What was the old saying attributed to Mark Twain, that reports of his death have been exaggerated?
Unbelievably, that late-19th century quote may — may — very well be apropos for the current state of the Big 12 — provided the conference’s most powerful member and the conference itself make some significant concessions.
Citing a high-ranking Big 12 source, the Daily Oklahoman is reporting that Oklahoma is open to remaining as a member of the Big 12 as long as two major conditions are met.
The first condition is the immediate removal of Dan Beebe as commissioner of the Big 12 and the appointing of an interim conference head. Beebe has long been considered by many observers and those associated with the conference as being nothing more than a puppet whose strings are pulled by Texas and Texas alone. As the Oklahoman notes, Beebe’s desire to appease Texas as the best hope for long-term stability in the conference is viewed by many as “the wrong decision” and has paved the way for the current mess the league is facing.
“The perception is, he answers only to one school,” the source told the paper. “That does not work. …
“The best commissioner’s a consensus builder. We need a consensus-builder commissioner. You take the Big Ten, SEC, the Pac-12, their conference office runs circles around our conference in capability, not to mention bias. This commissioner totally cost us Texas A&M.”
And, some believe, Nebraska as well.
The second condition involves, of course, Texas and its beloved Longhorn Network.
The other reform the Sooners demand is Texas and ESPN retreating on some its plans for the Longhorn Network. The UT/ESPN partnership angered Big 12 members on two counts: 1) the network reached an agreement with Fox Sports to move a conference game to the Longhorn Network; and 2) The Longhorn Network announced it would show high school highlights even after the conference voted to keep televised high school games off school-branded networks.
The source said that OU could even push for revenue-sharing of individual networks. Texas is reaping more than $12 million a year from its ESPN contract with the Longhorn Network.
The source also makes a good point in regard to the LHN: UT, if it’s to go west with OU to the Pac-12, would be forced to tweak its network in order to fit into that conference’s regional network model; if that’s the case, why not just remain in the Big 12 with a tweaked LHN as well?
It remains unclear whether Texas would be willing acquiesce on the LHN as part of keeping the Big 12 together, or if the chancellors and the presidents of the member institutions would be willing to oust Beebe in order to prevent OU/OSU from bolting for the Pac-12.
Speaking of the Pac-12, Oklahoma is expected to decide sooner rather than later, perhaps by the end of this week, whether to pursue membership in another conference. If that happens, Oklahoma State — T. Boone Pickens‘ protestations notwithstanding — is expected to follow suit. There’s also the possibility, if OU and OSU do indeed pull the trigger on a move, UT and Texas Tech could follow suit.
The Pac-12 is reportedly expected to vote on whether or not to undergo further expansion this Friday.
That vote may very well be moot before it’s even taken — provided Texas does the unexpected and cedes a significant chunk of the power its been allowed to grab over the past few years.