AUSTIN, Texas — It's hard to talk much about the Big 12 Conference's recent instability without hearing people accuse the University of Texas of being a bully.
Running a quick Google News search for "Texas Longhorns Bully" comes up with articles from ESPN, AOL, Dallas Morning News and the Wichita Eagle accusing the Longhorns of abusing their position of power inside the conference.
But not everyone shares the opinion that Texas has turned the Big 12 into its personal plaything.
In a conversation with the Missourian on Tuesday, Texas Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds shared his thoughts on realignment and how it relates to the Big 12, Texas and, of course, Missouri.
"I understand that they want to go to the Big Ten. I understand they want to go to the SEC. I'd rather they not," Dodds said of Missouri. "But Missouri's got to do what Missouri's got to do … It's apparent they're going to do it, and they'll be fine."
And despite the perception, Dodds said the Big 12's exodus over the past two years is not Texas' doing.
"We have stuck our neck out to save the Big 12, and we're not a bully," Dodds said. "We didn't cause it. Our goal has been, and continues to be, to keep something together for the Big 12 and that's what we're going to do, good Lord willing."
There are parts of that statement that are very easy to disagree with.
Texas has twice flirted with the Pac-12. Both its basketball and football coaches have been quoted in the past two months saying that Texas could have gone to any league in the country.
Its most recent "concession" was to modify the Big 12's revenue sharing system. The old system, in place until next season, distributed television revenue to schools based on how many times their games were shown. Schools like Texas, which are TV draws regardless of their records, were shown more often than schools like Baylor.
In the new system, the TV money will be divided evenly among all conference members, regardless of how many times their games are shown.
Seemingly, it's a concession on Texas' part to share evenly. But Dodds called the differences in revenue between schools in the old system "miniscule," and said that with the new Fox contract for the Big 12's Tier II rights that kicks in next season, even with equal sharing Texas' television revenue still stands to increase from $13 million to $20 million.
With the total amount of money increasing, the gap between schools would no longer have been so miniscule.
"With the dollars getting so big in the last Fox thing, the numbers — had we kept the same formula — would have been, I don't know the right word, but grotesque is a word I've used before," Dodds said. "We made the motions to equal sharing both in the Fox and ABC/ESPN package."
It's even easier when you have a revenue source no one else has: The $15 million-per-year check coming in from ESPN for the newly-formed Longhorn Network.
Dodds said that at its inception, the Longhorn Network was never intended to be a major revenue stream at all. He said that the original idea was to provide an outlet for the Longhorns' non-revenue generating sports to get on television.
"These kids have parents, these kids have friends, these kids have communities, these kids have high school coaches, and we have fans that would like to watch that. Why do we not try to do something with that?" Dodds said. "And it started with us thinking that we were going to have pay money to do it. That never changed, ever."
But eventually it did, when TV networks came to the table with checkbooks in hand.
"Nobody was interested in it until Fox came up and said, 'We'll give you $3 million a year to do it.' And we were elated with that. We thought, 'Crap, they're going to pay for it. They're going to pay us, the kids get on TV, this is great,'" Dodds said. "Then ESPN walked in and said we'll give you an average of $15 million a year. And then it became a problem."
Theoretically, Texas could have turned down the money. But with about $226 million still owed on facilities, and the ability to do other positive things with the new revenue stream — $5 million per year goes into the University of Texas’ general fund — the money was hard to turn down.
"Would you have said no? Would Missouri have said no?" Dodds said. "No, they wouldn't have said no, they would have taken it. And we took it."
It was then that the accusations began to really intensify. Dodds said it was his understanding that the Longhorn Network was one of the biggest reasons that Texas A&M left for the SEC, and that while he was sorry to see them go, he didn't feel the Longhorn Network should be an issue.
"So are we being a bully? No, we feel like we're probably being good guys. Does somebody think we're being a bully? Well that's up to them to think we're a bully," Dodds said. "We want to keep the conference together, we want equal sharing, we want our own network for our kids, we'll give half of it to the university. If somebody can poke a hole in that, poke a hole in it."
People will certainly continue to blame Texas, though, and while it doesn't bother Dodds personally — "I don't give a flip what you think about me," he said — it bothers him when people perceive his university that way.
"I've talked to people like you until I'm blue in the face, and said the same thing, which is true, and out of it we get people in Kansas City writing that we're absolute bullies, and people writing somewhere else that it's our fault A&M’s leaving," Dodds said. "We just are easy to blame, I guess."