Possible alternatives for Texas Tech if the Big 12 folds

Texas Tech’s future in the Big 12 conference has been called into question over the last week after various reports have surfaced of Texas and Oklahoma planning to exit the conference and attempt to join the South Eastern Conference. 

Tech’s Chancellor Dr. Tedd  Mitchell addressed the reports on Twitter on Thursday, July 22.

“Like many across our state and within the footprint of our league, I’ve been extremely disappointed by the actions and intentions of our friends in Austin and Norman. From day one of the Big 12 Conference’s existence, Texas Tech has been a proud and trustworthy partner,” Mitchell wrote. “As the landscape of collegiate athletics shifts, I can promise Red Raider Nation that our leadership will diligently pursue all options to best position Texas Tech for long-term success.”

The options Mitchell spoke of are bountiful, but none of them are exactly ideal situations for Tech, as the Red Raiders were comfortable with the state of the Big 12 before the rumored departure of Oklahoma and Texas. 

The most easily assumed route for the Big 12 to take is to simply replace Texas and Oklahoma with two schools not in a lesser conference, such as Stephen F. Austin (Western Athletic Conference) or Texas State (Sun Belt Conference). 

However, the conference’s decision makers will likely keep this option as a last resort, as it would severely decrease the competition level in the Big 12 and would lead to extended dominance over the conference by a select few schools. 

However, another route the Big 12 could take is attempting to merge with the American Athletic Conference, widely viewed as the most popular conference outside of the “Power 5”.

Unlike other conferences where the Big 12 could likely pluck teams to come play in the Big 12, getting teams from the AAC would be difficult due to its relative notoriety. Therefore, the two conferences could look to explore the possibility of a merger and creating a super-conference similar to what the SEC could look like after the addition of Oklahoma and Texas. 

Such a merger could see Tech facing off against two notable teams from the Lone Star State annually, the University of Houston and Southern Methodist University. 

Tech football is scheduled to play their season opener at Houston, a game that could foreshadow a conference rivalry in years to come.

Finally, if the Big 12 is unable to form a conference that Tech and its decision makers feel is unworthy of their partaking, they could look to follow the lead of Texas and Oklahoma and exit the conference. 

Unlike its former conference counterparts, though, Tech has not shown dominance over the Big 12 for an extended period of time (Texas and Oklahoma have 17 combined Big 12 championships in football in only 24 seasons) and likely won't be considered by the SEC.

Tech could instead look West for a new conference to join, with the Pacific-12 Conference emerging as a likely destination if Tech were to exit the Big 12. It’s unlikely Tech would be alone in this move, with the likes of TCU, Baylor and OSU ready to follow their lead. 

The Pac-12 has struggled with competitiveness and visibility, two things Tech could provide after recently appearing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship for the first time in school history in 2019. 

Joining the Pac-12 would not only keep Tech competitive in a notable conference, but could also provide a recruiting boost that could see Tech improve in recruiting players from the west coast while maintaining their success with recruits from Texas.

Overall, Tech has multiple options for life after the Big 12 lost two of its most competitive schools to the SEC. 

These options could include remaining in the Big 12 Conference after realignment, or following in the footsteps of its former rivals and join a different conference such as the Pac-12 for higher levels of competition and improved visibility.

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