Published with permission of The Waco Tribune-Herald:
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Gov. Rick Perry is right to campaign for the presidency on our state's strong record of economic vitality, especially as the rest of the nation lags. That's why we hope that Perry recognizes the need for economic consistency and throws his clout in favor of keeping Texas A&M in the Big 12 Conference -- if not for tradition's sake, then the sheer and undeniable economics of it all.
The place for Perry to start is with individuals he has appointed to the A&M board of regents, some of whom are ignoring thoughtful alumni and athletes and are instead dead-set on placing A&M in the Southeastern Conference. Some regents are motivated partially by the gnawing fact that the University of Texas seems to be benefiting more than anyone else in the current athletic league.
Perry, a diehard Aggie himself, can stop any effort to split Texas A&M from the Big 12 with but a few well-chosen words, and in a way that shouldn't detract from his presidential bid. We urge Perry to stand tall for all of Texas, even as he contemplates a long and hard campaign to win the White House.
There are solid reasons for A&M to remain within the Big 12 fold, chief among them cherished rivalries involving universities ranging from Baylor to Texas.
More than any university in our state, tradition is paramount with the Aggies. Yet tradition flies out the window if A&M decides to forsake contests with honored foes that it has regularly stared down in athletic bouts for a century or more.
Honor is also important to A&M students, alumni and athletes. And honor will be on the line if A&M breaks contractual obligations that it made only a year ago when it and other remaining members of the Big 12 made a commitment to stay in the league and quit eyeing other conferences, other opportunities.
But even if simple but deep-rooted values such as tradition and honor no longer count, surely the economics of the matter do. A&M, with its considerable athletic program and huge, dedicated fan base, brings economic activity wherever the Aggies play -- something we see whenever the Corps of Cadets, complete with band, marches in our town.
Granted, the SEC this week shelved the notion of inviting A&M to join it, but the Aggie board of regents' action Monday suggests the idea endures.
If A&M breaks its word and flees the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in the next few years, the economic impact it now brings to its rivals across Texas would instead flow to places outside our state such as Mississippi State, Kentucky and Georgia -- and all at a cost to Texans, beginning with Aggie fans.
Students attending A&M will find it harder to attend away games at, say, Ole Miss or Kentucky. So, too, would fervent Aggie fans of more modest means in Perry's native West Texas.
In short, the efforts of so few, and at the likely cost of so many, seem a perverse pursuit for a university supported by taxpayer dollars -- something we hope comes to light when the Texas House Higher Education Committee convenes to discuss this matter. (A hearing set for today has been postponed.)
We encourage the governor to insist that Texas and A&M sit down as family members and hammer out a long-range agreement amenable to both universities as well as Texans in general.