It’s no secret the universities in Texas don’t get along too well; there’s a reason Texas A&M went to the SEC, and wanted 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 major battle over Texas Tech attempting to open a veterinary school in Amarillo. The other schools in Texas have long disliked each other too, there’s resentment from Houston and TCU towards Baylor for taking the last Big 12 spot. Allegedly thanks to Governor Ann Richards, and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, who owned degrees from both Baylor and Texas Tech. Houston was resented for a long time, after getting into the Southwest Conference back in 1976, they went on to win at least a share of the conference three of the next four seasons, including derailing Tech’s national title hopes in ‘76. Rice worked hard to block Texas Tech’s entry to the old Southwest Conference. SMU was hated by all for a few dozen other reasons, including trying to introduce NIL about 40 years early.
But it looks like Texas possibly, and I’d say probably, is visiting Lubbock for the final time in the foreseeable future. A report came out last season that there seemed to be an agreement between Texas Tech, and Texas to continue a home-and-home for 20 more years, a report I didn’t think would come to fruition at the time knowing these two. It seems that possibility is all but dead now, as a couple weeks ago it came out that while Texas Tech officials believed the deal was done, the Texas side said they were vaguely discussing playing many different Texas schools. So with this 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 these two administrations can’t agree or work together on anything right now, that wasn’t the case back in the 50s, where Texas was actually a crucial ally to Texas Tech getting into the SWC. If you thought Houston, or TCU’s quest for entrance into the Big 12 was a long arduous journey, it’s not on the level as Texas Tech’s. At the time called Texas Technical College, had spent 29 years, and been rejected on eight different occasions as they attempted to join. Their quest started back in 1927, and had been rejected three times by 1931, that same year Dr. D.A. Penick of Texas, actually told Texas Tech officials they should join some conference, by September of 1932, Texas Tech was accepted into the Border Conference.
At the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, there were mixed views on if Texas Tech would ever be admitted to the SWC. At the time teams played a ten-game schedule, and the SWC was at seven members meaning that they could play four nonconference games. But in 1950 five of the seven SWC schools did have Texas Tech on their schedules, so for most, it wouldn’t be much of a change. The two that didn’t play them? Arkansas and SMU, were two of the three main no votes, in addition to Rice of all schools. Arkansas already felt like an outsider, and Lubbock back in the 1950s was a tough place to get to. SMU and Rice were probably the two most elitist schools at the time and didn’t want to be associated with a new small Technical College. Another reason for opposition from some schools would be surprising considering the notion of recruiting to Lubbock now. But a school in West Texas, which at the time was a force in Texas high school football, would be a huge advantage with Texas Tech being the university of West Texas.
But despite all of that Texas Tech did have two major allies, one of them being TCU and Texas Tech alum Amon G, Carter. But likely their most important was Texas. Which, if we’re being honest, despite all the hate for the Longhorns, if you have them as an ally you’re in great shape. Texas regent Thomas Sealy Jr. was from Midland and came from an oil background who had strong ties to West Texas; he and Texas were solidly in Texas Tech’s corner. After working on Arkansas, and forcing economic pressure on SMU, Dallas, and the Methodist Church, SMU also caved to a yes vote. In the end, finally, in 1956, Texas Tech was admitted into the Southwest Conference, with Texas being a crucial ally and yes vote, they’d be tied together for 65 more years. One school rejected at the same time was Houston, who would sit outside the Southwest Conference for another 20 years.
Fall of The Southwest Conference
In 1990, Arkansas announced they were leaving for the SEC, and it seemed inevitable that the Southwest Conference would eventually fall apart. With conferences becoming more like a negotiation body for TV deals, and TV becoming more national it was inevitable that a one-state league couldn’t hold on. A year before Arkansas joined the Big 12, the SEC was courting Texas, and that wasn’t the only place Texas was looking. Texas was looking at the Pac 10 by the early 90s, and the Texas legislature would be an issue.
Texas A&M’s preference was the SEC, and Texas’ was the Pac 10, though the Big Ten and SEC were also considered. But if they were to split, Texas Tech would be left out and the Pac 10, much like last summer, had no interest in Texas Tech back then. Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock allegedly told representatives of Texas and A&M “I don’t care where y’all go, but Texas Tech and Baylor are going with you.” Fortunately for those four, the Big Eight was also going through a crisis at the time, for many of the same concerns, and it looked like SWC teams were a logical partner.
While it was just talk, throughout the early 90s, by 1994, all 16 members of the Big Eight and Southwest Conference met in Dallas. When they explored the possibility of a merger 15 presidents were in favor, who was the one who was hesitant? Texas. Bob Berdahl, then president of Texas, told the room he’d have to take it to the Board of Regents, also saying “if I had it my way, we’d join the Pac 10.”
A huge problem for the merger wasn’t just Texas though. ESPN wanted to keep the Big Eight together but didn’t want the whole Southwest Conference. They coveted Texas and Texas A&M and would put up with taking two more. So with Texas and A&M definitely in, six schools were fighting for the last two places. Rice had lost the political pull they had back in the 50s that opposed Texas Tech. SMU was dead in the water, and still reeling from their death penalty punishment. According to then Missouri AD, Joe Castiglione, the expectation was that it’d be the four public schools Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Houston. But it wasn’t to be for the Coogs, Baylor still had the governor of Texas on their side, and wound up getting the fourth and final spot over them. There are still plenty of arguments that Baylor made sense as the fourth school all along, but no one that wasn’t behind the scenes truthfully knows.
Recent Conference Realignment
Texas did not make their Big 12 peers happy, to say the least, and it wasn’t just their fault. Nebraska was the Longhorns toughest opponent in the meeting rooms with three key issues, gate receipts, Prop 48 players, and the Big 12’s HQ. Most would go Texas’ way, due in major part to smaller schools letting them. Kansas State president Jon Wefald even said “I voted for everything Texas wanted. Whatever they wanted was fine with me.” A big reason Nebraska went to the Big Ten according to Joe Walden, was because they were tired of Texas.
The Longhorn Network was another massive point of contention that frustrated Texas A&M who wanted to have a joint network, left for the SEC a year after Nebraska left. By the time the dust had settled, and the Big 12 was down to its permanent 10. The Longhorn Network took center stage in the Texas, Texas Tech battle.
In addition to the Longhorn Network airing one nonconference game it also wanted a conference game for 2011. ESPN’s choice was Texas Tech, telling them it’d be unlikely to be carried on any other ESPN network. This didn’t go over well at all, Texas Tech President, Kent Hance, said “I don’t want one Tech fan to have to give one dime to the Longhorn Network.” So it was dropped, but there was another slap in the face coming for Texas Tech in 2012. ESPN scheduled the Texas Tech – Texas State game for the Longhorn Network. Texas Tech went as far as threatening to drop the game, and play an 11-game schedule instead. In the end Texas Tech won that battle as well with ESPN dropping plans for the game on the Longhorn Network.
After Texas hired Chris Beard away from Texas Tech in April 2021, another blow was dealt that summer when it was announced that Texas would be joining the SEC. A deal appeared to be struck last year that Texas and Texas Tech would continue to play yearly for another 20 years. It’s a deal that I saw and immediately doubted. In the original report, Texas AD, Chris Del Conte even said it was not finalized and premature. That was confirmed this month when news broke that Texas wouldn’t be playing Tech continuously for 20 years, saying that they discussed playing all Texas schools, not specifically Texas Tech. In truth no one knows what was actually said, fans can have their own opinions. Texas could’ve misled Tech officials, or Tech officials could have misunderstood what Texas officials were saying.
Overall, a break makes sense for both schools. For Texas it’s a lose-lose scenario, yes they’ve had Texas Tech’s number, especially the last 13 years. But Texas Tech won 4 times in both the 80s and 90s and twice in the 2000s and 2010s. It’s a game that Texas is expected to win, but a game Texas Tech certainly is capable of winning. While Texas hasn’t lost in Lubbock since 2008, the last three there have been one-possession games, and that 2008 loss cost Texas a spot in the National Title game. For Texas Tech getting out of Texas, and Texas A&M’s shadow could benefit them. They needed Texas’ support to get into the Southwest Conference in the 50s, but the time of Tech linking themselves to Texas should be over. Tech has a massive alumni base and can benefit from seeing what they can become, while on their own.
While it’s been an exciting game to watch, and having Texas come to town benefits Lubbock as a whole, it’s time for a break in this series, and this weekend’s game being the last in Lubbock could be a good way to do it.