Texas Tech University

Mailbag: Leading from Lubbock

Allen Ramsey

August 11, 2023

After a whirlwind week in the Big 12, it is worth noting the huge role President Lawrence Schovanec played in the latest round of realignment.

Welcome back to the Mailbag!

There were a bunch of us watching it all unfold. In fairness, we've been watching for years, the entire landscape of college conference alignment shifting endlessly in front of us. 

We could dive into the chaos of how the Bowl Championship Series, the College Football Playoff, TV deals, NIL and the NCAA have reshaped the very nature of conferences over the last quarter-century. 

But that's not what this column is about, so we'll shorten it to this: From the moment it was announced that Texas and Oklahoma were jumping ship from the Big 12 and heading to the SEC, the questions and concerns of the Texas Tech community started to mount.  

Would the Big 12 die? Would other teams in the league take flight? Could the conference secure another TV contract to keep it viable? Would it still be a power five conference? 

So many questions. But it's safe to say there were reasons to believe a chunk of Big 12 schools might get left behind, and that seemed to be the prevailing sentiment from the majority of college sports media. 

But the Big 12, channeling the great Lee Corso's “Not so fast my friend,” had its own plans. 

Behind the scenes, academic and athletic leaders in the conference were working hard to make sure that didn't happen, and the fruits of that labor paid off. And one of the biggest players in the room was Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec


Fast forward a couple of years, and thanks to the leadership of Schovanec and others, the Big 12, like Rocky Balboa, has gone from seemingly being down for the count to emerging as a power player in college athletics. 

Much time and many words will be spent on this topic in the weeks, months and years to come, but in real time it's hard not to take a good bit of pride in where the Big 12 ended up. 

And just as much pride in why the conference has come out so well. 

For most of us in Lubbock – the students, faculty and staff who see it daily – it will come as no surprise that President Schovanec had a massive part to play. 

Schovanec's leadership is on display here all the time. We see the campus, the historic growth of Texas Tech and benefit from the stability of the vision he's brought from the top down, coming out stronger time and again even as we faced unique challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What many outside Texas Tech may not appreciate is the work he's done to bring that stability to other places. 

He's served as the Chair of the Texas Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors, Chair of the Board of the Texas International Education Consortium and is a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors. 

In those roles, he's helped shape the vision for higher education across Texas and the U.S. 

He also is the immediate past Chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors, and in that role played a massive part in assuring the survival of the conference through these tumultuous times.  

Just more than a year ago, Schovanec helped lead the charge to hire Brett Yormark as Commissioner of the Big 12. Previously the CEO of Roc Nation, an entertainment company founded by Jay-Z, Yormark was widely thought of as a high-risk, high-reward hire. 

“In Brett Yormark, we have chosen a highly adaptable leader who thrives in dynamic times. The landscape of college athletics is evolving to look more like the world Brett has been leading,” Schovanec said upon Yormark's hiring. 

In his introductory press conference, Yorkmark, who had never held a job in college athletics prior to being hired, said the Big 12 was “open for business.”

One year later, business is booming, with the Big 12 having almost doubled in size. 

Securing a new TV deal through 2031 allowed the Big 12 to quickly replace Texas and Oklahoma with four new schools in major TV markets – BYU, UCF, Houston and Cincinnati.

The news over the last week that Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado would be joining the Big 12 only further widened the conference's footprint. 

And maybe, just maybe, lost in the shuffle of all that, is Yormark's comment at Big 12 media days a few weeks ago.

“I've leaned on Lawrence a lot,” Yormark told reporters.

Sometimes leading requires a steady hand, and President Schovanec has certainly shown over the years that he can provide that to a university and throughout the world of higher education. 

But at other times, leading means taking a big swing. Under Schovanec, Texas Tech has done both, from establishing the first school of veterinary medicine in the state of Texas in more than a century in 2019 to establishing Texas Tech as one of only 21 institutions to earn the simultaneous status as a Carnegie Very High Research Activity and Hispanic-Serving Institution. 

Among the greatest alumni of Texas Tech are a laundry list of leaders and risk-takers. Ed Whitacre, Gen. C.Q. Brown, Linda Kay and Rick Husband are a few who come to mind, as does Patrick Mahomes, who has been known to take a risk or two as well. 

And that's the thing. Good leaders know when it's time to swing for the fences.

President Schovanec deserves credit for doing exactly that, and because of his vision and leadership, fans of the Big 12 and Texas Tech athletics can see that what could have been a disaster has become a celebration. 

It's worth remembering why. 

Thanks for helping make it all happen President Schovanec. We're looking forward to seeing what comes next. 

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