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Death to the NCAA

Texas Has Discovered A New Level Of F-U Money

Tom Herman of the Texas Longhorns prepares for a game
Brian Bahr/Getty

Chris Del Conte must sleep comfortably at night knowing that $25 million in dead money isn’t a deterrent to business. Well done to him, I guess.

Del Conte is the athletic director at Texas, the most profitable money engine in college sports, so when he perpwalked football coach Tom Herman and his staff to the Lyft stand because the Longhorns still aren’t Alabama, he had to send that $25 million with them because that’s apparently the price to no longer dominate the Big 12. That’s $15 million to Herman alone, who went an appalling 32-18 including a win over Colorado in the Nobody Cares Bowl, so this was not a decision made on the spur of the moment. Texas had already spent that money long ago.

And it’s going to spend that much again, because Herman and his staff are being replaced by Steve Sarkisian and his staff. But its not so much the money Sarkisian et al. will cost—at least until he gets fired in four years. It’s the fact that this story explains at least a bit of the extravagant waste built into the stadium-sized pie that makes this story about salary cuts at the school due to COVID-19 all the weirder.

But not really weirder at all, when you think about it. Texas tossed off that money in plain sight knowing how garish the look is, letting its network of high rollers, fans and high roller fans know that even though they can’t compete with the football powers in quality, they can in the thing that Texans respect most.

Quantity.

In other words, think of that 25 large as part of an ad campaign. It’s a message to the donors that while their money is being wasted, Del Conte is willing to waste even more so that their last game next year isn’t Colorado.

Logically, it is easy to conclude that $25 million to revoke campus parking privileges is an unconscionable extravagance when so many actual teachers and support staff have lost their jobs in the time of ‘rona. The rational view is that universities the size of Texas aren’t universities at all but football teams with libraries attached like mobile homes. Sensibly, $25 million in severance to 12 people (not including support staff) is a preposterous expenditure, especially when you consider than seven of the assistants were hired this past spring in a staff cleanout.

But Del Conte isn’t talking to you, because he doesn’t have to talk to you. He’s talking to the human Bitcoins who just watched Alabama and Ohio State kick metric tons of ass and can’t understand why Texas can’t be one of them any more. He’s talking to the ones he has to cadge for money for all the other departmental toys. They wearied of Herman, and they are comfortable with paying him off to see the back of him, even if it might cause apoplexy in the rest of us. To them, there is the football program, and then there is Stephen F. Austin.

And they want to know that money won’t be an object in chasing the dream last experienced 15 years ago. They want to be Clemson, and they want to know that their servants are willing to spend their money profligately in the pursuit of their own personal Dabo. At this, and perhaps solely at this, they are excelling. The waft of burning money this strong is the best advertisement for the planet-despoiling enterprise that is big-kids college football. It shows they care.

So Texas won. It’s just that the Longhorns’ national championship just happens to come without a banner for the stadium, or a set of standings that include the important metric MPA.

Money Promised in Advance. Also known as Money Poorly Allocated, or Money Pissed Away.

So Del Conte had himself a great day. He just showed his audience just how much bad money he can shovel into a pit of good money to chase that dream. Plus, he fired a coach whose worst year had seven wins, and Ole Miss just extended Lane Kiffin’s contract for winning five. In the contemptibly bizarre world of college football, where waste is victory and perspective is weakness, Chris Del Conte is very definitely kicking ass.

And you know who else is kicking ass right now? Failed USC coaches, specifically Sarkisian and Kiffin. This is particularly good news for Clay Helton, the current USC coach whose level of success (44-23) at SC has been condemned by a loud faction of fans for being insufficient in the same way that Herman’s was, and should translate into his eventual firing, his own $15 million buyout and a lucrative new gig any day now.