(In an unrelated story we’re working on for later today, we’ll also be reporting that water is indeed still wet.)
Amid numerous reports that Texas officials had traveled to Norman over the weekend in an attempt to convince Oklahoma to stay true to the Big 12, another surfaced Monday that Oklahoma could apply for admission to the Pac-12 before the calendar turns to October.
The ongoing soap opera that is the Big 12 continues unabated a day later, with yet another report buttressing the notions that OU has its mind set on taking its conference affiliation westward and the plug is about to be (mercifully) pulled on the beleaguered conference — maybe.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, and prior to the Sooners-Longhorns summit, OU regents have charged president David Boren with the task of preparing a document to formally apply for admission to the Pac-12. While the meeting between the two Big 12 superpowers was described as cordial, it appears it had little impact on OU’s desire to leave the Big 12’s instability in its rear-view mirror.
“There’s nothing Texas could have offered Oklahoma that would have changed their mind. They were set on leaving the Big 12 before Texas got there,” the American-Statesman quotes what it describes as a well-placed source at a Big 12 school.
“The Big 12’s done. Oklahoma wasn’t open to creating Big 12 stability.”
Despite the source very bluntly stating that the Big 12 is done, and another saying they “think OU and OSU will seek membership to the Pac-12 in the next two weeks”, the paper goes on to report that Texas’ first two preferences for the future are, in order, save the Big 12 and save the Big 12. If that’s not feasible? There are three factors UT will focus on in determining its conference future.
The first is the well-being of its student-athletes. Traveling back and forth across the country and different time zones can make life extremely difficult for students trying to cram for midterms. The ACC with its Eastern time zone would present a more favorable option for game times and late-night travel than the Pac-12.
Texas’ second metric is economics. The Joneses don’t take pay cuts. Texas has a $154 million annual budget and isn’t interested in joining a conference where its brand or its profit margin takes a hit. And this includes Texas’ three-letter issue. Not SEC. But LHN. Texas has no desire to part, alter or share any aspect of The Longhorn Network, but it would not be able to retain the network as is in the Pac-12.
The Longhorns’ third goal is to make a decision that agrees with fans’ interests by maintaining traditions and some rivalries, at least the one against OU if not A&M.
Rumors have been bubbling below the surface that UT may have an eye on the ACC if the Big 12 implodes. According to the American-Statesman, that possibility should not be dismissed out of hand; the paper writes that “[a] high-ranking Texas source said that the ACC has been in contact with Texas, but added that talks hadn’t progressed to a mature phase.”
Of course, such a move, if it is indeed to become a reality, is a few steps down the road. First and foremost, the Texas A&M-to-SEC situation would need to be settled before any other dominoes tumbled. Then the ball would bounce into the court of Oklahoma, and by extension Oklahoma State, forcing the school to decide once and for all if they will submit notice to the Big 12 that they will seek other conference opportunities.
If that step is taken, OU would then formally apply for admission to the Pac-12. While that conference’s commissioner, Larry Scott, was quoted as saying that he would prefer there be no further expansion, never once has he ever even intimated that his league would not be willing to listen if a school such as OU came to him seeking membership.
If it ever gets to that point — and based on the multiple reports in the last week it likely will sooner rather than later — UT would appear to have four options: take part in the rebuild of what would then be a seven-team Big 12 by raiding other conferences; along with Texas Tech, follow the Oklahoma schools to the Pac-12 to form a 16-team “super conference”; go to the opposite end of the country and join the ACC; or go independent.
The most appealing option for the ‘Horns? Whichever one most protects The Longhorn Network, the very entity that helped create a sizable portion of the uncertainty and instability in the Big 12 in the first place.