Preseason camps are almost here. We can almost smell football. What is the best time for your questions? Let’s get into them.
Note: The questions presented have been edited slightly for length and clarity..
Could this cactus thing be an outgrowth of the legitimate rivalry between TCU and Texas Tech? There have been some great matches between the two in recent years, but the bad blood never really seems to last. But now it looks like Tech fans can turn this cactus back into the Pirates theme of the Mike Leach years. – Andrew, a tech supporter in Fort Worth
For fear of Texas Tech fans overrunning the stadium, TCU is not selling single-game tickets for the matchup — instead, forcing people to buy multiple-game tickets in a bundle. Fair or bad? – Blake S., Dallas
I’m so glad you asked this, Andrew. Ever since the cactus emojis caught fire earlier last week, I’ve been laughing as hard as you did.
For those confused about the subject, a quick summary:
Last week, Texas Tech Incentives announced a historic name, image and similar program that offers annual $25,000 offers to 100 football players (85 scholarship players and 15 walk-ons).
TCU offensive analyst and recruiting coordinator Brian Carrington tweeted about the news, referring to Lubbock/Texas Tech as a “desert.” One of the tweets Cactus emoticon included.
The next day, Texas Tech coaches, players, recruits, administrators, fans and alumni — even Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes got in on the action — started tweeting in frustration about Texas Tech with a cactus emoji. If you follow tech-related people, your timeline is probably filled with cockatiel.
You already know! 🌵 # Destruction
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) July 20, 2022
Goodbye gooooooooooooooooo 🌵🌵🌵 https://t.co/tC3RFKsqCG
– Joey McGuire 🌵 (@JoeyMcGuireTTU) July 19, 2022
The whole thing took on a life of its own. T-shirts are being sold. Tech is using it in marketing materials: The athletic department’s Twitter account introduced the “cactus combo.” Includes free cactus decals engraved with Tech’s “Guns up” gesture with ticket package purchase. TCU Athletic Director Jeremiah Donati Cactus-shaped lamps are received. Speaking on a recent podcast this week, Carrington said the “desert” reference was not to the city, but to the “excessive (NIL) market” given the size of the deal.
Some of these are being built because of the ticket situation that Blake requested. It’s a fair move to me and why it’s called homefield advantage. I’m sure TCU understands that the largest Texas Tech graduate population outside of West Texas resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so it’s smart to keep Amon G. Carter Stadium purple when the Red Raiders come to town.
I hope it strengthens the rivalry between the Red Raiders and the Horned Frogs. We need some good, old-fashioned Southwestern Conference-esque pettiness. That’s what I love about the SWC: the proximity of programs has created intense competition, something we’re losing is conference reform that keeps leagues geographically distant.
Tech is clearly having fun with it, and it looks like the TCU guys are too. It’s a good reminder that college football should be fun. I don’t know how long the back-and-forth will last, but it should definitely tie up the teams’ 2022 matchup.
In your opinion, what will it take for Texas to shut up the rumors and stop the pranks? Big 12 championship? A winning look? – Scott B.
Winning back-to-back double-digit games would be a start. That’s something the Longhorns haven’t done since the 2000s. Texas has only recorded one double-digit season in the last 12 years. He has lost five of his seven games in that span.
A Big 12 championship goes a long way. The college football playoff game without a doubt silences the critics. Well, just getting back to the Big 12 title game is a good move. But right now, the Longhorns’ continued lack of recent success gives opponents plenty of fodder.
How about a winning season with less drama in 2022? Well, boring, more than 500 years and sign another good employment class. Start with this and work your way up.
What do you hear about the starting QB situation at Texas A&M? Do you think Connor Weigman has a chance to start if he competes well? Personally, I’d rather start him and be happy (if he’s as good as advertised) than start Max Johnson or Haynes King. The transfer portal makes it easy for players to leave. Kyler Murray’s ghost still haunts me. – Slater D.
Wegman will start if he gets past Johnson and King in preseason camp and Jimbo Fisher is convinced he’s the best of the three by then. It’s very simple. That’s not to say coaches don’t factor in transfer decisions when selecting starters, but I doubt Fisher is aching to start a true freshman once he’s committed to the 2021 season.
From everything I’ve heard, the five-star recruit is very competitive. Still, I expect King or Johnson to get the nod. King is entering his third year on offense and won the starting job a year ago. Johnson has a full SEC season since he was at LSU – plus. And if Weigman doesn’t win the job, I don’t suspect he’ll want to move immediately. He became engaged to Fisher when he was still in high school and their relationship has been going on for a long time.
If you could only go to one home game for each program as a fan, ie, one Texas A&M home game in College Station, one Texas Tech game in Lubbock, which games would you celebrate on your calendar? – Sam S.
In alphabetical order:
Bayer: Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma State, Oct. 1 — The Big 12 Championship Game rematch should be a key game in this year’s conference tournament as well.
Houston: With Rice, September 24 – It’s a battle for the bayou bucket. It’s always fun to watch him take down cross-town rivals.
North Texas: vs. SMU, Sept. 3 – A big home opener in a pivotal year for the Mean Green. This match was three quarters closer than last year’s mark.
Rice: vs. UTSA, Nov. 19 – Playing for bowl eligibility will be a challenge when hosting the reigning conference champions, but the Owls have pulled off surprising upsets in the past.
SMU: From TCU, Sept. 24 — Former SMU coach Sonny Dykes knows the iron skillet will be loud when he returns to the Hilltop wearing TCU’s purple.
Texas: vs. Alabama, Sept. 10 – Easy. Two big brands and future conference foes. How often do you get to see one of the sport’s standard bearers in person?
Texas A&M: vs. LSU, Nov. 26 – If the Aggies have a season to look forward to, the regular season finale should have some stakes.
TCU vs. Texas Tech, Nov. 5 – Before the cactus thing, I would have said Oklahoma on Oct. 1, but now I think there might be some real spice to this game.
State of Texas: Against Arkansas State, November 19 – The Bobcats are trying to reach a bowl game for the first time. Overcoming this will be key. And if Laine Hatcher wins the Texas State quarterback job, he’ll face his old team.
Texas Tech From Texas, Sept. 24 – Houston’s game in Week 2 is also competitive, but it’s an afternoon kickoff. Hold on to your hats if Tech makes a night trip when the Longhorns come to town.
UTEP vs. North Texas, Aug. 27 – The Miners are expecting a big crowd for their Week Zero game (more than 36,000 tickets sold, about 80 percent capacity for the Sun Bowl). How cool is it to see the Sun Bowl sell out for the first time in 14 years?
USA: From Houston, September 3 – A strong opponent to open the 2022 Conference USA Champions. The Alamodome should provide a good atmosphere for a convincing match.
Oklahoma and Texas make the Big 12. Oklahoma on the field, but OU and Texas off the field. With the two schools leaving, will the power in the league be evenly distributed among the remaining schools, or is there a program or two trying to flex their muscles to fill the void as a leader? – Mike
My sense is that there will be more balance in the power dynamics in the conference. To borrow a term used by my colleague Ari Wasserman, most Big 12 schools operate under the same “salary cap.”
None of the remaining public schools in the league have the budgets of Texas and Oklahoma. The Longhorns will generate $167 million in athletics revenue by 2021, while the Sooners will generate $145 million, according to the Knight Foundation. The rest of the Big 12 mostly hovered in the $75 million-$95 million range last year (note: Baylor and TCU figures are not available because they are private schools). The incoming Big 12 members are looking to pool their budgets with existing members.
My guess is that the continuing schools will probably have more confusion than the new arrivals because of the numbers advantage (eight against four) and also the financial edge (the new schools don’t become full stock members until year 3). Although it’s unlikely that a school will amass the kind of power that the two outgoing members have, I can imagine some administrators gaining more power and influence based on their tenure in the league or the stability of their schools.
Sam, are you a little jealous of writers who only cover one team, like Brody Miller covering LSU or Seth Emerson covering Georgia? It sounds simple but maybe not that fun. – Gary N.
I’m only jealous of fall Sundays, when they replay a game and try to watch it again around 10 p.m.
But seriously, no. Covering baseball is a great experience, and I had the opportunity to cover college football (Houston in 2011 and Texas A&M 2012-14) during my first four or so years. It was fun, I learned a lot and made some great connections. But over time I realized that my interests were much broader than the scope of a single program.
That’s a big reason I took this job: the ability to move around the state and find different stories. I have as much fun spending a day watching Jeff Traylor handing out Whataburger taquitos to UTSA students or the intricacies of SMU’s players’ room as I am at home watching the Red River rivalry or Texas A&M-Alabama. Routine can be nice, but I love the different challenges each new day brings.
I enjoy the ability to zag while others zag. So while there are times when my life would be easier if I covered just one team, I can’t change it with my current job.
(Photo of TCU celebrating last season’s victory over Texas Tech in the Battle for the Saddle: Michael C. Johnson / USA TODAY)