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Lubbock Chamber petitions Gov. Abbott to preserve Big 12 conference

Published: Jul. 24, 2021 at 4:46 PM CDT
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Provided by Lubbock Chamber of Commerce

LUBBOCK, Texas – Earlier today the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Governor Abbott voicing concerns about the future of the Big 12 and what it could mean for both Texas Tech and the local economy.

A portion of the letter states, “The potential demise of the Big 12 – and of major college athletics in Lubbock – could devastate not just Texas Tech itself, but the local economy that is accustomed to welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors for sporting events on an annual basis. In 2019, the Big 12 paid out nearly $40 million to its member institutions. Meanwhile, payouts from the largest “Group of 5” conference, the American Athletic Conference, were closer to $7 million per school. It is nearly impossible to overstate how devastating this would be to Texas Tech, our region’s largest employer, their recruitment and retention of students, and our local economy.”

PDF: Read the full letter addressing Big 12 concerns here.

Lubbock Chamber President & CEO Eddie McBride spoke with Kase Wilbanks on Sunday:

“We do know that if you use a measure such as a football game, the Texas and Oklahoma games bring in the most money of any event for the entire year,” McBride said.

“On a weekend, whether it be graduations, whether it be major sporting events of non-Texas Tech nature, nothing compares to those types of weekends.”

“Baseball brings in a lot of money, basketball, tennis, all of those bring in a less amount of money than football, we know that but the fact of the matter is that it really spreads throughout the community, and anytime that you pinch Texas Tech, Lubbock is going to hurt.”

“It’s pretty bad when you have to insert politics into this. But if it takes politics to make it happen, we hope that the governor understands that the the political end of this might be the only way that we can end up getting this to happen. As far as keeping the big 12. Together. If nothing else.”

The letter states:

Dear Governor Abbott,

Like many, the Lubbock business community is concerned about the developments with the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma going to the SEC and leaving in their wake an extremely uncertain future for the Big 12.

The potential demise of the Big 12 – and of major college athletics in Lubbock – could devastate not just Texas Tech itself, but the local economy that is accustomed to welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors for sporting events on an annual basis. In 2019, the Big 12 paid out nearly $40 million to its member institutions. Meanwhile, payouts from the largest “Group of 5”conference, the American Athletic Conference, were closer to $7 million per school. It is nearly impossible to overstate how devastating this would be to Texas Tech, our region’s largest employer, their recruitment and retention of students, and our local economy.

This is the latest in a long line of instances where West Texans have felt left behind. Last session,Texas Tech fought tooth and nail for a new school of veterinary medicine to address a statewide workforce shortage of veterinarians. We have advocated for more than two decades for expansion of I-27 so that we can move products and services to the rest of the country.

Between 2004 and 2013, UT received nearly $1 billion from the state’s Permanent University Fund. These dollars are extracted almost exclusively from land in West Texas, but Texas Tech doesn’t receive a dime. Moreover, we now stare down the barrel of college athletics being relegated to irrelevance so that the state’s wealthiest universities can earn even more money.Does the state of Texas want to fall behind Florida and California, which have three and four universities competing in major college athletics, respectively? For once, voters in West Texas – which currently have a significant amount of influence in statewide elections as the landscape of Texas has evolved over time – would like to be recognized as equally important to the rest of the state of Texas. The potential changes to the Big 12 show it’s time to decide whether the entire state’s portfolio of higher education institutions matter, or only a select few.

Thank you for your service and leadership to the State of Texas and for your careful consideration of this important issue. For us and our Lubbock stakeholders, we feel we deserve to know why this move is beneficial for educators, students, and business here as well as the rest of Texas.

Sincerely,

Eddie McBride

CEO