Who knew that yesterday’s Red Raider Club Kickoff Luncheon would make headlines around the country? I guess that’s what happens when a sitting conference commissioner publicly admits that he is rooting for one team in the league over another as Big 12 boss Brett Yormark did on Wednesday in Lubbock. While those remarks were unusual and somewhat controversial, the fact is that Yormark is justified in rooting for not just Texas Tech but every team in the league to beat Texas and OU in 2023.
Yormark’s desire to see Texas Tech beat Texas is understandable and justifiable
For those that haven’t seen the comments Yormark made, words that caught fire on social media and made the national rounds, here they are.
"“Candidly, we were able to get Texas and Oklahoma out a year early,” he said. “That was a big deal for us and, I think, all of you.“And coach, I’m not gonna put any pressure on you but I’m gonna be in Austin for Thanksgiving and you better take care of business like you did right here in Lubbock last year.”"
In the eyes of some, Yormark should not be biased toward one member institution over another. However, Texas is only a Big 12 member in as much as an employee is part of a business after turning in his two-week notice.
Texas has no vested interest in the Big 12. Why would they given that they are headed to the S.E.C. next year?
Thus, Yormark and the Longhorns (and Sooners for that matter) are the equivalent of spouses who have filed for divorce but are trying to remain amicable for the sake of appearances until the legal process has concluded.
Of course, there’s bad blood on the part of the Big 12 which has been cast in the role of the partner who has been cheated on. So why wouldn’t Yormark want to see schools that he will continue to have a relationship with have success against the two programs heading for greener pastures in less than a year?
Also, Yormark has spent the vast majority of his year-long tenure as head of the Big 12 cultivating relationships with the remaining and future member institutions. Meanwhile, he hasn’t had reason to build anything of significance with Texas and Oklahoma.
Then there is the problem of perception that Yormark’s Big 12 will face moving forward. With the two most prominent and historically relevant programs in the league soon to depart, the conference will face an uphill battle in trying to gain the type of respect that the S.E.C. and Big 10 will enjoy.
Unfortunately, in the world of college football where the path to a championship is the narrowest in all of sports and is the most heavily influenced by perception, it will be important for the Big 12 to be able to position itself as a league that is worthy of inclusion in the playoff, a tournament that will likely be seeded based off of the selection committee’s assessment of the strength of each conference.
Therefore, it would be a huge boost to the future perception of the Big 12 if someone other than Texas or OU were to win the conference title this year. That would mean that neither of the departing schools would have won the league crown since 2020 and that Texas would not have done so since 2009.
Being able to say that the conference is no longer dominated by Oklahoma and that Texas has been irrelevant in the title perspective for almost 15 years would be a great way for the powers that be in the Big 12 to combat the idea that the reconstituted league is going to be just barely above the level of Texas high school District 6-6A, a notion that people in the S.E.C. and Big 10 have been pushing since the defections of the Horns and Sooners were announced.
Wednesday, Joey McGuire also spoke on the importance of winning the Big 12 this year while Texas and OU are still in the league.
"“Part of my job,” McGuire said, “is to make sure that that team in burnt orange (if that’s really even a color) if that team leaves, then make sure if they’re going to a conference that they can no longer compete in this conference with the teams that are in this conference…“There is an opportunity to put the Red Raiders at the forefront of this conference and I don’t want to wait until 2024 when it’s a new conference. Because it’s more important to do it in 2023 when those old two are still here so they can understand who exactly runs the Big 12.”"
That is a sentiment that Yormark certainly would agree with. However, some question whether or not the two departing schools will get a fair shake this year, especially after Yormark’s public declaration in Lubbock on Wednesday.
Those who think the Big 12 will rig something to hurt Oklahoma or Texas need only to look at Oklahoma’s schedule this year for proof to the contrary. This year, OU doesn’t face Texas Tech or Kansas State, two of the teams picked in the top four of the preseason poll, but will have the luxury of playing Cincinnati and West Virginia, two teams expected to be fighting to stay out of last place this year. In fact, no school in the league has an easier path to a Big 12 Championship Game birth than the Sooners.
As for Texas fans, any Longhorn that doesn’t believe that their program has received beneficial treatment on and off the field for the entirety of the Big 12’s existence is delusional. (That is likely to be a long list, though.)
The fact is that Texas has had an unfair advantage with the unequal revenue distribution they have received and the money they pocketed from the advent of the woefully unsuccessful Longhorn Network. Additionally, no team in the league has received more breaks from the Big 12 officials than the boys in Austin. (The end of the 2009 Big 12 title game is a great place to start.)
In the end, Yormark is justified in feeling how he feels. His decision to share those feelings was a bit surprising but not out of line. No one in his position would feel any differently than he does so why should he hide it?
Yormark is trying to build a reputation of transparency and Wednesday was just another step in that direction. He doesn’t appear to be a man afraid to take a stance and make his position known. Now, we only have to hope that he didn’t give the Horns some bulletin board material and that Texas Tech and the rest of the conference can back up what their commissioner said.