Overview: Remember student athletes in realignment discussions

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The Board of Regents gave President William Powers Jr. the authority Monday to make any necessary decisions to align the University with the sports conference that will best suit its future needs. Since Texas A&M signaled that it will leave the conference next year, the Big 12 has started to look more like the Nervous 9, as it fired commissioner Dan Beebe on Thursday. Indeed, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are courting other conferences, while Baylor is publicly threatening to sue to keep the conference together. The mood is chaotic.

The University would greatly benefit from ending the confusion as soon as possible. Conference realignment negotiations, while diverting, are distracting administrators from much more important problems. Moreover, the University’s financial situation post-realignment seems to be the most important factor. This greed — the very force, embodied in the much-maligned Longhorn Network, which many argue prompted A&M’s departure and everyone else’s subsequent scramble — is threatening to make a bad situation worse. A desire to wring as much money as possible from any new conference partner, while somewhat understandable, is profoundly alienating.

And amid Powers’ recent speech challenging the University to increase its four-year graduation rates, it seems strange to not focus on the effects, particularly travel times, that aligning with another conference will have on the schedules of student-athletes, many of whom do not graduate at the levels the president has called for the rest of the University to reach. Student-athletes should be featured more prominently in these discussions.