by Jordan Grove
Different verse, same song. After months of flirtation with the Pac12, Oklahoma (and, in turn, Oklahoma State) were denied entrance into the league. Larry Scott, the commissioner of the Pac12, took a vote and after careful consideration decided not to expand to 14 or 16 teams.
In a statement issued by Scott, he stated: “After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference. While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve.”
The reason for denying Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas was that the Pac12 lacked the assurance from the Longhorns to give up the rights to the Longhorn Network, the thorn in the side of Oklahoma.
David Boren, the president of Oklahoma, has tried back-tracking in a way to not lose face by suggesting that the Sooners were entertaining thoughts of leaving the Big 12 as a way to gain leverage over Texas to enforce changes within the conference. In the end, though, Boren and Oklahoma could have lost leverage in their attempt to coerce change by threatening to break-up the league they helped form in 1996.
Missouri, who was courted by the SEC during the tumultuous past weeks concerning the future of the Big 12, looks to also be deciding to remain in the Big XII. Instead of leaving now for the security of the SEC could mean that the Tigers are holding out for a possible invitation from the Big Ten should that conference ever decide to move past 12 teams.
In one attempt, though, Oklahoma has been successful. It seems that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is on his way and that former Big 8 commissioner Chuck Neinas will replace him. The move is needed in an attempt to keep the conference together. Beebe has been the puppet of Texas for quite some time and a change in the front office, especially if it’s Neinas, will bring a strong presence that’s needed to keep the Big 12 intact.
Another concession Oklahoma would like to see is the conference expand back to 12 teams. Currently, the Big 12 sits at ten universities but that will change once Texas A&M joins the Southeastern Conference.
The question, though, is who would be willing (outside of Big East schools) to leave the relative security of their own conference to join the unstable Big 12. It all depends on what further changes are enacted within the conference but if an equal revenue sharing program is created to which all teams receive an equal share of the conference pie then that will go a long way in stabilizing the Big 12.
One team that could join the Big 12 is BYU. The Cougars supposedly would join the Big 12 if Oklahoma stays. If that happens then the Big 12 would add a nationally recognized football team within it’s ranks while expanding the conference. Other teams the Big 12 could target are TCU, Air Force, Louisville, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.
The Big East, which is struggling to survive following the departure of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Big East, would likely crumble if both Louisville and West Virginia departed for the Big 12, which could be likely.
According to John Hoover of the Tulsa World, David Boren wants Air Force, BYU, and TCU. That addition would add two former BCS busters in BYU and TCU while adding a program with a national following in Air Force.
The possibility exists, though, that Air Force would choose to remain in the Mountain West rather than moving to join what has been for the past two years an insecure conference and TCU could remain in the Big East despite that conferences unstable future.
In that case Louisville and West Virginia would become the next most attractive options due to the former’s basketball prestige and the latter’s ability to compete on the national level. The Mountaineers have been one of the most successful football programs in the Big East since joining in 1991. In the BCS era they have been to two BCS bowl games winning both.
Before Big 12 expansion even takes place, the relationship between Oklahoma and Texas could unravel for a third time and see the Sooners turning their attention to the conference that flirted with them last year – the SEC.
Several scenarios abound and what happens is anyone’s guess. The conference realignment talk has quieted down but this could be the calm before the storm (and likely is). All that is known now is that the Big 12 is staying together… for now.