When news broke a few weeks ago that the universities of Oklahoma and Texas had applied for admission to the Southeastern Conference, you could hear a football drop in Lubbock.
Oh no! There goes the Big 12. There goes Texas Tech’s ticket to the big time. There goes all that television money. There goes recruiting. Second-tier status, here we come.
Phooey! In my mind, nothing could be further from the truth. And I don’t believe I’m in the minority here because I know the proven resiliency, fighting spirit and staunch independent nature of West Texans – the folks who call the Red Raiders their own – as well as Texas Tech students, administrators and alumni.
From this corner, jettisoning those self-righteous Longhorns and Sooners from the picture just might be the Get Out of Jail Free card that gives the Red Raiders a great opportunity to escape the shadow and will of UT and take a real leadership role in the rebuilding of a dynamic Big 12. The will is there. The tools are there.
Look, Texas’ arrogance, deceit and greed destroyed the old Southwest Conference, expedited the departures of Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado from the original Big 12 and has now sent the eight remaining members scrambling for a credible and profitable landing place. It was only a matter of time until the ‘Horns shed themselves of the “lowly likes” of Tech and Baylor and TCU.
A hurried but exhaustive check of the college sports landscape by President Lawrence Schovanec, Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt and others in recent days found no such sanctuary. The perceived most attractive spot for Tech – the one Red Raider faithful had kept fingers crossed for — was the Pac-12. That dream evaporated when officials of that league said they were not in the mood nor mind for expansion. The other three Power 5 conferences were off the board, too; they were either full up or geographically untenable or perfectly happy with their lots. Thus, logic dictated that it was time to pledge allegiance to the Big 12.
In the not-too-distant future, the likes of Cincinnati, Houston, Central Florida and BYU will be making their way to our fair city to compete against some of the most exceptional student-athletes, coaches and teams the NCAA (hardly an acronym for leadership in recent years) has to offer. If you follow intercollegiate athletics, you know these four schools are not the dregs. And who knows what could follow. Possibly a Big 16?
Throughout all the current uncertainty (realignment, playoffs, TV money, governance) — and upheaval (transfer portal and name, image, likeness pay), it’s important to keep something in mind: Texas Tech is much more than a football program. It’s a world-class university with a tremendous brand and legions of graduates who have made and continue to make their marks across the country and world.
The resume Tech’s leadership recently compiled and distributed to other conferences and universities proves the school doesn’t take a back seat to anyone. Count advantages such as a 5-Star Campus Pride rating, Carnegie Tier I designation, a top Hispanic Serving Institution, lofty graduation and job placement rankings, and athletic facilities second to none. The Red Raiders stick out like a red Ferrari in multiple categories.
One that really captured my attention is the Corporate Recruiter College Graduate Ranking, a nationwide survey of some 350 corporate business recruiters conducted in 2019 by Whitman Insight Strategies. Those recruiters ranked Tech ninth overall, first in Texas and among the top six public institutions in the U.S.
Other institutions in the top 10 included Harvard, MIT, Yale, New York University, Ohio State, Penn State, UCLA, Arizona State and Cal Poly.
According to the survey, the university ranks in the top 10 among recruiters nationwide as the school with the best-trained, educated, and able-to-succeed-once-hired graduates. And corporate recruiters seek out Tech grads largely due to the school’s overall reputation, as well as their overall preparedness, work ethic, and Texas location.
Now there’s something that will hit you square between the eyes if you’re a Tech student or thinking about becoming one. And isn’t quality of education and preparedness just a wee bit more important than football ledger?
As Schovanec likes to point out, “Red Raiders always band together and get things done.” The hope here is they do exactly that in these coming months … show Texas and Oklahoma and the world that Tech will ultimately dictate its own future, just as it has since 1923, just as it should be.
Norval Pollard is a former longtime A-J journalist who makes his home in Lubbock.