As we’ve seen with Texas A&M’s attempt to move on to the SEC, departing Big 12 members haven’t exactly been able to just waltz out on the conference at their leisure. The Baylor Four (Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas) have made things especially difficult for the Aggies by not signing over the waiver to pursue litigation.
While Baylor’s case to prove damages in A&M’s departure may seem like a long shot, it did send a clear warning shot to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, whose potential package deal to the Pac-12 also appeared to be on the western horizon.
A&M’s departure would be a devastating blow to the Big 12, but its survival depends on OU and Texas. If the Sooners leave, Baylor may have a more significant case to pursue legal action.
That may not stop OU, though. OrangeBloods.com’s Chip Brown reports this morning that Oklahoma will look to apply for Pac-12 membership by the end of this month, a source close to the school’s administration has said. Oklahoma State is expected to follow.
The source states that OU is “fed up with Big 12 instability” and is prepared to move on with or without Texas.
But it’s important to recap the legal processes that need to occur if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were to depart. As evident by commissioner Larry Scott‘s comments last Friday, the Pac-12 won’t publicly pursue any kind of expansion with the possibility of a tortious interference lawsuit on the other end. It’s why SEC officials met weeks ago to publicly downplay the possible addition of A&M.
On the surface, A&M needed to “come to the SEC” first; the same goes for the Pac-12 and Oklahoma/Oklahoma State.
It doesn’t mean that the two haven’t spoken privately, or that the Pac-12 wouldn’t pick up the phone if the Sooners call. Provisions in the Pac-12’s new multi-billion TV rights contract with ESPN and FOX allow the two parties to “revist the deal” in the event of expansion. Additionally, it’s been reported before that the Pac-12 will not stand by idly if the conference realignment shift begins in earnest.
But for that shift to begin, Oklahoma would have to send its notice of withdrawal to the Big 12, although Kirk Bohls of the Austin-American Statesman indicates that may not be allowable until A&M leaves. If Oklahoma’s goal is to leave the Big 12 by the end of September like Brown indicates, we would expect that notice to come within a couple weeks provided the all-clear comes for A&M.
One might reasonably expect some serious legal threats from several Big 12 members to follow. As OU and UT hold the key to the Big 12’s survival, any legal roadblock could be both ugly and drawn out. There’s certainly no guarantee that the Baylor Four would end up in a BCS conference if this whole conference realignment shakes out to its fullest extent.
Would that be enough to convince OU to stay? Last time we heard, the Sooners were still the only school left pondering over the idea of equal revenue sharing in the Big 12 in what appears to be another Hail Mary attempt to keep the conference together.
Then again, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was able to keep the conference together last summer, even if it was by a thin layer of glue and some duct tape.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the realignment drama, nothing is ever a “done deal” until the ink on the contract is dry.