Texas politicians ban
After the SEC announced their intent to leave the CFA, the Big 8 and SWC members re-opened discussions to sell their rights together. "The Baylor Project" by Barry G. Hankins and Donald D. Schmeltekoff (page 68) states that on February 11, 1994, SWC member schools' leaders met a few Big 8 leaders in Dallas to discuss potentially selling both leagues' media content in a package deal. Discussions broke down on February 16, reportedly over UT's interest in the Pac-10. The Big Eight began negotiating a deal that would not include the full SWC as a partner and Texas A&M approached the SEC.
In Texas, word leaked out that UT & Texas A&M were close to leaving the SWC; UT to the Pac-10 or Big Eight and eventually Texas A&M to the SEC. Texas state senator David Sibley, a Baylor alumnus and member of the very powerful Senate Finance Committee, approached UT Chancellor Bill Cunningham and asked him pointedly whether UT planned to leave the SWC on its own for the Big Eight. Cunningham tried to change the subject. Ultimately he did not deny it.
Sibley approached LT Governor Bob Bullock, a Texas Tech and Baylor alumnus. Texas state senator John Montford of Lubbock was equally motivated to protect Texas Tech's path to the Big 12. The trio put together a group of legislators who worked to threaten Texas and Texas A&M's access to the state of Texas's Permanent University Fund.
Bullock called together a meeting of supportive legislators as well as UT's and Texas A&M's leaders on February 20, 1994. UT Chancellor William Cunningham admitted that Texas planned to join the Big Eight and A&M's leadership still targeted the SEC.
A deal was worked out where all four schools would go together to the Big 12. A&M was convinced not to pursue SEC membership (LSU was prepared to sponsor the Aggies) in return for Bullock finding the votes to approve the construction of Reed Arena. Baylor and Texas Tech would join the Aggies in coming with UT into the new version of the Big Eight.
Texas's Governor Ann Richards, a Baylor and UT alumna, is often credited with getting Baylor included, but, was absent from the February 20 meeting and no investigative reports confirm her active involvement. The Baylor Report claimed that she presented herself as neutral. Richards' former Chief of Staff, John Fainter, is on record saying "She just was not involved to any great degree in working that out...I'd have to say she was informed, but she wasn't pounding the table or anything like that." Richards was aware of the public perception of her involvement and the thought amused her.)
UT officials informed the Big Eight leadership that the Austin school was now receptive to an invitation and the Big Eight issued invitations to Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech. All four schools quickly accepted.
At the time of the deal, Texas politicians denied any coercion took place. Over the years, investigative reporters challenged that notion. The idea that Bullock and the state government coerced A&M to join and forced UT to take Tech and Baylor to the Big 12 has constantly been downplayed by Cunningham, but former UT president Robert Berdahl claimed that UT was threatened. “As I recall, it wasn't a very veiled threat to cut budgets if Tech was left behind.”
Baylor President Herb Reynolds thanked Bullock and the other politicians for helping Baylor get into the conference. Despite Baylor's strong credentials, clearly Reynolds felt the politicians played a key role in getting the Bears and Texas Tech into the new conference. The minutes of the February 23, 1994 meeting of the Baylor Board of Regents where the Big 12's invitation was accepted state, "Baylor University owes a strong debt of gratitude to Lt. Governor Bob Bullock, Senator David Sibley, Senator John Montford, Representative Rob Junell, and other legislators for their invaluable assistance during the deliberations leading to the acceptance of the invitations."