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Texas football and Texas politics

From NBC's Mark Murray
The conference shuffle in college football -- Nebraska heading to the Big 10, Colorado moving to the Pac 10, and other changes to follow -- has the potential to turn into a good political story in Texas.

The latest report via the sports Web site Orangebloods.com (subscription required) is that the University of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are now all set to follow Colorado to the Pac 10.

The one exception: Texas A&M, which is undecided whether it will join its Big 12 brothers in the Pac 10, or if it will bolt to the SEC.

The conventional wisdom is that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) -- an A&M grad who as governor appoints the A&M Board of Regents, as well at the UT Board of Regents -- wants to keep the Texas schools together, especially in a political year when he's facing a credible re-election challenge against Bill White (D).

But if -- and it's still a big if -- Texas A&M goes to the SEC, Perry could very well get blamed for not stopping this split. The reason: In a state where football is king, there will be a lot of in-state bad blood if A&M heads out on its own -- and Perry, with ostensible control over the A&M Board of Regents, has the ability to stop this.


On the flip side, Perry would get to look strong if he's able to keep the big Texas schools together.

College football realignments and politics aren't strangers. In the 1990s, then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D) was instrumental in ensuring that her alma mater, Baylor, was included in the Big 12. And as NBC's Luke Russert reminds me, then-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) worked to make sure that Virginia Tech was part of the expanded ACC.

Full disclosure: This author is a University of Texas graduate and an avid Texas Longhorn fan (hence the interest in this story where sports and politics could intertwine).