IRVING — Texas athletic director Mike Perrin is skeptical that Big 12 expansion is an athletic panacea. It sounds like his president feels the same way.
One day after Perrin said “it would be prudent” to remain at 10 teams, UT President Gregory L. Fenves told the American-Statesman he’s open to hearing ideas but “the case has to be a strong one.”
“I think we have a strong conference, unique with the round-robin football competition, with really good rivalries taking place within the conference,” Fenves said Thursday before going into Big 12 presidents meetings. “Good, healthy, intercollegiate rivalries. We get along well as a board. The 10 presidents get along very well.
“The case has to be a strong one to make such a major change that’s going to have downstream consequences as TV contracts get to the near end of their term,” he added.
Conference expansion triggers another set of questions, so Fenves said the league must be thoughtful before making any changes.
“Just to expand to 12 just to have 12 because it’s in our (conference) name, there has to be a strong case from a competitive, business and quality perspective,” Fenves said.
Fenves was even bolder when asked about Longhorn Network. Perrin told reporters at the Four Seasons Resort and Club that he would not want to “disturb” UT’s long-term deal with ESPN at the moment.
“They are great partners,” Fenves said. “We are committed to our partnership. We’re in this together.”
Some Big 12 presidents have argued a Big 12 Network would have more financial firepower. But no league-wide network could exist without Texas folding LHN. ESPN is scheduled to pay the school approximately $15 million annually through 2031.
“We have a strong brand and a strong relationship with ESPN,” Fenves said. “It would have to be a really compelling case for the economic benefits, the non-monetary benefits and the branding we get from the Longhorn Network to make that a realistic possibility.
“And I think my colleagues on the Big 12 board understand that. That’s not news to them.”
OU’s Boren on Texas: Based on his prior comments, it’s been perceived that Oklahoma president David Boren has turned against Texas, mostly because of the Longhorn Network. Boren went to great lengths to clarify his belief that UT and OU are partners.
“Yes, there’s a rivalry. Yes, there’s nothing that makes me happier than to win on the football field or the basketball court or the baseball diamond,” Boren said. “I love beating Texas. I absolutely relish it. But at the same time, I really value our friendship and our relationship.
“So nothing that I’ve ever said has been aimed at creating some disadvantage for the University of Texas — or any other member of this conference,” he added. “I have always found, even at times when we were supposedly having differences and disagreements with the University of Texas, I’ve found we’ve always been able to communicate.
Then before walking out of the room, Boren said, “I hope you’ll be relaying my kind comments about the University of Texas back in Austin.”
McCombs upset: Longtime UT booster Red McCombs has been vocal about his desire to add Houston to the Big 12. He didn’t particularly care for Perrin’s comments at the Big 12 meetings about standing pat with 10 teams.
“I saw Mike’s comments in the media,” McCombs told KRIV-TV in Houston. “I love him dearly. That doesn’t mean he’s always right. He’s dead wrong on this.”
“It would just be a colossal mistake to try to keep Houston from getting in,” McCombs said. “We’ve had enough mistakes made on the UT side the last two years. I hope they don’t compound it by another one.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.