Earlier Friday, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel fired a shot across the bow of both Texas and the Big 12, saying that “[w]ithout question there’s some issues that other leagues don’t have… [and] we all know where it starts.”
A short time later, another, more influential conference official drove a tanker truck full of fuel onto the scene and started hosing down the fire currently roaring around the Big 12.
Speaking at the groundbreaking for a new student housing center, Oklahoma president David Boren said his university’s conference affiliation would likely be determined at some point between Monday and sometime around the middle of September. What he left open, and what further illustrates the uncertainty swirling around the Big 12, is exactly which conference the Sooners will be in when his personal “deadline” comes and goes.
“My experience is that, in these kinds of things, it might be a matter of 72 hours, it might be a matter of two weeks,” Boren said by way of Travis Haney of the Daily Oklahoman. “I don’t really think this is something that’s going to linger on beyond two or three weeks. …
“It’s too early yet to know exactly what the outcome will be. Our main responsibility will be protecting the interest of the University of Oklahoma, do what’s in the best long-term interest of the university and our athletics department and the fans. …
“At this point in time, I’ll be very honest with you in saying I do not know with certainty, or perhaps even can’t hazard a totally intelligent guess as to what our final decision will be. But we are carefully looking over all the options.”
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman reported earlier this week that, presumably based on conversations with his sources, he’s fully expecting OU to seek an invitation to the Pac-12 “within days, if not hours.” While Boren did not specifically confirm Bohls’ report, the president did confirm that his university has drawn “interest from other conferences and other universities.” It’s interesting that Boren chose the plural of the word conference; thus far, OU has only been mentioned in connection to the Pac-12.
Boren added he’s disappointed that Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M have left or are on the verge of leaving the Big 12 in the past 15 months, and “disappointed… that we face the challenge that we do today.”
The events of the past few weeks, and the last couple of days in particular, leads one to believe there are just two certainties when it comes to the Big 12 in general and OU specifically. One, OU, even without an definitive declaration from Boren, is looking at/sending out feelers to other conferences, most certainly the Pac-12 and quite possibly even the Big Ten if some of the rumors we’re hearing have any validity to them. Secondly, the Big 12 can survive the loss of Colorado easily, or even the difficult losses of Nebraska and Texas A&M. What the Big 12 can’t survive, and as Ben hinted at earlier today, is losing either Texas or Oklahoma — or both if OU’s departure would lead to either independence or UT following their Red River rivals west.
Either way, and based on Boren’s comments this evening, we should know at some point this month whether the Big 12 will remain a viable conference with OU as a member, or if the league will implode from within less than two decades after it was formed.