Consider the insane for a moment: what if Texas, in some parallel universe where people did unconventional and interesting things, what if Texas decided not only to leave the Big 12, but to go independent completely?
Reader Mark writes in with the insane but brilliantly obvious:
As a lifelong Notre Dame fan and recent grad, I value Notre Dame's independence greatly. With that being said, I firmly believe in the next 10 years we will join the Big Ten. Notre Dame loves football, but the one thing they love more than football is money. Unless Brian Kelly becomes Ara Parseghian, the financials will be too much to ignore.
One school I think who would benefit tremendously from independence is Texas. I live in the heart of Big 12 country in Kansas City, and there seems to be no love lost between the rest of the schools and the Burnt Orange. In fact, Notre Dame has sucked so much in the past 20 years that my friends all hate Texas WAY more than Notre Dame. I'm no business major (engineering actually with law school in the future), but it doesn't seem like Texas really benefits from playing in the Big 12 (ignore any sport besides football, like Texas is gonna beat Kansas, The Good Reverend Bill Self will not allow that). They already make millions more than any other school in nation and they appear on tv whenever they want. So in the spirit of all these damn conference expansion rumors, what do you think?
Dismiss the obvious negatives for an instant: the lack of a set schedule, no guaranteed conference money, the logistical difficulties of running a one-stop shop for all things Texan. Leave those for the postgame discussion. Going independent isn't as insane as it sounds, and not just because Texans could embrace their internalized Alamo-fixation, pull up the ladders, and hold out in the fortress until the bullets/viewers ran out and the glorious end arrived.
Texas would first be able to brand individually. With zero obligations to the Big 12, the revenue stream flows like a delicious cash-flavored soft-serve ice cream spout directly into its mouth. Considering Texas' already palatial facilities and ample cash, consider the Croesus-wad Texas would pull maintaining its existing rivalries while negotiating cash deals for its network, its out-of-conference appearances, and its merchandising. Greed on this scale is almost a form of nobility.
Texas risks little it doesn't manage itself: as a long-established national power, it could write its own checks without cutting a margin-decreasing dividend to anyone. The Big Ten Network may look like the move of the future, but for the mad thinkers of the future, the new independent may be the way to go for large programs capable of serving as their own solar systems--which, in some respect, is what many of the conferences function as already. (Additionally, we're still high on the notion of the Texas Network, if only to sate our unending thirst for Dallas reruns and the Pom Squad House reality show.)
And yes: disadvantages a-plenty, especially the notion of risk for teams going it alone. But look at how well Notre Dame does financially a decade and a half into their avant-garde theater exercise in Division One Football Greatness, and tell us a program with consistent wins and championships wouldn't rake in dollars. College football remains a largely anarchic environment, with no real central authority. Rather than some assumed drift towards cohesion, increased fracturing of the whole may be the smart move down the road.