FanPost

The Longhorn Network launches and real football schools yawn

Forgive the off-topic nature of the title, but I wanted to throw some chum in the water and see if any of my fellow Bulldogs have thoughts on the Longhorn network. The topicality of the discussion is, of course, the very real chance the LHN will drive Texas A&M into the bosom of the SEC.

To be short and succinct, what will happen to the LHN when Texas delivers another losing season, fails to get to another bowl game, and fires Mack Brown? The odds of this happening are not as low as most Texas fans believe.

Or, more directly, who cares about Texas?

Let's be frank: the only reason Texas is a national contender is the same reason Oklahoma is a national contender. Both play in weak conferences that allow them to beat up on member teams and then, when its time for a bowl game, to crash and burn like choke artist champions.

Nevertheless, there seems to be an idea that the University of Texas has some great cachet in the football world. It is football royalty in the minds of many sportswriters. Not coincidentally, many ESPN pundits view Texas as one of the great football schools. (ESPN being Texas' partner in the LHN, of course.)

Texas' high opinion of itself is not limited to football, however. Its baseball teams think they're one step down from the major league, although they regular crash and burn in the playoffs. Their basketball teams think they're the next UNC, although they regularly crash and burn in the playoffs. Their soccer teams think they're the next UVA, although they regularly crash and burn in the playoffs. A common theme arises.

Texas even carries this attitude to its academics. Texas, if you didn't know, if the Ivy of the Southeast. Its on par with UVA as far as public universities go. Its law school is the pre-eminent law school in the nation, in their own eyes. Yet, really, these self-repeated reputational maxims don't survive leaving the Texas-sized bubble they're cultivated within.

In short, as a Bulldog fan and a graduate from an SEC school, I am neither scared nor impressed by Texas, it's football traditions, its other sporting traditions, nor its supposed academic reputation.

To back up my puffery in a wholly un-Texas-like manner, I will use facts to show that any member of the SEC can and will stack up admirably well against Texas in a number of measurements, both sporting and academic.  Yes, I even mean Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Mississippi State.

Academics

We'll start with academics because, well, that's an easy one for us in the Southeast.

Despite the academic disdain heaped on SEC schools by conferences who believe their academically superior (how's that working out for you this summer, ACC and Big Ten?), the SEC has a strong academic tradition. In fact, it is arguably the strongest academic tradition of any conference primarily composed of public universities.

Let's begin with Georgia. The first state-charted University, UGA was established in 1785. This quite a while before Texas broke away from Mexico, much less before it became an actual state. Like UT, UGA is considered to be a "Public Ivy" by those who rate such matters.  In comparison, UT was established in 1883, nearly a century after UGA. It has a larger endowment, but that is UT systemwide. (Whereas the UT most talk about is UT-Austin.) Further, it pulls its folks from a larger state with a larger population—yet it can still only pull numbers in the same league as UGA. This is a bit like, say, the United States olympic teams being competitive with the Lichtenstein teams, even though the USA has a much larger pool of potential athletes.

Then we add the likes of Vanderbilt, Florida, Auburn, Louisiana State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, et cetera.  Each SEC school was founded before UT. Most were founded before Texas became a State. Each school has a more well-regarded department than UT—many have multiple such departments. Vanderbilt can actually claim to be a southern Ivy League. Each of these schools pull from smaller populations, but have comparable (or better) academic reputations.

Football

The 2006 Street & Smith "50 Greatest College Football Programs of All Time" ranks UT 9th all time. By comparison Alabama was 4th, Tennessee 10th, LSU 17th, Georgia 18th, Auburn 21st, Florida 25th, Mississippi 26th, and Arkansas 32nd.  UT appears to do well in this, except that their current league members don't fare as well compared to the SEC: Oklahoma 3rd, Texas A&M 23rd, Missouri 47th, and Texas Tech 48th.  Boy, it sure is easy to get those nice records against competition like this.

Texas claims four national championships: 1963, 1969, 1970, and 2005. Texas has also been named national champions by various organizations another 12 times: 1914, 1918, 1930, 1941, 1945, 1947, 1950, 1961, 1968, 1977, 1981, and 2008.

In comparison, SEC schools have 58 claimed and unclaimed national championships between them.  Georgia has 8 such titles, although we claim only 2. (1942, 1980; with the others being 1927, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1956, and 1968.) The SEC has claimed, altogether, 36 national titles.  (A convenient Wikipedia page lists them out: List of Southeasten Conference National Championships.)

Other Sports

The SEC has been awarded 168 team-sports (non-football) national championships since its formation in 1933. UT has 48. That sounds impressive, until you look at the details. Arkansas has 42, LSU has 42, Georgia has 26, Florida has 22, Tennessee has 14, Auburn has 14, Kentucky has 9, Alabama has 5, South Carolina has 3, and Vanderbilt has 1.  Once again, the schools pulling from smaller population centers and with smaller student populations punch on par with the mighty Texas athletic machine.

Where Texas is the undisputed champion

That would be undeserved ego. Yes, Texas even tops Alabama and Notre Dame in this regard. After all, both Alabama and Notre Dame have the hardware to back up their ego (even if Notre Dame's is more vintage than some).

Much ink has been spilt over the LHN. Even venerable, reasonable, and mostly rationale writers like Spencer Hall have written of the damage the LHN can wreak on the college sports landscape.

It is a tempest in a teacup. On behalf of the SEC, in a completely self-anointed way, I answer the LHN with one big YAWN.

No one, outside the Texas alumni fan base, cares. (Granted, since Texas enrolls somewhere around 50+K students each year, this alumni base does grow admirably.)

The rest of the serious college football world, the one that doesn't pad its stats by playing in weak conferences, and the one that doesn't have to self-promote in order to get its own recognition, will be just fine.

Texas would never want to join a strong athletic conference like the PAC-12 or SEC. It is doing quite well with the lesser competition in the Big-12-2.

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