Rick Perry and the Politics of College Football

I wanted to share a piece I wrote for the Boston Globe's Angle on how Rick Perry's role as a major Texas A&M booster may cost him support from Iowa State Cyclones fans if Texas A&M's move to the SEC is successful.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: I've added an excerpt after the jump.

Excerpt from How the politics of college football could thwart Rick Perry’s presidential bid

Last Thursday, after weeks of rumors that the university was planning to bolt the Big 12, Texas A&M made it official. The College Station university is moving to the SEC in hopes of higher television revenues and to avoid being over-shadowed by its arch-rival, the University of Texas, which just started its own cable network this year to showcase Longhorn athletics.

To fans of other Big 12 schools like Baylor, Texas Tech, and Iowa State, the fear now that the departure of Aggies will cause the Big 12 to implode – and that when the dust settles, their teams may wind up in a second-tier conference. […]

And the governor can hardly claim to be just a bystander to the process. Perry, who served as the “yell-leader” at the school as an undergraduate, has taken an active role overseeing his alma mater. In fact, it was Perry, and not the university’s president, who was first to leak the news that Texas A&M was seeking to join the SEC. […]

Perhaps the most vulnerable member of the Big 12 if it breaks up is Iowa State. In fact, Iowa State’s fate became a major political hot potato when Colorado and Nebraska left the Big 12 last year and Iowa politicians from both parties were ready to use whatever leverage necessary to keep the Cyclones in a BCS conference. Further, Iowa State’s fan base is concentrated in the more conservative western third of the state, where, incidentally, there are also a disproportionate number of GOP caucusgoers.

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Ben Jacobs

  • hadn't heard about that angle

    Interesting. I find it hard to believe that a significant number of caucus-goers will vote against Perry because they fear what will happen to Iowa State after Texas A&M leaves next year. It would be one thing if this happened two years ago and Iowans could already see the devastation of the ISU athletics programs, but you’re talking about a hypothetical now.

    Even if some people reject Perry for that reason, he could still win because the field is so fragmented. It’s not as if angry ISU fans would all coalesce around the same opponent.

    • It's all a matter of timing

      It depends on the timing of what happens with the Big 12. It seems that Texas A&M’s move will be official in the next couple of weeks. Once the Aggies go, it’s a question of what happens to the Big 12’s television deal as well as if there’s an immediate cascade effect in terms of what Texas and Oklahoma do. This could all happen very quickly.

      But while angry ISU fans certainly wouldn’t coalesce around the same candidate, this would be a major news story in Western Iowa and certainly have an impact on Perry’s candidacy (particularly considering that males from west of I-35 are both disproportionately Iowa GOP caucusgoers as well as Iowa State fans. Although this may be presidential primary, it doesn’t change the fact that, as always, “all politics is local.”