SBD/September 20, 2011/Colleges

As UT Decides Where It Wants To Go, OU And OSU Consider Joining Pac-12

Longhorn Network could complicate UT's potential move to another conference
Univ. of Texas will "make a decision about its future conference home within two weeks," according to a source cited by Chip Brown of ORANGEBLOODS.com. UT regents yesterday "voted to give UT president Bill Powers the authority to make decisions on behalf of the university when it comes to conference affiliation." The source said that UT's "first option remains holding the Big 12 together with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in it." But sources said that the Big 12's TV partners -- ABC/ESPN and Fox -- are "not interested in continuing their current contracts with the Big 12 if Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas are not all in the league." After being given "the authority by regents to make conference affiliation decisions on behalf of Oklahoma, school president David Boren on Monday expressed concern about the instability of the Big 12." Sources said that OU and OSU "are totally focused on becoming members of the Pac-12." But there is "some question about if those schools would receive a bid without Texas." Meanwhile, a second source confirmed that the ACC "remains interested in Texas -- but without Texas Tech." The source said that the ACC "would consider a Texas-Kansas or Texas-Missouri combination" (ORANGEBLOODS.com, 9/19). In Austin, Maher & Bohls report Pac-12 presidents "have not met collectively on any potential applications." No one "knows for certain if they would authorize Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott to extend invitations to OU and OSU separate from Texas and Texas Tech," though a source said that it "would be possible if the presidents embraced the idea." UT still remains "keenly interested in preserving its Longhorn Network, but conference membership elsewhere will make that a thorny problem" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 9/20). A source said that because of "complex issues, including the Longhorn Network" any UT move to the Pac-12 "would extend at least into next week." Another source suggested that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State "could petition to join the Pac-12 by week's end" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/20).

SEPARATION ANXIETY: Boren yesterday acknowledged that he has "engaged in 'very warm' and 'very constructive' talks with the Pac-12." He added that he has "spoken constructively, too, with some Big 12 presidents," but he "did not establish a specific timeline for the next OU move." Boren: "I'd still love to see a result sooner rather than later. I think that it's best for everyone involved if we can reach a conclusion, reach a decision, as soon as possible" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 9/20). Boren added, "I want to make it very clear that this is not a Texas A&M-like situation, where, when the regents voted to give authority to the president, everyone was aware of the fact they were giving authority under the direction of the president to take action to move to the SEC. That's not the situation here. The regents have not given me authority and direction to proceed to make a particular decision" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 9/20). Boren: "I would say that the principal focus, beyond the Big 12 itself -- which is still a focus for us -- is the Pac-12" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/20). The AP's Latzke & Vertuno noted if OU leaves, "so will Oklahoma State." Boren said, "Whatever we do, we're going to do it together and I think that's very good news for the state of Oklahoma." He added that he "speaks daily with Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis." OSU's regents "have called a special meeting on the topic Wednesday" (AP, 9/19). In Oklahoma City, Travis Haney notes part of OU's "board meeting's executive session focused on the possibility of litigation, should OU choose to move to the Pac-12." Boren: "I don't think you build trust and I don't think you build stability in a conference by the threat of litigation. If it takes the threat of litigation to keep a conference together, that's not the right way to proceed" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 9/20).

NOWHERE LAND: Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe last night "broke a long silence with a statement of confidence in the league." Beebe: "We continue to apply all effort and resources toward assuring our members that maintaining the Big 12 is in the best interest for their institutions" (K.C. STAR, 9/20). Univ. of Kansas Board of Regents Chair Ed McKechnie said last night that the board "has added conference realignment to its agenda Thursday." The meeting will "be held in executive sessions with officials from both KU and K-State present" (KANSASCITY.com, 9/19). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes the Big 12 is a "ghost league," and a "loose confederation of Middle America schools that sport all the trust of a prison yard." Tramel: "This isn't the Big 12. This is a conference that used to be the Big 12" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 9/20). SI.com's Andy Staples wrote, "Barring an eleventh-hour miracle even more incredible than the one that saved the Big 12 in June 2010, the conference as currently constituted is toast" (SI.com, 9/19).

STAYING AHEAD OF THE GAME: USA TODAY's David Leon Moore in a sports section cover story reports after two years as Pac-12 Commissioner, Larry Scott has "emerged as an industry leader, perhaps a visionary and maybe even, as some see it, the smartest person in the combustible environment of college sports." Scott said, "I don't want that much credit, and I don't want that much blame." Moore notes to Scott, "more expansion always seemed inevitable." Scott: "I'm not sure I've got a clear view on exactly what the end product will look like, whether it's four or five conferences, or whether they all have 16 teams or not. But what I did see last year and what I continue to see is instability. Certain conferences are very stable, and others are unstable." Scott did not "see so much change happening so quickly in his first two years," but he "knew that he was ready to shake things up" (USA TODAY, 9/20). Scott said the "challenge of the role like I'm in is not just to look at the world the way it is today, but to look at it the way it may be five years from now and that's really been the basis upon which we've looked at everything we've done." He added, "If we were to ever consider expansion going forward, it would absolutely have to make sense for our current members and new members. It would have to be additive, not dilutive" ("Game On," Versus, 9/16).
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