The Big 12’s resident rabble-rouser is at it again.
In the immediate aftermath of the NCAA’s decision earlier this week to allow conferences with fewer than 12 teams to stage championship games, Oklahoma president David Boren called for, among other things, the addition of two teams to the Big 12. In an interview with John Hoover of Tulsa World, Boren continued hammering on his expansion agenda, telling Hoover that the conference should immediately, along with folding the Longhorn Network and other third-tier media properties into a league network and implementing a title game, expand the league to 12 teams.
School presidents and chancellors will meet early next month, and presumably Boren will call on “leadership to begin working on implementing all three immediately.” Boren also allowed that “[t]here are three or four other [Big 12] schools, in particular, that … feel as strongly as I do about,” among other things, expanding the league.
As for potential expansion additions, several have been churned out by the rumor mill over the years. BYU is one that’s been mentioned consistently — and the Mormon school would jump at the opportunity — as has UCF and its huge and ever-growing student body. Houston would seem like a likely candidate, although the Texas schools in the conference, especially the flagship university in the state, would push back against such an addition. Boise State, Cincinnati and Memphis have been bandied about as possibilities as well.
While Boren didn’t go into specifics as to who he thought the Big 12 should add this time around, he did lament the one that got away the last time the league expanded. From Hoover’s piece (which is exceptional and should be read in its entirety HERE):
“You know, I was for adding Louisville (when the Big 12 instead added West Virginia and TCU in 2012),” he said. “I obviously did not prevail, and they have now gone into another conference and they’re not available now. But they’d have been a good fit.
“… Boy, I was very frustrated, for example, that we let Louisville get away and we let other schools get away. We had opportunities at one time several years ago before all these schools gave up their rights, their legal rights and their financial rights, we had a real opportunity, I think back then, to even snag some of the bigger-name programs in the country, and we let the opportunity pass us by — in spite of some of us expressing our frustrations.”
Louisville, of course, landed in the ACC after some very powerful and influential individuals in Boren’s conference snubbed their noses at the “basketball” school. Getting the U of L now is seemingly next to impossible, what with the grant-of-rights in place in the ACC that makes it, in theory, economically unfeasible for a school to leave. The same grant-of-rights holds true for the Big Ten and Pac-12, making any member of those conferences off-limits. And the SEC, well, nobody’s leaving that ATM of their own volition.
That would leave the Big 12 picking from the Group of Five, a field that while it’s more than 60 in actual number it is in reality less than 10 in potentially qualified candidates.
If the Big 12 either decides against expansion or can’t find two suitable partners, what would the future hold for Oklahoma and its sports programs? Boren, who on his watch has seen OU pursued by the Big Ten and Pac-12, did not rule out leaving for another conference.
“I think if — if — we can get the Big 12 on the right track, if this comprehensive plan could be adopted, then I would rather stay in the Big 12,” Boren told Hoover during the interview. “I think that would be to our advantage. But it’s something that we really need to have happen. But we just need to wait and see what develops. Certainly, my first choice, if we can get the right things done in the Big 12, the right steps taken, especially these three, then I think we ought to stay in the Big 12. If it just doesn’t happen, then I try to think long-term.”
One thing is certain: If there remains strident opposition to expansion and folding the LHN into a conference network… if the Big 12 remains at 12 teams… if, grant-of-rights be damned, Oklahoma follows through with an implied threat to leave… if all of that were to happen, the age of four 16-team super-conferences would be upon us — and the Big 12 would be no more. While that may be a ways down the road, Boren is pushing for something, anything to happen in the here and now so that he can begin thinking long-term for his sports programs in general and his football team specifically. One way or another, this Big 12 “thing” is coming to a head — sooner, so to speak, than many may have expected.