Ever since the conference realignments of 2011 and the final Aggie/Missouri denouement in 2012, my opinion was that Texas tying its future to the Big 12 - even with guaranteed payments from ESPN (representing roughly 10% of our program revenue intake) via the LHN - was a mistake. There were other options, but a lack of vision and leadership didn't just shut down those avenues, they purposefully course-corrected to prevent their presentation.
At the time, fleeing-the-Big 12 sentiment was a minority opinion. Texas fans were left reflexively defending a dying Big 12 relic, enraged by fleeing teams using uncritical or pot-stirring journalists and athletic directors to lie about their motivations ("Texas was so big and mean to us - we had to go") rather than come clean about their desire for a rational upgrade to better hunting grounds.
There's another piece to this. The inability to acknowledge a shifting world. Human psychology has a tough time foreseeing a different future, despite the lessons of history, even as the landscape shifts completely before our very eyes. There are a lot of people who will wonder if they should go to work on Monday when the zombie apocalypse breaks out on Sunday. "Do I cancel my Pilates class or should I start barricading my picture window?"
I'm guessing that over the last 2-3 years reality has shifted Big 12 sentiment substantially in the Texas fan base.
Discussions with the last pro-Big 12 holdouts typically devolve into an explanation of how time zones work (no, we wouldn't play 1:00 am games in the Pac or Big 10) and reveal incredible straw men (no, we wouldn't just play Arizona and Arizona State every year, the new conference wouldn't "be mean to us cuz we're new" and traditional divisions aren't the only possible structure for conference alignment); I've nearly given up and realized this is now a you-get-it-or-don't proposition.
If televisions, national interest, market share, network slotting, recruiting value-add (or value diminishment) and simple demography aren't sufficient, I'm arguing against emotional rationalizations.
Of course, then there's also this. The clearest, cleanest explanation of the total Big 12 product. A list of the 2014 NFL draftees by conference:
SEC -- 49
ACC -- 42
Pac-12 -- 34
Big Ten -- 30
Big 12 -- 17
Mountain West --16
American -- 12
Conference USA -- 9
Independents -- 9
MAC -- 8
Sun Belt -- 4
Per school: SEC- 3.5, Pac 12- 3.0, ACC- 2.8, Big 10- 2.5, Big 12- 1.7
That's the Big 12 coming in at a robust, very distant 5th. Nearly tripled by the SEC (overrated!), doubled up by the ACC (we mock this basketball league, right?) and Pac Whatever (they don't care about football out there!), lapped by the declining Big 10 (but they're slow!) and one draft choice ahead of the Mountain West.
To put it into stark perspective, the SEC currently relates to the Big 12 in drafted NFL talent as the Big 12 relates to the halfway point between the MAC and Sun Belt.
Holy Toledo! Holy Louisiana-Monroe!
Check the dismal math of recent conference recruiting rankings - it's not going to get better.
Big 12 football over-performance in on-field competitiveness stems mainly from high level coaching at traditionally non-power schools (Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder etc.) and a higher talent floor than the dregs.
However, coaching is a fungible, awesomely unreliable resource. Coaches leave, die, retire, get lazy, seek out better jobs and commit suicide by scandal. They are impermanence defined.
A conference built on coaching instead of talent and televisions is ultimately doomed.
Coaches come and go. Infrastructure sticks.
Of course, Texas under Charlie Strong will start to churn out more draft picks. We can't do worse.
However, any argument for the Big 12 that hinges on the success of Texas from a Texas fan is a logical fallacy loop. See - we are Texas. We take us wherever we go.
This is a bad, unappealing league. And we are its basis for existence.
The league may be eminently winnable once Strong gets rolling, but national interest will still be marginal, the other conferences will argue (rightfully) that a 1 or 2 loss conference winner in their league is stronger than a Big 12 champion and the playoffs system will seed accordingly. If seeding us at all. The added wicked curveball is that the excellent coaching and wide open play in the Big 12 makes upsets of legitimately good teams a strong possibility, even with a dearth of talent and diminishing national respect. You get it from both ends. The league is just good enough to possibly screw you, just awful enough to give you no credit.
Unfortunately, Texas let a bunch of tired old cronies makes some crucial decisions for our future, seeking out the paths of least resistance (and actual work input) at an important time that set the stage for the next decade.
There's no easy way out of this predicament, but getting Texas back to Texas is the first step.
The second is an administration willing to take an active role in our future with an eye on the long game instead of another short-term dollar stuffed into their retention bonus.