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Hocutt: Texas Tech, Texas planning to play annually as non-conference opponents

Don Williams
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Texas Tech and Texas have met in football every year since 1960. The series was jeopardized by Texas' choice to soon leave the Big 12, but Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt says he and Texas AD Chris Del Conte have discussed the two schools playing annually in all sports for the next 20 to 25 years.

The University of Texas soon will be gone from the Big 12, but the Longhorns won't be forgotten in Texas Tech circles.

Nor are they likely to vanish from venues such as Jones AT&T Stadium, United Supermarkets Arena and other Tech stadiums.

Tech and UT have had serious discussions about continuing to play annually as non-conference opponents after the Longhorns go live as members of the Southeastern Conference, Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt told A-J Media on Friday.

Red Raider Sports first reported the development.

"We have had conversations with the University of Texas about continuing to play them once they leave the Big 12 Conference, on an annual basis, in all sports," Hocutt told the A-J, "and we have received affirmation from leadership at the University of Texas that they agree that would be a positive thing and have pledged that they will work that out with us in terms of future schedule."

The specifics are still to be determined, but such an agreement likely would be long term.

"The conversations that I have had with my colleague, (athletics director) Chris Del Conte at the University of Texas, we've spoken about a 20- to 25-year commitment," Hocutt said.

Oklahoma and Texas on July 30 accepted membership invitations to the SEC, effective July 1, 2025. The leadership of both schools has said publicly they plan to honor their contractual obligations to the Big 12 through the 2024-25 school year.

The Big 12 moved quickly to replace them, extending invitations that were accepted on Friday by Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said earlier this summer about 50 percent of the Big 12's television revenue was tied to Texas and Oklahoma. 

By adding annual non-conference games against Texas, Texas Tech could help make up some of the shortfall likely to come. It certainly would do so at the Jones AT&T Stadium gates. 

On 29 of the past 30 occasions the Longhorns have played a football game in Lubbock, a stretch that dates to 1962, it's been the Red Raiders' highest-attended home game of the season. The Longhorns were outdrawn by another visiting team at Jones Stadium only by Nebraska in 1996.

The last football season in which the Red Raiders and the Longhorns did not face other was 1959. They've met every year since as members of the Southwest Conference or the Big 12. 

Hocutt said the specifics of a non-conference arrangement are still to be worked out.

One implication that must either be worked through or accepted: Do the Red Raiders want to subject themselves to a rugged non-conference schedule?

Tech has Oregon State on the 2025 and 2026 schedules, North Carolina State on the 2027 schedule and Mississippi State on the 2028 and 2029 schedules.

If Tech and Texas continue their series as soon as the Longhorns leave for the SEC, do the Red Raiders want to take on two power-five non-conference opponents a year?

"I think anything and everything's on the table at this point in time as we think about the future and how we want to approach scheduling," Hocutt said. "You have a lot more questions than I have answers to and have not had the time — have not taken the time yet with everything that's been going on — to look at our non-conference matchups and what flexibility we may or may not have following the '24 football season." 

The Big 12 and university leaders from each of its new members did four separate news conferences Friday welcoming Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and UCF. It was only 51 days after the Houston Chronicle shined a spotlight on UT's and OU's secret talks with the SEC about jumping leagues.

Hocutt confirmed reports in the past week that Big 12 leaders did not want negative headlines and uncertainty about the conference's future to carry through football season or linger for months.

"As I talked to our coaches here," he said, "recruiting is the lifeblood for any athletic program. When there's a narrative out there about the future of your conference, that's not good, and so we had to take quick action, and I don't think you can move much quicker than we did. 

"Commissioner (Bob) Bowlsby guided us as well through this process as he possibly could have. I think it has immediately changed the narrative, so that's a great benefit to us and to our coaches as we go out to recruit.

"Our College Football Playoff position has not changed. Our position within the NCAA governance structure is not going to change. So I felt like it was very important for us to move as quickly as we could."

BYU, an independent in football, said it will start Big 12 competition in all sports in 2023. Bowlsby said Cincinnati, UCF and Houston will join no later than July 2024.

The new members will come into the conference receiving smaller revenue shares than existing members.

"There's expected to be a progression, a revenue progression that the new members would enter with, and those details are still being discussed," Hocutt said. "That's normal when you join a new league, and this would not be any different."

As to what the annual revenue distribution will be once the Longhorns and Sooners are gone and the four newcomers arrive, Hocutt said it's too early to tell. The conference was approaching an average of $40 million per school per year in revenue distributions before that number declined with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hocutt said the annual Big 12 payout will not change in the fiscal year that just began, nor will it change the following fiscal year.

"Through our process, we had a media adviser and consultant and there were various formulas that they ran and presented to us," he said. "But you don't know what the market's going to bring until you get into particular negotiations. 

"We still have three years left on our television agreement, three-and-a-half years, and when it's the right time we'll get back to the open market, and the value will be determined at that time. All we can do between now and getting back to the open market and the negotiating table is be successful and win."