this weekend’s game might be Lubbock’s last one that might be a good way to do it.