Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

June 14th, 2010:

Big XII lives


“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.

Michael Williams followup

Vote who for what?

Now I know which one you are

Between some comments I got on my previous post and some emails I received as well, I can say with confidence that the Michael Williams in question is the HCCS Trustee. In addition, it is my understanding that he intends to run for the City Council At Large #2 seat that will be open after Sue Lovell is term-limited out. Jenifer Pool, the former chair of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and former District H candidate Maverick Welsh are also reportedly interested in that race. I still think it’s a little crazy to be campaigning for a 2011 election when the 2010 races are still not on most people’s radar yet, but at least now my other questions have been answered. My thanks to everyone who provided feedback.

Personality matters

Lisa Falkenberg, writing earlier this week about longtime teacher Jamie Simmon leaving HISD after 27 years to take a job with YES Prep:

The decision, she says, has nothing to do with the daunting challenges of educating Lee’s largely at-risk, immigrant population, and everything to do with not feeling valued by a new superintendent so focused on reforming what’s wrong that he can’t be bothered to appreciate what’s going right.

“The total disregard for people’s time, people’s commitment and people’s dedication is unconscionable,” Simmon said. “There just seems to be a total lack of regard for the working stiff, the someone who’s willing to come in and give 125 percent every day.”

She said an exchange she had with Superintendent Terry Grier when he visited Lee a few months ago solidified her decision to leave. She proudly introduced herself to him, thinking perhaps he was familiar with her role in helping Lee boost the number of students taking AP exams over the past four years from 156 to 710.

Grier offered neither kudos, nor recognition, she said: “He looked at me and said ‘Have you ever heard of AP Human Geography?’”

Hair Balls wrote on Friday night about a conflict between Grier and Council Member Melissa Noriega.

“My issues with Terry Grier, I think he came here with a charge from the board and I think the board is getting what they bought,” she says. “If you want to talk about education, and what I think is a lot of the slash-and-burn stuff going on with the district, I might weigh in on that, but gossiping about Grier’s bad behavior is not something I’m going to do.”

Okay, then, what about his stewardship of HISD?

“I’m just dismayed by how many good people I know are leaving [HISD],” Noriega says, adding “I’m not comfortable with Grier’s approach, I’m certainly not…Everything I’ve heard has just been disturbing.”

I’m going to say this again: I want Terry Grier to succeed, in the sense that I want him to deliver on his promises to reduce the dropout rate and improve performance across the board. I’ll be absolutely delighted if he transforms HISD into the premier large urban school district in America. Doing that will be hard work, and will require doing some things that not everyone will like. Grier has some good ideas, some ideas that can be improved with engagement and feedback from various stakeholders, and some ideas that need to be pushed back on. Under the best of circumstances, he will be opposed by people who have sincere disagreements with his ideas, and by people whose positions or stature are threatened by what he wants to do. That’s normal, and healthy. What isn’t healthy or helpful is alienating people who ought to be allies. We all have all the enemies we need, there’s no need to make more. My concern is that Grier is taking an already difficult task and making it harder, for no good reason. All I can say is that I hope he reads these stories and considers what, if anything, he might have done differently.

Ellis criticizes county’s public defender proposal

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, who authored the bill that allowed Texas counties to create public defender offices, is not pleased with the plan that Harris County currently has to establish one.

Ellis and other critics of the system say it compromises defense of the poor because attorneys must advocate before judges on whom they depend for future employment. Ellis said the arrangement is so morally bankrupt that he has approached legal advocacy groups to ask for help reforming Harris County courts.

“I’ve done my bit of talking to people around the country trying to get them to sue (the county), but it takes tremendous resources,” Ellis said.


Ellis accused local judges of circumventing the intent of his law by using a system in which each judge can decide his or her own system of providing for indigent defense. He said resistance from judges has resulted in a potentially fatally flawed public defender proposal.

“They’re trying to kill it,” Ellis said.

As we know, the county’s proposal has some flaws and may not get the funding from the state that it needs to get off the ground. I’ve said before that I think the proposal is a good start, but clearly there’s room for improvement. And it would be unacceptable to miss out on getting the grant funds, so one hopes the feedback from the Task Force on Indigent Defense will be taken seriously.

The cupcake controversy

I recently came across an interesting blog about children and food, particularly school food, called The Lunch Tray that’s worth your time to take a look at. I especially liked this post about the habit of bringing cupcakes to school for a kid’s birthday. Which, I must confess, is something that puzzles me a bit. I think Olivia’s elementary school experience so far is about a million times better than mine was. But, and at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, if there was one thing that we did back in the day that I think was better, it was that we didn’t celebrate birthdays during the school day. Oh, we had our birthday parties, with birthday cake and all, we just had them at home. I don’t know how or when that paradigm shifted, but it has. The good news from my perspective is that Olivia’s birthday comes during the summer, so we won’t be contributing to this problem with her. Not so with Audrey, though, so I’m not going to get smug about it. Feel free to vent and/or defend your own cupcake-in-the-classroom behavior in the comments, and then go check out The Lunch Tray.