There’s no way to fully describe the schadenfreude UH fans are experiencing as Baylor, Texas Tech, and TCU struggle with the realization that their free ride is over. Schadenfreude is defined as the pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune. It’s from German words meaning harm and joy. Particularly in regards to Baylor, this schadenfreude has been a long time coming.
From the squirmy way that the Bears entered the Big 12, to their threats of suing Texas A&M before the Aggies went to the SEC, to the way they led the effort to deny UH entry into the Big 12 in 2016, to their current bitch fit over UT and OU leaving, Baylor has perfected the role of an obliviously spoiled child.
And now, Daddy Longhorn has kicked the brat out of the house. Schadenfreude: Baylor’s harm and our joy.
Baylor wormed their way into 25 years of paydays following the demise of the SWC and now will find their programs relegated to the AAC, or in a dream world, C-USA. And that’s because the Big 12 will cease to exist as the Leftover stragglers try to find a lifeboat. If Kansas finds a home, the entire conference will crumble. The Leftovers Conference, as it would be constituted in 2025 when UT and OU leave, has iffy TV value.
The Pac-12, ACC, and Big Ten will not be taking Baylor. In fact, the AAC doesn’t need Baylor, either. They will not increase the league’s television revenue and the money they bring in from NCAA Tournament units is not enough for their conference revenue payout. It’s not just them, of course. None of the Leftovers are worth what they make now.
In Monday’s Texas Senate committee hearing on the “future of college sports in Texas,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby admitted that Texas and OU drive at least half the league’s TV revenue, which is $28 million a year to each member. But even that is a huge understatement – the Horns and Sooners likely drive upwards of 75% of that revenue.
In all games covered under the Big 12’s TV contracts for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, conference games not involving Texas and OU averaged just 886,000 viewers. Games involving OU averaged 3.76 million while UT’s games averaged 3.2 million.
The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel compared numbers between the Leftovers and the AAC. The difference is insignificant:
The 22 non-OU/Texas Big 12 home games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 over those two seasons averaged 1.37 million viewers. The 49 AAC home games on those same networks averaged 1.01 million viewers. But take away that one mammoth Ohio State-TCU outlier from the Big 12, and its number drops to 1.10 million.
With the prestige of the Big 12, the Power 5, and supposedly larger fan bases, the Leftovers average just 90,000 more viewers per game. And Mandel’s numbers do not take into account that, in the two years examined, 26 of the AAC’s 49 home games were played on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights (excluding Black Friday) compared to just 4-weekday games for the Big 12. While they are usually standalone games, weekdays mean lower ratings than Saturday games. There is virtually no difference between the Leftovers and the American and, in fact, apples to apples the AAC might average more viewers on Saturdays compared to the Leftovers.
Even with a 15-year headstart in the “big time,” the Leftovers do not outrate the nomads that have banded together to form the American. And it’s even worse for Baylor. Over the two seasons Mandel studied, ESPN only put Baylor on ESPN/ESPN2 four times in games against other Leftovers (one was a Thursday night game).
In all of 2018, ESPN did not show a single Baylor game against the Leftovers. The four times they were shown in 2019, Baylor games averaged just 844,000 households. The two Baylor games against the teams from the Sunflower State combined for just 999,000 households – just half a million per game.
Is it any wonder that Baylor is freaked out? They’ve been found out. Caught. Exposed. They add nothing to the TV contract. UH has lived paycheck-to-paycheck for a quarter-century while Baylor fed off the giant Longhorn teet. But with those days winding down, it’s hard not to crack a wry smile.
After Monday’s Senate committee hearing, Baylor President Linda Livingstone sent out a letter to the Baylor community with her spin on the matter.
Livingstone said that it is “imperative that Texas maintain its nation-leading five Power 5 schools, not only for athletics purposes, but for the prestige, academic partnerships and financial benefits such status brings to our universities.”
These are the same people that put UH through a dog and pony show five years ago before deciding not to expand. Baylor was adamantly against UH’s inclusion despite the fact that it would increase Texas’ “nation-leading” number of Power 5 schools. And they were not too concerned that adding UH would bring “prestige, academic partnerships and financial benefits” to another in-state school and the state’s largest city.
Odd how that’s a priority all of a sudden.
She also lamented the ‘fact’ that UT heading to the SEC would have “devastating financial implications for Waco, Lubbock, and Fort Worth.” She wrote that “a state institution should not be able to inflict such harm on Texas taxpayers and communities.” Of course, her school led the group that pulled the rug out from under UH, which has certainly meant devastating financial implications for Houston and Harris County.
Texas and OU have long known they’ve been carrying the Leftovers and finally found the chance to untangle themselves from the mess. You know it was bad when Texas voluntarily gave up their undue influence over the Leftovers, their beloved Longhorn Network, and their separation from A&M to go into an unknown situation where they will be just another face in the crowd.
“If you’re as big and great as you think you are, you should have made the Big 12 equal or better than the SEC,” Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) laughably said in the hearing. Even with UT’s overinflated sense of self, they knew they could never lift Baylor and the other Leftovers to that level.
It may be a quarter-century too late but Baylor’s leaders can see their comeuppance on the horizon. Mack Rhoades even hinted at it Monday, saying the school “could be faced with selling less tickets and not receiving as much money from donors” and might not be able to build their new basketball arena.
And there’s the problem in a nutshell: even after winning men’s and women’s basketball national titles in the last two full seasons, the Bears have little to offer even to their own fans and donors. Never mind how little they offer in the next round of TV negotiations. What does that say about their value in the changing TV landscape? What does that tell potential suitors about their long-term viability?
Mack said the quiet part out loud: without UT and OU, Baylor has little to offer going forward. Rice, SMU, TCU, and UH were left with some dire choices in the mid-90s. Baylor is in no better position today.