It’s like Oklahoma and Kansas got together with the eight other Big 12 institutions and decided to spin the loss of the conference’s fourth member in just over a year (Missouri) into an addition by subtraction cliche or something.
At a Barry Switzer statue dedication on Saturday, interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas was introduced by Oklahoma president David Boren with the following laud that would only be fit for Michael Scott from “The Office”:
“I want to tell you the Big 12 today is here, it is stronger, it is stable. There is no doubt the Big 12 is going to be here next year and the year after and for many, many years to come. Because the heartland of this country deserves a great football conference, and the heartland is going to be a great football conference.
“A lot of people played a role in turning this thing around and reestablishing trust and reestablishing harmony and reestablishing stability. I simply want to tell you, and I’ll tell you one story in particular…
“There were several reforms we wanted to put in place in terms of grant of rights, handcuffs, to keep members of the conference together. Long-term commitment. Sharing of revenue. Not letting anyone that shall not be named today use their own network to play high school highlights of possible recruits.
“I may not know much. I know those athletic experts always smile when I speak at these events. But I do know how to count votes. And I will tell you when it came time to count the votes about those high school highlights, it was 9-0 with one abstention. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which one abstained.
“But this man brought us together. One of the most unusual things that’s ever happened, these basic reforms that we’ve been working on for 10 years to stabilize the conference… In two weeks he came and joined us as our commissioner, and in two weeks he hammered out an agreement that resulted in a joint motion, a joint motion, of the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, to enact all of these reforms to provide long-term stability for our conference.
I’ll preface the following display of cynicism with this: of course Boren and every other Big 12 official is going to paint the current foundation as structurally sound. That’s their job — to be Chip Diller of “Animal House” and exclaim that all is well.
But enough with the TV and movie references.
While some may continue to scoff at Missouri’s departure to the SEC as nothing more than a geographical gerrymandering for TV markets, the fact is that Mizzou left the Big 12 for a reason. “When people start talking about limits, that doesn’t indicate something that’s really strong,” Mizzou athletic director Mike Alden said about the Big 12’s six-year grant of rights for equal revenue distribution.
But in today’s college football landscape? Maybe six years is the new definition of long-term. Coaches come and go from jobs at alarming rates; heck, TCU switched conferences twice without ever having played a game in one. I’m not sure the possibility doesn’t exist of Mizzou leaving the SEC for the Big Ten if that phone call ever came.
“Long-term” is now a saturated phrase with interpretive meaning. It could indicate six years and not a moment more for Texas and Oklahoma, who despite what the Sooners say, were ready to leave their conference on the side of the highway (again) as they headed west.
Think about it: West Virginia is willing to sue the Big East to get into a conference next year that apparently (at least it was felt on WVU’s end) was all good to include them, then spent the couple of days tapping the brakes, before officially extending the invite.
As my father told me once in his advice about relationships: “If it’s not yes, it’s no.”
Boren can spin this how he wants, although his remarks and shots at Texas don’t induce a ton of confidence, but the questions that remain about the long-term security of the Big 12 don’t give us a solid “yes.”