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Abbott tells state agencies and universities to hire more white people

I mean, let’s be honest, that’s what this is about.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office is warning state agency and public university leaders this week that the use of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives — policies that support groups who have been historically underrepresented or discriminated against — is illegal in hiring.

In a memo written Monday and obtained by The Texas Tribune, Abbott’s chief of staff Gardner Pate told agency leaders that using DEI policies violates federal and state employment laws, and hiring cannot be based on factors “other than merit.”

Pate said DEI initiatives illegally discriminate against certain demographic groups — though he did not specify which ones he was talking about.

“The innocuous sounding notion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others,” Pate wrote.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is a moniker used for policies developed to provide guidance in workplaces, government offices and college campuses intended to increase representation and foster an environment that emphasizes fair treatment to groups that have historically faced discrimination. DEI policies can include resources for underrepresented groups, which can include people with disabilities, LGBTQ people and veterans. In hiring, it can include setting diversity goals or setting thresholds to ensure that a certain number of diverse candidates are interviewed. At universities, DEI offices are often focused on helping students of color or nontraditional students stay in school and graduate.

[…]

Andrew Eckhous, an Austin-based lawyer for Kaplan Law Firm, which specializes in employment and civil rights litigation, said the governor’s office is “completely mischaracterizing DEI’s role in employment decisions” in an apparent attempt to block initiatives that improve diversity.

“Anti-discrimination laws protect all Americans by ensuring that employers do not make hiring decisions based on race, religion, or gender, while DEI initiatives work in tandem with those laws to encourage companies to solicit applications from a wide range of applicants, which is legal and beneficial,” Eckhous said in an email.

“The only piece of news in this letter is that Governor Abbott is trying to stop diversity initiatives for the apparent benefit of some unnamed demographic that he refuses to disclose,” he added.

The letter cites federal and state anti-discrimination laws as the underpinning for why Pate says DEI initiatives are illegal. Those laws notably have come about as a response to discrimination over several decades.

President Lyndon B. Johnson prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion and national origin as part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, during a time when people of color, especially Black Americans, were excluded from higher-wage jobs based on race.

The Chron adds some details.

The letter is setting up a major clash with nearly every public university in Texas, where the benefits of diversity have been championed. The University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Houston have made DEI programs central to their missions.

[…]

On its website, Texas A&M’s Office of Diversity declares its responsibility to help academic units “embed diversity, equity, and inclusion in academic and institutional excellence.”

The University of Texas at San Antonio, through its business school, offers a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certificate Program.

At UT, each college, school and unit has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer as well as a website to highlight the importance of those efforts, a change made after campuswide student protests in 2017 led to the removal of statues of Confederate soldiers like Robert E. Lee.

In the warning letter, first reported on by the Texas Tribune, Abbott’s chief of staff Gardner Pate claims such efforts backfire:

“Indeed, rather than increasing diversity in the workplace, these DEI initiatives are having the opposite effect and are being advanced in ways that proactively encourage discrimination in the workplace,” he wrote.

Pate’s letter comes after a high-profile lawsuit last year aimed at Texas A&M University’s hiring practices for college faculty.

A University of Texas at Austin associate professor, who is white, sued the Texas A&M University System on behalf of white and Asian faculty candidates, alleging racial discrimination in a fellowship program intended to improve diversity on the College Station campus. The program sought to hire mid-career and senior tenure-track professors from “underrepresented minority groups.”

The UT associate professor’s lawsuit is being led by American First Legal, a group created by Stephen Miller, former President Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser.

I Am Not A Lawyer, and I know that there’s a case before SCOTUS that’s aimed at gutting affirmative action. It still seems to me that claiming that DEI efforts are “illegal” is at best a wild overstatement. Maybe a claim that they’re not required could be plausible. I expect you could defend that in court. But illegal? Not today, at least, and maybe not even after whatever atrocity SCOTUS commits on the affirmative action case. The idea here is to make people think it’s illegal, and that it’s not worth the risk of incurring Abbott’s wrath, and voila, you get the outcome you want without actually having to change anything. We’ll see how these universities respond, but especially with the Lege in session and the budget being constructed, I don’t like the odds.

UPDATE: Texas Tech is already folding, though UH doesn’t appear to be taking the bait. Could be worse, I guess.

Sure, go ahead, test ivermectin

Just keep your expectations very low.

Texas universities, including Texas Tech’s Health Science Center in El Paso, are now recruiting subjects for a nationwide study to test the effects of unproven repurposed drugs against non-severe COVID cases.

Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medication that local and federal health agencies have warned against using for COVID symptoms, is a candidate in the clinical trial known as ACTIV-6, along with fluticasone, an asthma medication, and fluvoxamine, an anti-depressant.

None of the three drugs have been shown to be beneficial against COVID-19 in any large-scale clinical trial.

The form of ivermectin tested by the study is different from the over-the-counter formulation and dosage, meant to treat animals, that some people have attempted to use for COVID, Dr. Edward Michelson of Texas Tech’s Health Science Center in El Paso told local station KTSM. Michelson leads the local ACTIV-6 study in El Paso.

The study aims to determine whether any of the drugs can help meet a “critical” need for medications to prevent COVID from worsening in people with “mild-to-moderate” cases that do not require hospitalization or oxygen, according to the study website.

I mean, maybe they will find some valuable use for ivermectin in treating COVID. Or maybe they’ll find super solid evidence that none of these off-use drugs work and it will deter some people from taking advice from quacks instead of getting real help. (There’s already evidence for that, and indeed that ivermectin is actually harmful.) I don’t expect much to come out of this, but I want to hold some space in my heart for the possibility. If you want to do your part for SCIENCE, click here, and godspeed to you.

Caught between a mandate and a madman

I have sympathy for the schools.

Many Texas universities — which collectively hold billions of dollars in federal contracts — are wrestling with how to navigate the Biden administration’s mandate that all federal contractors be vaccinated by Dec. 8 in a state that bans vaccine mandates.

While more public universities across the country are announcing that all employees must be vaccinated to comply with the federal requirement, several Texas public universities — all managed by Gov. Greg Abbott appointees — told The Texas Tribune they are still evaluating the executive order, which applies to new federal contracts of $250,000 or greater and awarded as of Nov. 14 or existing contracts that have been renewed as of Oct. 15.

“This is unprecedented,” said Michael LeRoy, a labor law expert at the University of Illinois College of Law. “There have been conflicts between the state and federal government, but not at this magnitude with this kind of money on the line.”

LeRoy believes the issue will be resolved in the courts because of the two conflicting issues at the center. State universities receive funding from the state and federal level but they are run by a board of regents appointed by the Texas governor.

While LeRoy said it’s unlikely the federal government will immediately terminate a grant if universities don’t comply, he said a university’s actions could impact future bids for federal grants. The federal government could begin to give notice to rescind a grant, he speculated, but that is a lengthy process. For now, universities are awaiting guidance from their own lawyers.

“… [T]he White House has been clear that noncompliance will not be excused, even in situations where state law contradicts the federal directive,” University of Houston spokesperson Shawn Lindsey told the Tribune in a statement. “It’s an extremely complicated situation that requires further analysis.”

Texas Tech University is working with its lawyers to determine if there are contracts that would trigger the vaccination requirement, school officials said in a statement. Texas Tech is also requesting guidance from the Texas attorney general’s office.

A Texas A&M University System spokesperson said they are also still evaluating the order. The A&M system has about 500 contracts with the federal government worth $2 billion, most of which are tied to the flagship university in College Station.

A statement from the University of Texas System revealed how universities are trying to appease both federal and state leaders.

“We will endeavor to comply with federal vaccine requirements for specific, covered individuals to protect these investments in our state,” spokesperson Karen Adler said in a statement. She then went on to say the system would provide exemptions for those with religious beliefs and “we will make every effort to accommodate employees’ personal situations.”

I think we can all guess what the AG’s office will say to Texas Tech, but the ritual must be observed. We’re all awaiting final guidance from OSHA, which is writing the rule that will implement that executive order. After that is when the lawsuits will fly. Not much else to say at this point, other than I do not envy any of these university officials the task they have before them.

Back to college, COVID-style

Not the return anyone was hoping for.

Texas A&M University’s new president M. Katherine Banks said this spring that she anticipated a “fall [semester] of joy” when the university reopens after 15 months of lockdowns and remote learning.

She wasn’t alone. As coronavirus case numbers dropped throughout the spring, higher education leaders across the state excitedly announced the return of in-person classes, 100% capacity at football games and an end to social distancing requirements for the fall.

But just a few weeks before students are expected to return to campus, university leaders are faced once again with uncertainty as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads throughout the state and country. This time, public university administrators are tasked with trying to mitigate the virus on campus without the ability to reinstitute mask mandates or require vaccines due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning such directives. They’ll be limited in how they can respond even as the Centers for Disease Control has advised fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors to prevent the spread of the virus and some students and faculty have expressed worry about how safe their return to campus will be.

“As the fall semester approaches, I have a feeling of déjà vu, albeit an unwelcome one,” wrote University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell in a letter to the university community on July 30. “I recall last summer and winter, as we prepared to start semesters in the face of a COVID-19 virus that has an uncanny ability to time increasing threats to coincide with the academic calendar.”

While universities say they are monitoring the delta variant and whether they’ll need to pivot, many are moving ahead with previously decided reopening plans, including full football stadiums and in-person classes, while encouraging everyone to wear a mask and get vaccinated. Yet faculty and some students say they are increasingly worried about how they can effectively protect themselves and others on campuses where leaders can’t prevent unmasked or unvaccinated students and employees from entering and unknowingly spreading the virus.

[…]

Much of the frustration among faculty, staff and students is due to Abbott’s executive orders limiting masks and vaccine mandates. The faculty senate at A&M is scheduled to vote next week on a resolution calling on the state to allow universities to make their own decisions and “follow the science in their efforts to combat COVID-19.”

“There are heavy concerns when you think about the fact that institutions like A&M, the University of Texas … have a rich history based on the study of scientific principles,” said Dale Rice, speaker of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate. “And now they’re being constrained from following the science.”

Last week, a group of student leaders at UT-Austin slammed the governor for not allowing universities to make decisions on their own campuses, but also urged UT-Austin to do more.

“[I]t is also irresponsible for the University of Texas to plan for a full re-opening with little to no virtual classes available,” the letter from student leaders across various colleges read. “We have been made witness to the vast benefits of virtual learning for students, faculty, and staff who are disabled, have to work 2-3 jobs to keep up with the rising living costs in Austin, or have adapted to working or learning from home.”

For sure, the vast majority of people would prefer to be back on campus if that can be done safely, but as long as it cannot then remote learning for those who want or need it must be provided as well. Really, though, this is about vaccines and mandates. All of these campuses would be vastly safer if the overwhelming majority of people on them were vaccinated, and the only way to get there is to mandate it. You know, as they have done for decades for things like measles and whooping cough and meningitis. Legally speaking, there’s nothing to stop any campus from such a requirement, as past precedent and current judicial rulings demonstrate. The barrier is the threat that Abbott and the Republicans in the Legislature would zero out their funding.

(Note that I drafted this two weeks ago – there’s been too much damn news, y’all – and since then Rice University has announced that it will begin with virtual learning, though students are on campus.)

I can’t and don’t speak for any of these institutions. Some of them claim to be doing quite well on the vaccination front (we’ll see that in a minute), and good for them if so. But for any school that’s not well above the 80% mark – not just students, but faculty and staff and volunteers and contractors and pretty much everyone else who is regularly on campus – I’d be taking a hard look at our risks, both in terms of an outbreak and how likely the Lege actually is to follow through on a de-funding threat. Where is the bigger exposure? They all need to try to answer that question.

UTEP’s leaders said they feel they can reopen safely due to high vaccination rates in the surrounding community, citing in a note to the school community that more than 80% of El Paso residents 12 years or older have had at least one dose of the vaccine. The school has also ended testing for faculty and staff, encouraging them to use community testing centers, but will provide testing for students throughout the fall semester.

UTEP, along with some other Texas public and private universities, has asked students to voluntarily share their vaccine status.

Officials at UTEP estimated two-thirds of students and 90% of employees are fully vaccinated. Texas Tech University in Lubbock estimated about 75% of students and 90% of faculty are vaccinated, based on a voluntary spring survey. Baylor University said in a note that 47% of the campus community is vaccinated. Texas Christian University is also asking students to share their vaccine status ahead of the fall semester, but are not requiring vaccines and has said masks are “expected” but not required for unvaccinated students (NOTE: See update at the end).

[…]

Some private universities across the state have reacted to the increase in positive cases with stricter measures, though vaccines remain optional. On Tuesday, Rice University in Houston announced masks will be required indoors in group settings. Rice is also asking all students and employees to share their vaccination status. Those who are fully vaccinated must get tested every two weeks. Unvaccinated members coming to campus must test two times per week.

Trinity University in San Antonio is also requiring masks indoors and weekly tests for those who are unvaccinated. Baylor told students it will require weekly COVID-19 testing for the first part of the fall semester for students and employees, except for fully vaccinated students and students who have had a positive test within the last 180 days. St. Edward’s University in Austin initially said it would require a vaccine for all students, but later stated students could be exempt from that requirement under the governor’s executive order.

Emphasis mine. If you needed a reason to avoid Waco this fall, there you have it. There is definitely room here for colleges and universities, public and private, to at least put some of the costs of Delta on the unvaccinated. More frequent testing is an obvious one, but let’s not stop there. Require a vaccine or a positive test to attend sporting events, participate in intramural sports, attend any kind of public indoor event like lectures or movies or parties or concerts, eat in the cafeterias, and so on. Get vaxxed or stay distant, for your safety and everyone else’s, simple as that. That’s more likely to draw a lawsuit than a legislative response, but if so then there’s a decent chance you can get some people vaccinated before you’re forced to put the policy on hold, and maybe you won’t be forced to pause at all. See my earlier comment about evaluating risks and acting accordingly. Anything that results in more vaccinations should be strongly considered, even if it winds up being a short-term measure. Push that envelope, the long-term payoff is worth it. The Chron has more.

UPDATE: I received a message from TCU informing me that their policies have changed since that Trib story was published. They now require masks for indoor spaces. My thanks to them for the feedback.

Big XII visits the Lege

It’s something to do, anyway.

As the University of Texas prepares for a jump from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, state lawmakers are working to determine how the move will affect the rest of the state — and whether they might be able to intervene in such a move in the future.

The first hearing of the committee on the future of college sports in Texas on Monday produced more questions than answers. Senators, economists and representatives of the universities left behind brainstormed how the Big 12 could remain viable — perhaps by adding up-and-coming Texas programs such as the University of Houston and Southern Methodist University.

But with the exits of UT and the University of Oklahoma sealed, there was little lawmakers could do but commiserate and propose potential solutions.

“I think there are options for us to partner with other conferences, there may be opportunity for mergers, there may be opportunities to add members,” said Bob Bowlsby, the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “There may be other opportunities that are currently unforeseen. … The multitude and severity of the challenges that are out there right now is likely to cause lots of changes.”

The eight remaining schools — which include Waco’s Baylor University, Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University and Lubbock’s Texas Tech — agree that “staying together is probably our best approach in the near-term,” Bowlsby said.

[…]

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound and the chair of the newly formed committee, said she’d invited representatives from UT and ESPN to testify on Monday, but they declined. Texas A&M, which left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012, also rejected an invitation.

See here for some background on the committee. Nothing is going to happen, as this issue isn’t on the special session agenda and of course there’s a quorum break going on, but everyone got to express their feelings, and I’m sure that helped. As for UT, they weren’t there to share their perspective, but they still had something to say.

University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell on Monday publicly defended the school’s decision to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference along with the University of Oklahoma in 2025 and denied Texas lawmakers’ claims that the school violated Big 12 bylaws in doing so.

“This future move is the right thing for our student athletes for our student athletes, our programs and our University in the face of rapid change and increased uncertainty,” Hartzell said.

[…]

“It is timed to avoid the legislature in its legislative session, where it is structured with the power to make decisions,” said Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Hartzell said that he initiated discussions with the SEC in the spring — while the regular legislative session was going on.

He disputed claims made by lawmakers and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby that the Texas school violated the league’s bylaws by not giving advance notice of their departure.

“I want to set the record straight — we have and will continue to honor all agreements,” Hartzell said. “We have not violated any Big 12 bylaws.”

Lawmakers argue that the process was done in the dark, and would have far-reaching effects on the remaining schools in the conference, notably the three that reside in Texas.

See here for more on the accusations of UT and OU’s alleged duplicity along with ESPN. Lord knows, this Legislature knows how to do things in the dark. Game recognizes game.

Big XII accuses ESPN of sabotage

Interesting!

In the long, sordid and divisive history of conference realignment, there has always been feverish levels of mistrust, backroom allegations and message board conspiracies when schools switch leagues. But in the decades of cloak-and-dagger maneuverings, political gamesmanship and rival in-fighting that have always accompanied realignment, we’ve never seen a moment like Wednesday afternoon.

Yahoo Sports first reported that the Big 12 sent a “cease and desist” letter to ESPN essentially demanding the television network stop plotting to sabotage and cannibalize the league. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby accused ESPN of attempting to “harm the league” for ESPN’s financial benefit. That wasn’t even the most memorable part.

From there, Bowlsby did a series of media interviews where he accused ESPN of plotting with another league – later revealed to be the American Athletic Conference per Yahoo Sources – to attempt to kill off the Big 12. Essentially, Bowlsby said he found evidence that ESPN had been “providing incentives” to a league to lure the Big 12 leftovers away after Oklahoma and Texas bolted without warning.

“What pushed me over the top was a couple of days ago when it became known to me that ESPN had been working with one or more other conferences and even providing incentives for them to destabilize the Big 12 and approach our members about moving away and providing inducements for the conference to do that,” Bowlsby told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. “That’s tortious interference with our business. It’s not right.”

There’s more, so read the rest, and see the letter in the original story. ESPN denies the allegations, as you might expect. I have no idea what happens next, as I have definitely been operating under the assumption that this is going to happen and will very likely happen well before 2025, but this suggests there will be a lot more friction than I anticipated, and that the Big XII will aim to make it as expensive as possible for UT and OU. And, apparently, ESPN. We’ll see how that works out for them.

Meanwhile, since this is of course all about money, there’s this.

The decisions by the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma to seek to leave the Big 12 Conference to join the Southeastern Conference could affect more than just which teams they play. The decision can also have a big economic impact for the rest of the Big 12 and the communities that are home to their teams.

The move is not yet approved, but if it goes through, it could cost as much as $1.3 billion a year in lost athletic revenues, tourism spending and other economic activity for communities across the Big 12, according to an analysis by Ray Perryman, an economist and CEO of the Perryman Group, an economic consulting group in Waco.

Without Texas and OU, the rest of the conference is likely facing smaller television deals, lower attendance, and other negative consequences, Perryman said in a report released Thursday.

Ray Perryman is the go-to guy for this kind of economic analysis, and you have to respect his ability to crank them out in such a timely manner. I don’t doubt that the remnants of the Big XII will do worse without UT and OU, and some of that will trickle down to the cities the schools are in. I suspect those numbers are overblown, but I couldn’t say by how much. The report is here, judge for yourself.

UT and OU make it officially official

Smell ya later, Big XII.

After a week of speculation, the University of Texas at Austin announced Tuesday that alongside the University of Oklahoma it has asked to join the Southeastern Conference starting July 1, 2025.

The news came a day after both schools announced they would not renew their media rights contract with the Big 12 in 2025. If the two schools were to join the SEC, they would join the likes of top football schools such as University of Florida, Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama.

“We believe that there would be mutual benefit to the Universities on the one hand, and the SEC on the other hand, for the Universities to become members of the SEC,” UT President Jay Hartzell and OU President Joseph Harroz, Jr. said in a joint letter to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.

Sankey said in a statement that while the SEC hasn’t actively pursued new members, it will welcome change when there is consensus among members.

“We will pursue significant change when there is a clear consensus among our members that such actions will further enrich the experiences of our student-athletes and lead to greater academic and athletic achievement across our campuses,” Sankey said.

The move leaves the rest of the Big 12 conference, which includes Texas Tech University, Baylor University and Texas Christian University, in a state of uncertainty. Monday afternoon, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement that the remaining eight institutions will work together to ensure future success.

“Although our eight members are disappointed with the decisions of these two institutions, we recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does currently,” Bowlsby said. “The Big 12 Conference will continue to support our member institutions’ efforts to graduate student-athletes, and compete for Big 12 and NCAA championships.”

The Monday news was about saying goodbye to the Big XII, or at least saying that they wanted to say goodbye. This is about saying Hello to the SEC, which one presumes will be returned in kind. I suppose it’s possible that things could go pear-shaped from here, but that would be a huge upset. Most likely, if you’re a Longhorn or Sooner, get ready to start shelling out for new SEC-branded gear.

A personal anecdote: Back in 2003, during the long special session slog to re-redistrict Texas on Tom DeLay’s orders, Rice played UT in a football game at Reliant Stadium. I contributed a bit to the MOB halftime script for that show, which was about the redistricting saga and how we should never leave the task of redistricting to politicians. “After all,” the bit concluded, “the last time the Governor got involved with redistricting, Baylor wound up in the Big XII”. It got a big laugh from the mostly UT fans. Seems like the joke holds up pretty well all these years later.

There is of course political involvement in this round of Conference Bingo, and so naturally our state’s biggest self-promoter has rushed out to the front of the parade in hope of being mistaken for a leader.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked Sen. Jane Nelson to chair a new select committee on the “Future of College Sports in Texas,” a move that came hours after Texas and Oklahoma issued a joint statement to the Big 12 that served as the first step toward leaving the conference.

In a tweet sent out Monday night Patrick said the committee’s purpose would be to “study the athletic & economic impact to TX schools & communities by UT’s exit.” A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 2.

This is just the latest bit of political theatre in the face of the state flagship’s impending departure from the Big 12, a conference it founded in 1994 that currently includes four Texas-based members: UT, Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech.

Hey, Dan, let me know when you plan to have a hearing to fix the grid and claw back some of the money that was heisted from way too many paying customers from the freeze.

UT and OU make their official move to exit the Big XII

It’s just a matter of time now. And money. Always money.

The University of Texas at Austin announced Monday morning that it will not renew its sports media rights contract with the Big 12 that is set to end in 2025, giving the first formal signal that it’s planning to leave the athletics conference.

The decision comes after rumors surfaced last week that UT-Austin and the University of Oklahoma would leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference, which would then include 16 schools.

The move was announced in a joint statement from UT-Austin and Oklahoma.

“Both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future,” the statement read.

[…]

The financial impact on the [remaining] schools could be devastating. Records show that media rights represent the single largest income stream for Texas Tech athletics. Its total athletics revenue during the 2020 fiscal year was $90.4 million, meaning the Big 12 payouts accounted for more than one-third of its total earnings.

That major-conference money helped allow it to limit the amount of money the university transfers into its athletics department to under $50,000. Public universities outside of major conferences in Texas have been known to funnel millions into their athletics programs to keep the departments afloat. (TCU and Baylor are private schools, and their financial numbers are not public.)

See here for the previous update. I’m old enough to remember that one big reason why the old Southwest Conference fell apart is that some schools thought some other schools were not pulling their weight in terms of financial reward for the conference as a whole. (A broader geographic appeal, and thus bigger potential TV audiences, was another significant factor.) Speaking as a Rice Owls fan, I feel your pain, Texas Tech and Baylor. Sucks to be on the other side of that, doesn’t it?

Sources from the Big 12 told ESPN that Monday’s statement from UT and OU doesn’t fully guarantee that the schools remain in the Big 12 through 2025. There is the possibility that they can pay a penalty of more than $75 million for leaving the league early and give a required 18 months’ notice, per Big 12 bylaws.

There is also speculation that OU and Texas would also not be bound by the Big 12’s contract if the conference dissolves before 2025, according to the publication. If the future of the Big 12 conference is in doubt, other schools could also look elsewhere for a landing place.

I for one would bet on UT and OU making their exit from the Big XII well before 2025. All of the previous breakups, starting with Arkansas leaving for the SEC in 1990, happened within a year. Whatever the contract terms are now, UT and OU will have plenty of incentive to buy their way out of them, and the remaining schools will ultimately take the cash as a preferable option to uncertainty and a hell of a lot of awkwardness. I will be shocked if UT and OU aren’t fully integrated into the SEC by the start of the 2023 football season, and it would not surprise me if they’re there for 2022. That’s the world we live in. The Chron and Slate, which runs some financial numbers, have more.

Some legislators want to keep UT out of the SEC

This is kind of hilarious.

As the college athletics world roils over the possibility of the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 conference, a group of Texas legislators with ties to other universities in the state has mobilized.

Four prominent lawmakers — one each with ties to Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University — met with Gov. Greg Abbott’s staff Thursday, one day after news broke that UT and OU had reached out to the Southeastern Conference about joining, according to a source briefed about the meeting and an Abbott spokesperson. Abbott is a UT alumnus and outspoken Longhorn fan.

The four lawmakers were Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, who chairs the influential House Appropriations Committee and attended Texas A&M; Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, who received his law degree and MBA from Texas Tech and chairs the powerful House Calendars Committee; Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who chairs the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and was a student body president at Baylor; and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and a former TCU athlete. Kolkhorst declined comment and the other three lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comments Thursday evening.

Leach and Burrows have already expressed their concern about a potential move on social media, with Leach saying on Twitter that he was “working on legislation requiring legislative approval for UT to bolt the BIG XII.”

“This is about much more than college sports,” Leach wrote. “The impact UT’s decision would have on communities & businesses all across Texas would be real, substantial and potentially devastating. On behalf of those concerned Texans, the Texas Legislature has an obligation to be involved.”

See here for the background. Nothing is happening in the Lege right now, for obvious reasons, and one wonders what motivation “outspoken Longhorns fan” Abbott would have to stop his alma mater from making this move, since he’d have to add the item to the next special session agenda. For sure, if UT and OU leave the Big XII it will consign TCU, Baylor, and Texas Tech to a diminished future, but that’s a result of longtime forces in college sports. Their foundation wouldn’t be any firmer, they’d just be holding off the tide for another day. Speaking again as a fan of a team that was left behind in the 90s, I understand their fears, but by the same token since they were among the leavers, I trust you’ll forgive me if I don’t rush to sympathize. Sean Pendergast, Jerome Solomon, and the Chron have more.

UPDATE: There’s now a bill to effect this end, HB298. If it gets added to the call, and if there’s a quorum when that happens, then maybe that has a chance. Don’t hold your breath.

UPDATE: I’m dying:

Sources: Gov. Abbott not returning calls from top Republicans in the Texas Legislature about UT trying to head to the SEC

Republicans like Chairman Dustin Burrows and Chair Brian Birdwell have filed bills to block UT from changing conferences, but of course that’s not on the special session agenda. The governor’s office has gone quiet.

There’s been a real distinct lack of high comedy this legislative season. I want to thank the universities of Texas and Oklahoma for providing the opportunity to bring a little of that back.

The Big XII will play football

That’s their plan, anyway.

The start of the Big 12 Conference’s college football season will move forward as scheduled, conference officials said Wednesday, meaning four major Texas football programs are one step closer to playing this fall.

“Ultimately, our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete in the sports they love this season and it is up to all of us to deliver a safe, medically sound, and structured academic and athletic environment for accomplishing that outcome,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a statement. The season will kick off Sept. 26, with the conference championship pegged for Dec. 12.

Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin are Big 12 members. The conference presidents’ decision to allow football during the coronavirus pandemic was made official Wednesday morning, a day after the Big Ten and the Pac-12 announced their seasons would be postponed until the spring semester.

Bowlsby said member schools have committed to enhanced COVID-19 testing, with three tests per week in high contact sports. Non-conference football opponents must also adhere to testing protocols that match conference standards.

Texas A&M University is part of the Southeastern Conference, which has also signaled its intent to allow teams to play this fall.

“We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement Tuesday.

So that’s two Power 5 conferences not playing in the fall, two that say they are, and the ACC. Of course, there are a ton of questions that will have to be addressed before this can be taken seriously, such as “how exactly are you going to keep all those people safe”, “what will be the protocol when someone (or several someones) tests positive”, and “do you really think that allowing fans in the stands is a good idea”. You can have all the bravado you want, but you better have some idea of what you’re doing when something inevitably goes wrong. In the meantime, all I can say is that it’s going to be an interesting autumn. Or possibly spring, if things do change. Reform Austin has more.

Abbott expects there to be college football this fall

Pretty optimistic, if you ask me.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he believes college football will begin on schedule in Texas with some fans in the stands, he told KXAN during an interview Friday.

“My prediction is yes we’re going to have college football beginning as scheduled, on schedule, with at least some level of fans in the stands,” the governor said.

Abbott said what is unclear at the moment is what the capacity level would be.

“Would it be strategic and limited to ensure that we have safe distancing practices, there are factors we simply do not know at this time,” Abbott explained about the potential health risks of reopening UT football in the fall.

Abbott stated that the University of Texas at Austin’s athletic director needs a decision by early August. He said the state thinks it should be able to make a decision by then.

This isn’t out of the blue. In April, the chancellors of Texas A&M and Texas Tech said they expect there will be football when they reopen in the fall, though that story didn’t address the question of fans. ESPN quoted Abbott referring to the reopening plans of MLB and the NBA, though those sports and others like MLS are all talking about fan-free games, possibly at a single location. It’s one thing to imagine the games happening, especially if the campuses are open anyway. It’s another to imagine sixty thousand people or more packed into a stadium screaming their lungs out, especially if the pro sports leagues are still playing before nothing but empty seats. Texas A&M at least is thinking about what this might mean.

“We have not gone down the path of examining every section,” A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said of exactly how many fans Kyle Field will hold with mandated social distancing in place. “There are a lot of scenarios being discussed.”

Like that proverbial glass, Bjork prefers to envision a stadium as half full, not half empty, should restrictions be in place this season.

“We want a full experience, and we’re staying positive — that’s the approach we’re taking right now,” Bjork said. “We know we can pivot quickly if we have to, but we have not mapped that out.”

[…]

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has gradually reopened the state in the past month, but he has held off on potentially crowded events such as county fairs. With that in mind, what exactly would Kyle Field look like at, say, 25 percent capacity?

Roughly 25,000 fans would be spread throughout the stadium, and which fans would be allowed in would be determined in a potentially convoluted process.

“You’ve got 102,733 seats,” Bjork said. “Last year we sold about 85,000 season tickets, including right around 35,000 student tickets. That leaves you about 18,000 empty seats. The great thing about Kyle Field is we have a lot of space. So you would start with your infrastructure and analyze it from there, but we would not (ideally) want to decrease our season ticket base. …

“We have a huge footprint, and we just haven’t had to go down that (downsizing) path yet.”

Should social distancing be required at Kyle Field this fall, not only would fans be spaced at least 6 feet apart throughout the stadium, but multiple measures would be in place to try to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

That might mean everyone but the players and those on the sideline would be required to wear masks (further muffling touchdown celebrations and the Aggies’ tradition of kissing after a score); an abundance of hand sanitizers spread throughout the stadium; and scheduled times for different sections to enter the stadium so there is no squeeze at the gates, where body temperatures might also be checked.

Bjork added that it might be helpful for fans to bring their own beverage containers to limit the number of hands on a cup, making last year’s new policy of selling alcohol throughout the stadium a bit trickier. A&M and its concessions cohort made more than $1 million off alcohol sales at Kyle Field in 2019, according to the university.

“One of the things that we’ve had to do with the alcohol policy is have (employees) pour the bottle or can of beer into a cup (for fans); that’s an SEC policy,” Bjork said. “Does that need to change so you limit as many contacts as possible? Those approaches are being studied right now.”

So are the possibilities of limiting the university-sanctioned tailgating scene around Kyle Field, and the myriad activities in the Aggie Fan Zone on the plaza north of the stadium that create a festival-like atmosphere in the hours before kickoff.

“There’s nothing you can really put in writing right now or have a ‘backup’ plan yet, because there’s too much uncertainty, and it’s way too early,” Bjork said of the Aggies’ plans for Kyle Field starting with the Sept. 5 opener against Abilene Christian.

Which fans would get to attend would also present a knotty question for them. I do expect there to be a lot of pressure for playing college football, for various financial and social reasons. How that manifests remains an open question, and that’s before we take into account the possibility of a resurgence, in which case all of this will seem extremely stupid.

This is an issue that has more than the usual amount of resonance for me. As you know if you’ve been reading this site for awhile or know me in Real Life, I’ve been a member of the Rice Marching Owl Band (MOB) for many years. I don’t know at this point what Rice plans to go regarding its sports teams, nor do I know at this point what the MOB plans to do. (They’ve been busy with the usual end-of-semester activities, saying goodbye to graduating seniors and installing the new drum major and drum minor, that sort of thing.) I really don’t know what I plan to do just yet if everyone is going ahead like normal. On the one hand, we’ll be outside and there will be a reasonable amount of space for us all in the stands. On the other hand, there’s only so much social distancing a band can do and still sound like a band, the deep breathing that playing a wind instrument requires is an extra risk factor for COVID transmission, and everything else about the stadium experience will involve a lot of closer-than-I’m-comfortable-with contact with other people. Maybe if we’ve really got infection rates under control, or there’s true universal testing, I’d be willing to trot out there for another season like it was the Before Times. I’m not feeling that right now. Ask me again in August and we’ll see. The Chron has more.

Shunning A&M

It’s not just the UT-A&M football game that’s on the endangered list.

The SEC-bound Aggies have said they’d love to keep playing UT as a non-conference foe, but Longhorns athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said the school’s football schedule is full at least through 2018. That isn’t the case for all sports, but so far A&M has come up dry in scheduling future contests of any sort with UT.

“There doesn’t seem to be nearly as much interest from the other side,” A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said Monday.

[…]

Byrne has instructed his coaches to contact their UT counterparts about scheduling future non-conference games – with no luck to date.

“I reached out about four weeks ago to Texas and emailed and said we’d love to keep the series going,” A&M soccer coach G. Guerrieri said. “I haven’t heard back.”

A&M baseball coach Rob Childress said he and UT counterpart Augie Garrido have yet to discuss whether to continue playing as non-conference foes.

I’d speculated about this before, and I can’t say I’m surprised to see UT give A&M a cold shoulder. There’s no real incentive for them to do otherwise. The question now is whether any other Texas-based school will follow the Longhorns’ lead. At least one so far seems to be doing so.

As for the Aggies perhaps playing another soon-to-be former Big 12 mate in Baylor, Bears athletic director Ian McCaw said via email Monday, “At this time, our future non-conference football schedules are filled through 2020. With regard to scheduling Texas A&M in other sports, it will be considered on a sport-by-sport basis.”

Anyone know what the status of future games between A&M and Texas Tech is? How about TCU, SMU, and UH? Rice has played A&M fairly regularly in baseball lately, and occasionally in basketball, but has not played them in football since the demise of the SWC. I don’t expect any changes there. Looks to me like the Aggies will be racking up the frequent flyer miles in the coming years.

But it’s football! Football’s different!

Times are tough in Texas, especially for public schools and universities. Everyone is being asked to make do with less. Well, almost everyone.

Several professors at a [Texas Tech] faculty senate meeting Wednesday questioned the university’s January announcement it will increase [head football coach Tommy] Tuberville’s annual pay by $500,000 through 2015, one of the university’s few raises as it braces for lawmakers to cut tens of millionsof dollars from the university’s revenue.

The five-year $11 million contract guarantees Tuberville at least $2 million per year, up from $1.5 million in the original contract he signed with Tech in 2010.

[…]

Richard Meek, president of Tech’s faculty senate, sees both sides of the debate. While he understands how competitive the NCAA coaching market can be, he also relates to his fellow faculty members who have been asked to take a pay freeze in 2011.

Tech nixed $3 million in faculty raises to absorb an 8-percent reduction in state funding already in effect, and the freeze doesn’t show any sign of thaw in early budget drafts out of Austin.

“If that was me, I would have turned it down,” said Julian Spallholz, a faculty senator and human sciences professor. “I would have been embarrassed (to accept the raise).”

Others later said the raise shows a priority on athletics over academics.

Meek, like [Tech president Guy] Bailey, said some frustration may stem from confusion about how Tech pays Tuberville’s salary. Many fail to understand that a funding wall separates academics and athletic budgets, Bailey said, so the raise does not directly siphon from academic coffers. Each year, however, academics does subsidize $2.5 million of the athletic department’s budget. Bailey said Tech has reduced that to $2.25 million this year to reflect state cuts and he hopes to slowly wean athletics off that subsidy entirely over the next few years.

But, he added, his office first needs time to untangle federal and NCAA red tape tied to the subsidy.

If nothing else, the timing of this sure sucks. You can be sure that this sort of drama is going to play out elsewhere as well. I’ve already seen a bunch of griping in comments on stories and posts about the looming public education cuts about athletic facilities and coaches’ salaries and whatnot. However you view this situation, the fact remains that as with the rest of the budget, some people are being told they must sacrifice a lot, while others are being asked to do very little, if anything. You better believe that’s going to lead to resentment.

Big XII lives

Wow.

“The University of Texas’ athletics programs will continue competing in the Big 12 Conference,” the school announced Monday in a statement.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin released the following statement:

“Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future. As Athletics Director Bill Byrne and I have stated on numerous occasions, our hope and desire was for the Big 12 to continue. We are committed to the Big 12 and its success today and into the future.”

Oklahoma also announced its intention to stay in the Big 12.

Less than five hours ago, the departure of UT, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the PAC 10 was described as “imminent”, though there were other reports at the same time that the situation was more fluid. Guess we know which it is. I’m a little surprised by this, on the grounds that UT’s regents were to meet tomorrow, and A&M’s regents had not yet even scheduled a meeting. Apparently, that pitch from Big XII Commish Dan Beebe was more compelling than I expected it to be.

Beebe’s pitch involves projections of a significant increase in the Big 12’s cable rights beginning in 2012. The numbers suggest an average payout per team at about $17 million, just under the $17.4 million per school the deep-pocketed SEC distributed.

“We have as much value as 10 here than just about any other conference out there,” Beebe said Friday. “If it’s about that value and that money, then that shouldn’t be part of the equation.

“If it’s about other factors that are outside of our control, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Big 12 schools heard an optimistic presentation in Kansas City during the spring meetings by Fox Sports Net suggesting a significant increase.

There is a catch: the Fox offer to the Big 12 would be long term, upward of 18 years, according to multiple sources. A great deal now might not be as lucrative in 2025.

The Big 12 could get even more cash in 2016, when the league’s broadcast TV rights package with ABC/ESPN expires. The departure of Colorado and Nebraska will add about $32 million to the conference in penalties over the next two years.

According to ESPN, UT will still be allowed to pursue its own TV network. Earlier reports had suggested that this would be a deal-killer for Texas A&M. Just goes to show you never really knew what was going on all this time. The questions I have now are one, will the PAC 10+1 add a 12th team so they can at least get a conference championship game, and two, will the Big 10 and its 12 members swap names with the Big XII and its 10 members? I suppose it’s possible the Big XII could hunt for a couple of new members to make its name accurate again – I have a statement from State Rep. Garnet Coleman advocating for the inclusion of UH and TCU – but that still doesn’t settle the Big 10 mess. All in due time, I suppose. Credit to the DMN for being first out with the story.

Baylor versus Colorado

Like Justin, I find this a little hard to believe.

Political forces in the state of Texas are preparing to demand that Baylor — not Colorado — should be one of the schools in the mix should the Pac-10 extend an invitation to six Big 12 schools to join its ranks, according to Orangebloods.com.

[…]

“If you’re going to have an exported commodity involved in this, do you think we’re going to allow a school from outside the state of Texas to replace one of our schools in the Big 12 South? I don’t think so. We’re already at work on this,” the site quoted a a high-ranking member of the Texas Legislature as saying.

The source said that there is a block of 15 legislators working to make sure that Baylor, not Colorado, is invited to join the Pac-10. The source pointed to the political and economic importance of keeping the Big 12’s Texas schools together as well as Colorado’s recent athletic struggles and lack of sports such as baseball, softball and men’s tennis.

Hard to imagine there are 15 legislators who care that much about what happens to Baylor, but I suppose anything is possible. Let’s just say I will remain skeptical about this until such time as I see some names attached to these reports. More on that from a PAC 10 perspective is here.

Meanwhile, what the PAC 10 decides to do is dependent in part on what the Big 10 decides to do.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who chairs the men’s basketball committee, compared the conference’s discussions here to his committee’s shortly before it expanded March Madness to 68 teams. At one point, the idea of a 96-team field was floated before the more modest change was adopted. That could be what happens in the Pac-10 — with the latest whopper just a bombshell that spurs talks.

“We went through an exercise of due diligence and really decided to look at all the possible scenarios and all the options to see what might be in the best interest of the association long term,” Guerrero said. “We’re doing the exact same thing here. We’re in a due-diligence process.”

USC athletic director Mike Garrett, whose football and basketball programs are under investigation for NCAA rules violations, declined comment.

The future look of the Pac-10 could depend on what happens with the Big Ten. If Notre Dame elects to join that conference, the likelihood is that any Pac-10 expansion would be modest. But if the Big Ten pulls in Nebraska and Missouri instead, the Big 12 could be in danger of crumbling. The Pac-10 wants to be position to scoop up some of those schools, particularly Texas, which brings with it a large, lucrative TV audience.

The NCAA Tournament analogy is instructive. In the end, we could get Notre Dame to the Big 10 (which, as it currently has 11 members, would make it another Big 12, albeit not in name) and little else. Until Nebraska and Missouri make up their minds, for which they reportedly has two weeks to do, we’ll see a lot of speculation. And a multidimensional Prisoner’s Dilemma:

In the middle, the Big 12 presses against these encroaching walls with increasing uncertainty, much of it rooted in distrust across the North and South divisions. A unified membership committed to the future of the conference would likely be safe from the poachers, and on some level, it’s possible no individual member is actually anxious to leave the conference as it’s existed since 1995; as Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said last week, he prefers remaining in the Big 12 if “the conference stays intact, completely intact, with all 12 members.” That depends on the conference’s anchors, Nebraska and Texas, neither of which is interested in remaining without the other, but neither of which can guarantee it isn’t ready to ship out for (literally) greener pastures.

The PAC 10 Commissioner has been given the authority to pursue expansion, so the dominoes are lined up and awaiting a catalyst. And once again, let me just say as a Rice fan, my heart breaks for these guys. May they all get indigestion while they make up their minds just how obscenely rich they want to be.

The costs and rewards of pursuing Tier I

It’s going to cost a lot of money for the schools that have been authorized to pursue Tier I status to actually achieve it.

The University of Houston estimates it would cost an additional $70 million a year to reach its goal by 2015. The University of Texas at El Paso’s plan ultimately could add almost $200 million a year to its operating budget.

New state funds will help, but much of the money will come from the universities themselves, requiring substantial private fundraising even as the economy continues an uneven recovery.

“We would like to be back to the good old days where the state subsidized us more than it does but realistically, there’s not going to be a lot more money from the state,” said John Antel, the chief academic officer for UH. “We can’t charge students much more. We’re going to have to go out and raise the money.”

The potential reward for all that investment is also quite substantial.

The strategic plans filed with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board spell out how each school hopes to get there.

All intend to add both students and faculty, with faculty who will bring $1 million or more in research grants especially prized. And all seven promise to maintain or increase the number of minority students they serve.

You can find all of those strategic plans, including ones for the already-Tier-I UT and Texas A&M, here. The end result should be thousands of new jobs – not just faculty, but also staff to support the increased enrollments and new programs; I’d bet there will also be some construction involved as well – more students attending Texas universities, and higher graduation rates. Oh, and more high-end research being conducted in Texas as well. The economic impact of all this ought to be quite large. I can’t wait to see it come about.

Leach v. Tech

Yesterday, Texas Tech head Mike Leach filed a lawsuit against the school to force them to let him coach in Saturday’s Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Mike Leach is taking his battle from the football field to the courtroom.

Attorney Ted Liggett filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order on Tuesday that would allow Leach to continue coaching Texas Tech in Saturday’s Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

[…]

Leach, 48, is alleged to have ordered [wide receiver Adam James, the son of ESPN announcer Craig James] placed under guard inside dark, confined rooms on two occasions after the player said he had been told by a doctor he could not practice because he had suffered a concussion. Leach also directed abusive, profane language toward James, according to a spokeswoman for the James family.

A series of e-mails and statements from former Tech coaches and players that have been obtained by the Chronicle include praise for Leach and criticism of Adam James’ talent, attitude and work ethic.

“The family is confident that the university has proceeded and will continue to proceed in a fair and thorough manner with its investigation,” the family spokeswoman said Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate that coach Leach has stooped to personal and unfounded slurs against a player and his family.”

Today Tech fired him.

Leach’s attorney Ted Liggett said that Texas Tech general counsel Pat Campbell approached him outside the courtroom and told him that win, lose or draw in the hearing, Leach was out, effective immediately.

When Liggett entered the courtroom he told the judge there was no need for the hearing on Leach’s request that he be reinstated to coach the Alamo Bowl.

[…]

Liggett said Leach’s side has evidence that shows the decision to suspend the coach was without merit.

“So they pulled the trigger,” Liggett said. “They don’t want that coming out.”

Boy howdy is this going to be a circus. The Trib has a copy of the original suit. Is it just me, or does anyone else think this will be a bit of a distraction for the Tech players on Saturday?

One more thing:

Leach is the second Big 12 coach in recent weeks to be accused of improper treatment of players. Kansas coach Mark Mangino resigned this month in the wake of allegations by former players that he made insensitive, humiliating remarks to them during games or practice, often in front of others.

Perhaps the conference needs to take a look at this to see if there’s something they could do to improve things. I’m just saying. Richard Justice, Jake Silverstein, who had previously joked about the Texas Monthly cover jinx, and Martha have more.

Petition to fire Alberto Gonzales

Once Texas Tech made the bizarre decision to hire Alberto Gonzales as a faculty member, a petition demanding that they fire him was sure to follow. You know my opinion on these things, so take whatever action you deem appropriate. I will say, given that we’re in the collegiate world, that there was an alternate model for this sort of activism that has a decent track record, so I’m not sure why it wasn’t chosen. Having said that, FireAlbertoGonzales.com can be yours for a very reasonable price. Again, take whatever action you deem appropriate. A growing list of faculty members at Tech will be with you. Rick Casey has more.

Texas Tech hires Alberto Gonzales

I’m speechless.

Alberto Gonzales, who resigned as the Bush administration’s embattled attorney general nearly two years ago, has lined up a fall-semester teaching spot at Texas Tech University, the university confirmed today.

Gonzales, who was Gov. George W. Bush’s lawyer, Texas secretary of state and then a Texas Supreme Court justice before joining Bush in Washington, will be working as an visiting professor in the political science department, teaching a “special topics” course on contemporary issues in the executive branch, according to Dora Rodriguez, a senior business assistant in the department. The university later said it will be a junior-level course.

[…]

Lawrence Schovanec, interim dean of Texas Tech’s College of Arts and Sciences, was quoted saying: “Judge Gonzales brings a unique experience to our classroom. His career in law, government and public service will provide our political science students a rich perspective of the executive branch and issues and challenges facing our nation. ”

I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to say something like that without irony, but apparently it is. I really don’t know what there is to say about this, other than I pity the poor souls in their alumni relations department for all of the crap they’re about to endure. Oh, and I hope someone does as this TPM commenter suggests:

Please tell me there’s at least one Texas Tech political science student with the guts to answer “I do not recall” to every test question. Maybe even “I do not recall remembering.”

Amen to that.

More Tier One schools

Here’s some genuine good news from Sunday night’s chaos.

Legislation intended to lift some of the state’s public universities to top-tier status has passed the House and Senate and now goes to Gov. Rick Perry, who is expected to sign it.

The measure, House Bill 51, also includes authorization for a $150 million bond issue for the hurricane-damaged University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, part of a $1.3 billion package of funding for that campus, and $5 million for Texas A&M University-Galveston.

Seven so-called emerging research universities would compete for extra funding in hopes of joining the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University as nationally recognized research institutions. Rice University, which is private, is also a top-tier school.

The 2010-11 budget approved by the Legislature includes $50 million for the emerging universities in addition to their normal appropriations. The $50 million would be parceled out based on which schools raise the most money from private donations for enhancing research and recruiting faculty members.

Officials of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board say it could take 20 years and considerably more funding for even one of the seven emerging institutions — UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso, the University of North Texas, the University of Houston and Texas Tech University — to rise into the big leagues

Still, lawmakers and higher education leaders said passage of the legislation represents a commitment that, in time, should lead to the development of more high-demand universities, reducing pressure on UT-Austin under the state’s automatic-admission law.

“This is one of those real privileges to carry this legislation,” said Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas.

That is good news. You may recall a report from the Legislative Study Group, which I blogged about a year ago, that highlighted the need for more Tier I schools. I think this represents a major step forward, and I’m glad to see it got done. Kudos to all for that. Statements about HB51 from Reps. Ellen Cohen and Garnet Coleman are beneath the fold.

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