Houston Chronicle. Oct. 18, 2016.
Big 12 fumble: The football league's decision to not expand made itself look stagnant and tone-deaf
How bizarre, when you step back and look at it, that so much rides on outfitting young men in tight, knee-high pants and hard, semi-protective helmets and training them to repeatedly bang into each other in the presence of thousands of onlookers for four or five months every year.
We're talking, of course, about big-time college football and, this week, the University of Houston's futile effort to affiliate itself with an athletic conference, the Big 12, that would have meant a financial windfall for the school's athletic endeavors. The Cougars, who currently receive an annual payout of about $4.5 million from the less-prestigious American Athletic Conference, would have seen that figure jump to $30 million or so if the 10 members of the so-called Big 12 Conference had invited UH to join. Currently, the university spends $44 million on sports annually.
Absurd, yes, that so much money is spent on a sport and a pastime, but alas, that's the world we live in. UH President Renu Khator regularly informs anyone who'll listen that the academic institution she heads is a Tier-One research institution, one that has made impressive strides during her tenure in its efforts to educate young minds and expand the frontiers of knowledge. We would like to think that's enough for an institution whose core purpose is to educate and explore, and yet that's not the case. As Khator points out just as frequently, UH also must have a Tier-One athletic program. The times demand it.
With that imperative in mind, UH spent a year courting the Big 12, anticipating that the inaptly named conference would expand beyond its current membership. The university has invested more than $275 million in athletic infrastructure in recent years, including a beautiful, new football stadium and an upcoming basketball arena. The school hired a young head football coach whose success on the field has made him one of the hottest commodities in the game (so hot, in fact, that he's likely to depart for a more prestigious program after this season). Khator also dispatched regents chairman Tilman Fertitta, hoping the rough-hewn, billionaire restaurateur would be able to persuade the Big 12 board of directors that UH would make a worthy member of their conference.
All to no avail. After flirting with UH and 18 other schools, the Big 12 board unanimously voted not to expand and announced that expansion is no longer an "active agenda item." The exercise in futility wasted the university's time and money and made the already weak conference look silly.
UH has vowed to continue its push for national athletic respectability, and Fertitta is probably right when he predicts that the Cougars, eventually, will be a member of the Big Ten or the Pac-12, conferences with more clout - and money - than the bumbling Big 12. It's hard to see how a major university in the nation's fourth-largest city, a university with an increasingly successful athletic enterprise, a proven talent base and a huge TV market, will be overlooked forever by collegiate sports powers. "It's just a matter of time, we all know that," Fertitta said.
UH athletic director Hunter Yurachek offered up another prediction that we suspect will prove accurate. "This is just the beginning of, in my opinion, a change in the college athletic landscape," he told the Chronicle. "There is a major shift, a major change coming, whether it's three years, five years or seven years from now. And the University of Houston proved through this process that we are going to be part of that shift."
The shift is likely to be a kaleidoscopic restructuring of big-time college sports into four 16-team conferences comprised of Texas, Alabama, Ohio State and several dozen other programs so large and successful they're professional endeavors in all but name only. Everybody else will be relegated to the collegiate equivalent of the minor leagues. We're assuming that the Cougars, striving and newly ambitious, would not be comfortable in less-than-major surroundings.
Regardless of whether UH gets to hobnob with the big boys someday, we look forward to the creation of the super conferences. It gets us that much closer to a more honest arrangement, one that acknowledges the obvious about the true nature of "the game" the perennial powers play.
Waco Tribune-Herald. Oct. 20, 2016.
Big 12's expansion farce shows how dysfunctional conference really is
Only time will tell if Big 12 Conference presidents and chancellors demonstrated long-term wisdom or settled for short-term gain in this week's reportedly unanimous decision to keep the Big 12 limited to 10 schools. But the officials and alumni of at least 11 schools invited to try out at the prospect of expansion, only to see the Big 12 abruptly dismiss the idea after three months, now have justification in dismissing the Big 12's dog-and-pony show as a demeaning farce.
That doesn't speak well of Big 12 officials who put on the farce, one rivaling our presidential election for insincerity and balderdash. In the end, some of the worthy institutions who bit at the bait dangled by the Big 12 discovered the critics were right: The conference is indeed dysfunctional, tied up in knots over conflicting priorities, particularly Texas and Oklahoma. One can imagine these two entertaining other possibilities when the Big 12's media-sharing pact expires in 2024-2025, if not before.
Which makes you really wonder about the insight of other schools' representatives in the Big 12 vote early this week, particularly given that expansion requires approval by eight of the conference's 10 schools. If, in less than a decade, Texas and Oklahoma actually pursue other prospects — say, joining a stronger, more muscular athletic conference or Texas' becoming independent — where does that leave the remaining members, including Baylor University?
Answer: Likely out in the cold.
All of which suggests that neither Baylor nor other conference schools learned much in the close calls of 2010 and 2011, when other conferences bulked up on Big 12 escapees including Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and, most painful of all, Texas A&M. The conference seemed certain to fold both years, a crisis narrowly avoided due to the intervention of several individuals, including former Baylor President Ken Starr. Even then, some sports pundits and fans have considered the Big 12 on life support.
Expansion of the conference promised to reverse this or at least leave the Big 12 better prepared to survive further breakaways. And some of the schools under consideration offered potential in that long-range goal, including Houston and Brigham Young University. No less than Texas Gov. Greg Abbott slammed the conference for its three-month circus, noting: "The Big 12 owes a lot of people an apology. It punted on expansion & shanked its future." He went on to note that the University of Houston deserved far better. We agree.
For the moment, Big 12 representatives seem content with the idea of a conference championship game added to the scheduled lineup and the financial dividends in that. But in mounting a highly touted expansion contest that got a lot of fans' blood pumping, they may have only proven the Big 12 is still at cross-purposes with itself.
New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. Oct. 19, 2016.
Republicans must find a future way forward
It's time for us to stop acting like this is a normal election. It's not.
It's more angry and more divisive. We're not talking about different positions on the issues or even the differences between conflicting ideological positions.
The idea of liberal and conservative has lost almost all meaning — entirely washed away by one word.
Don't believe us?
George Will has long been a leading voice in the conservative movement — a man who has steadfastly stood for the separation of powers, limited government and individual liberty. He has turned his scorn on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on these pages on an almost twice-a-week basis for years.
This week we had a reader call Will a "liberal" because of his "Never Trump" status — a position that's so disconnected from reality that it almost defies the ability to explain rationally.
If Will is a "liberal" then the definition of conservative has changed so radically during Trump's tenure as standard bearer of the Republican Party that after the election there will need to be a serious reckoning over what it will stand for going forward.
Will the GOP be the party of "The Wall" of excuses for vulgar and crass misogyny and dog whistle language catering to white supremacists?
The United States may be a country ready for a third party — or even a fourth, time will tell — but it certainly can't afford to surrender its second to the type of conspiracy theories that threaten to rip it asunder at this point.
And this isn't the media spin. You have the GOP presidential nominee criticizing the sitting Speaker of the House from his own party. You have long-time donors pulling money out of the system — risking losing the United States Senate, and, though far less likely, the United States House as well.
You have the vice presidential candidate saying that the ticket would respect the outcome of the election while the top of the ticket says anything but.
The country needs a strong conservative party — a strong Republican Party — one that can help moderate and hold the Democrats in check while working toward consensus solutions that build upon the better natures of Americans everywhere.
Anything less will be profoundly disappointing, and dangerous in its own way.
The Dallas Morning News. Oct. 20, 2016.
Trump's refusal to pledge to accept election outcome is an insult to America
Last week's presidential debate brought out some of the best in both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Unfortunately, it also brought out the very worst in Trump, who made the chilling pronouncement that he may not accept the outcome of next month's presidential vote. "I will look at it at the time," he said. "I will keep you in suspense."
This refusal, despite his own running mate's insistence earlier in the night that they "of course" would accept the election results, gives Americans every reason to confirm that he simply is not prepared, or even fit, to be president.
Clinton called that "horrifying." She was not exaggerating.
It's alarming that Trump could so badly miscalculate the answer to that question. It's one thing to conclude that the FBI is corrupt, as he did, when it did not seek an indictment of Clinton over her emails. It's another to say that the media has conspired to defeat him. But it's something altogether different for a major-party nominee to refuse to commit to respecting the outcome of the presidential election.
Until that point of the debate, Trump had been remarkably subdued and on-message for most of the night. He was having his best debate of the campaign. He had calmly made his best argument — that, yes, Clinton has much experience, but it has been "bad experience."
Trump also had made compelling arguments about the Second Amendment and against abortion rights. This newspaper doesn't share his views on these issues, but Trump made arguments sure to be compelling to a large swath of voters. He strongly argued against gun control and promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who are pro-life and inclined to repeal Roe vs. Wade.
Those strong points were marred by other weak Trump moments — from his strange defense of Vladimir Putin to his awkward handling of questions about his treatment of women. But none were as damaging as his refusal to promise to abide by the results of the election.
Clinton had a strong night, particularly when talking about immigration and defending abortion rights. She was fiery in a way that she has often failed to be, and disciplined even as she repeatedly skewered her opponent. She offered a much more sophisticated view of what is happening in Mosul and in Syria that highlighted Trump's oversimplifications.
Neither candidate adequately addressed the economic insecurity many Americans are feeling. Neither offered a compelling case for how they will reach across the aisle and work with members of the losing party to move America forward.
This final debate offered Trump something he badly needed: an opportunity to change the momentum in a campaign that he is widely considered to be losing. He failed to do that, and he faces increasingly tough odds against a victory next month.
But the debate was a vast improvement for everyone involved over the ugly slugfest that was the second debate. It did give Americans a good chance to see where each candidate stands. It also should remove any doubt that Donald Trump is not ready to be leader of this great democracy.
San Antonio Express-News. Oct. 24, 2016.
Trump's wall defies reality on the ground
Donald Trump's border wall in three words: Impractical. Illogical. Unnecessary.
Yet, that "big, beautiful" wall is arguably the reason Trump is the GOP presidential nominee. Even if he has repulsed (thanks to this and other statements) wide swaths of the electorate in the general election, he has ridden "Build that wall!" through the primaries to a one-on-one showdown for the presidency with the other major-party candidate.
Many with personal or professional familiarity with the U.S.-Mexico border have long cited the impossible logistics and even worse optics inherent in building such a Pacific-to-the-Gulf barrier.
Earlier this month, an Express-News article looked at the issue firsthand. They reported that most of the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico is already walled, fenced, saturated with devices that make it a "virtual" wall, and extensively patrolled by air and land. This is done by 21,400 Border Patrol agents and 23,900 field officers at a cost of more than $11 billion a year for border operations and $30 billion more for homeland security.
Unmindful of its own budget challenges and the resources the federal government already expends, Texas has additionally deployed 600 state troopers and Texas Rangers, and 2,700 surveillance cameras at a cost estimated at $1 billion or so by the end of the next biennium.
And — oh, yes — the article reported that "claims that a flood of immigrants is inundating the border are long outdated." Unauthorized immigration reached its high point in 2000 and has declined since. There is net or minus migration from Mexico, though the number of Central Americans has surged.
This makes Trump's border wall — and Texas' piling on with border security — simply unnecessary. And illogical.
Here's the impractical part. As existing fences and walls demonstrate — 650 miles or so of them already on the border — devising routes that don't cut ranchers from water, property owners from their own property, and endanger the environment and natural habitat is exceedingly problematic. Moreover, fences and walls that actually accomplish what is intended — impenetrability — is impossible.
Even if immigration numbers are declining, existing walls and fences stand in testament to a border wisdom — build a wall or fence and watch migrants climb over. Texas is not walled or fenced as much as California, Arizona and New Mexico. Yet where walls or fences exist, so do migrants who find a way to beat them, border residents told the reporters. And where they aren't climbing over them, they are taking more dangerous routes that have claimed lives.
Aside from being impractical, illogical and unnecessary, Trump's border wall — including his call to make Mexico pay for it — is an affront to one of this country's most valuable trading partners. And Trump's accompanying call to deport 11.2 million undocumented immigrants sows division, not just with Mexico but with Latinos whose forebears were immigrants recently or over the generations.
There is indeed a need to address unauthorized immigration, but a wall isn't the solution. Comprehensive immigration reform is.
Such reform would be bilateral — Mexico would be a partner in it — and build bridges, not walls. It would regularize what now occurs, recognize what is needed to bolster the U.S. economy, include a path to legal residency for the undocumented immigrants already here, and look factually at any possible lapse in border security.
In calling for a wall, Trump has seized on fears that have little basis to them. He has nurtured these fears for political ambition, growing them into near hysteria. And he hasn't cared.
The rationale for his wall also has little basis to it. As with so many issues, Trump is simply fact-averse.
Reject the wall, reject Trump, and move on to immigration reform.