In life, it rarely makes sense to raise exit costs. Jaylen Bond had signed a letter of intent (LOI) to play basketball at Pittsburgh, but after a rash of players left Texas for the NBA, he wanted to commit to the Longhorns. At first, Pittsburgh refused to release him from his LOI, but after some discussion, they agreed. And in the long-run, this has to be the right decision. If you are Pittsburgh, you do not want to signal that you will treat players badly if they commit early to your school.
This week Texas A&M was expected to join the SEC, but the threat of litigation from Baylor appears to be stopping A&M from leaving the Big 12 temporarily. And perhaps, if Baylor really is going to be left out in the cold by conference realignment, this is the best course of action. But I have to believe that the opposite is true. Raising exit costs has to scare the other good teams in the Big 12 into thinking they might be extorted in the future. This might hold things together in the short-run, but in the long-run, I have to believe it makes it more likely Oklahoma will leave the Big 12 at the first opportunity.
To me, the Big 12 is like a Little League team. Texas is the star shortstop, and Oklahoma is the best pitcher. Texas A&M is a quality hitting second baseman. And Baylor is the kid who got cut after the first few practices. Baylor couldn’t throw, couldn’t hit, and had a bad attitude, so the coach had no interest in including him on the team. But then Baylor’s mom (the former governor of Texas) called the coach and personally told him to take Baylor on the team. So Baylor has existed on the team for a couple summers, despite hitting .145 and generally being a bad sport.
Last year, the star center fielder (Nebraska) moved to another team, and so did the weak-hitting catcher (Colorado). And now Texas A&M got a call from a loaded team from the next district who had an injury at second base. A&M has always resented Texas because the coach is Texas’ dad, and gives him all sorts of perks that none of the other kids get, and A&M has decided it would be better to play elsewhere.
And that has Oklahoma asking why it should stick around too. Oklahoma is still a great pitcher, but with Texas as the only home run hitter in the lineup, Oklahoma feels the rest of the group isn’t pulling their weight. Oklahoma is debating whether they should just move to another Little League organization where they would be properly valued, or stick around and add a new second baseman who isn’t as good as Texas A&M.
If Oklahoma leaves, they might just take their best friend, the decent hitting third baseman Oklahoma St. with them. And even though many of the other teams aren’t great baseball players, a lot of them would find roles on other Little League teams if the group disbanded. Kansas is the kid whose mom bakes great cookies every week. Ultimately most organizations don’t seem to value the yummy snacks (the basketball) enough to really go after Kansas. But the Jayhawks will ultimately find a spot somewhere because everybody likes them.
But Baylor didn’t have value during the training sessions (when the SWC disbanded), and they haven’t pulled their weight since, and so none of the other good Little League teams would really invite Baylor to join. Sensing this, Baylor’s mom has called everyone into the principal’s office at the school and asked the team to stick together.
At first, most of the other players agreed. They like their Little League squad. Texas likes being the big fish and having their dad coach the team. And players like Missouri are nervous where they will wind up next. But players like Oklahoma are left looking around and asking if they really want to stick around under these circumstances. If everyone is going to treat A&M this badly, what happens if they decide they want to move elsewhere?
This column is verscoy negative towards Baylor, and I don’t hate Baylor. In fact, I’m looking forward to watching Scott Drew's basketball team this year more than almost any team in the country. But ask yourself this. When the principal told you that you had to include a kid because someone couldn’t be left out, did it work out? Or did it work out better when that kid found his own group of friends that valued him for who he was? The idea of the Big 12 disbanding may seem depressing to Baylor at this point, but imagine the Bears competing for a conference football title in the Mountain West Conference. Change is only horrific when you refuse to look at the bright side.