Posted this over on Orangebloods, but I know many of you avoid that place like the plague so I thought I'd post it here.
I spoke briefly with UT President Bill Powers last night at a Texas Exes event in Midland. President Powers gave a dinner speech to our local group and touched on a number of different issues that he has been facing as UT president (10% rule, Cactus Cafe, Mack's salary, etc.). One of the issues that he briefly named early in his speech was "the Big XII TV contract" but he didn't go into any detail on that subject. Nevertheless, I was intrigued. I was hoping there would be a question and answer session, but there wasn't.
After dinner, I waited for a window of opportunity and went over and shook his hand and thanked him for the speech. After some small talk about the law school (I was a student there when he was a law prof), I asked the question I was dying to ask: "So, Big 10 or Pac 10?"
He laughed and then the first thing he said was "Well, we are NOT going to the Big 10." I was expecting a very lawyerly, equivocating answer, so I was pretty surprised at his very direct and succinct answer. He then went on to say he had no desire to be flying our softball team all over the upper reaches of the midwest. Then he dropped another bombshell "Whatever we do, we aren't leaving Tech behind". He then talked about how this issue is very much a hot button topic for him right now and it's what he was referring to by referencing the "Big XII TV contract negotiations" in his speech. He then got rather vague and said that he could see some sort of large "Western" alliance of schools forming in the future, but this isn't imminent and he's not sure what will happen. That was it, we only spoke for a total of about 2 or 3 minutes.
1) It is entirely possible, even likely, that he was completely blowing smoke up my a$$. If I was him, I sure as hell wouldn't be divulging confidential and highly sensitive information re: contractual negotiations to some random alumnus at a dinner party. That said, he was very direct and open and came across as being very honest. However, he's a lawyer and we're pretty good about doing that sort of thing with only the slightest shred of truth to back us up. So, I take everything I heard with a great big grain of salt and think you should too.
2) If you take him at face value, then it seems likely that negotiations are taking place with the Pac-10 and various TV outlets regarding either some sort of merger between the Pac-10 and Big XII or parts thereof or at least some sort of joint TV deal between the conferences. I definitely got the vibe from him when he was talking about this possible future "Western" alliance that it was something that he was excited about.
3) Throughout his speech, Powers repeatedly referred to Texas Tech and Houston, together with UT and A&M, as major players in the state's academics. I was a bit surprised at how almost automatic his inclusion of those two schools was in his conversation. I'm sure this is due at least in part to last year's passage of Prop 4, but I thought it was interesting, particularly in light of his comment that we aren't leaving Tech behind whatever we do. This is way outside the box, but could UH be a part of any new mega-conference? Could the talks with the Pac 10 include the pitch "let's bring the two Texas Tier 1 schools (UT and A&M) and the two soon to be Tier 1s (Tech and Houston)? That seems way outside the box, but his commments got me thinking about it.
4) As is the case with all of our coaches, Powers sure is a good representative of our University. Sharp dude, well spoken, thoughtful. We are blessed with some great leadership at UT.
5) Despite all of this, I wouldn't be shocked in the least if we are negotiating with the Big 10 and hear out of the blue one day this summer that Texas and A&M are headed north.