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  • Writer's pictureNeal Spelce

Throwback to the Big 12 Powerful Playmakers

Texas Tech, Baylor, Gov Ann Richards, and Lt Gov Bob Bullock

The Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners recently roiled the college sports landscape in Texas, and will ultimately impact the national collegiate sports scene, with their departure from the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference.

But this isn’t about UT and OU. It’s about Texas Tech and Baylor and a big political power play back in 1994. The key players weren’t on the gridiron back then. Nope. They were in the State Capitol -- Gov. Ann Richards and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

Without going too deep into the weeds, all you need to know for this discussion is that the now-defunct Southwest Conference and Big 8 conferences were merging. As usual, UT (SWC) and OU (Big 8) were the 800-pound gorillas in this exercise. Well, left on the outside looking-in were SWC members TT and BU. They weren’t initially going to be included in what was to become the Big 12.

Hold on just a minute. The sports guys didn’t take into account the most powerful politician in Texas – Bullock – and one of the most popular politicians of the time – Richards. Oh yeah, those two heavyweights controlled state purse strings.

And, apparently, no one checked their bios. Bullock got his undergraduate degree at Texas Tech and his law degree at Baylor. Richards got her bachelor's degree from Baylor. Ouch!

Bullock was the big arm-twister here. And make no mistake he was a master arm-twister. (He solely was responsible for forcing the creation/funding of the Texas History Museum that, fittingly, bears his name today.) Can you just imagine the phone calls, the back-room dealings? When the smoke-filled rooms cleared, surprise!, Texas Tech and Baylor were included in the merged conference.

Now that TT and BU are once again left sitting in an uncertain situation as far as their collegiate sports programs are concerned, can they count on a Bullock to come riding to their rescue. Don’t place your bets yet. Gov. Greg Abbott got his undergrad degree at UT and law degree at Vanderbilt and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick got his undergrad degree from the University of Maryland (when he was known by his birth name, Dannie Scott Goeb).

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