A day marked by conflicting evidence about the long-term staying power of the Big 12 ended Tuesday night with the league apparently destined to stay together because Pac-12 presidents elected not to expand their league.
That decision, announced Tuesday night, effectively removed the option of a four-team move to the West Coast by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech.
After a Monday regents meeting, Oklahoma president David Boren said his school had narrowed its choices to two options: remaining in the Big 12 or moving to the Pac-12. But Pac-12 administrators took the second option out of Boren’s hands Tuesday night in a statement released by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.
“After careful review, we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference,” Scott said. “While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve. With new landmark TV agreements and plans to launch our innovative television networks, we are going to focus solely on these great assets, our strong heritage and the bright future in front of us.”
The Pac-12 decision effectively ended the opportunity for westward movement by Big 12 schools for a second consecutive year and means that the only anticipated departure after this season will come from Texas A&M, which accepted a conditional invitation on Sept. 6 to join the Southeastern Conference, pending a waiver of legal claims by Baylor and other Big 12 schools associated with the move.
But the hard feelings that have been evident throughout the realignment discussions figure to linger.
Only hours before Scott issued his statement, The Oklahoman reported that Oklahoma officials would consider staying in a “reformed” version of the Big 12 only if the league would increase constraints on the Longhorn Network _ Texas’ 20-year, $300 million venture in partnership with ESPN _ and would remove commissioner Dan Beebe from his post.
It remained unclear Tuesday night how Oklahoma officials would respond in light of Scott’s statement.
What was clear is that the Pac-12’s announced capped a crazy day that was marked by a Birmingham News report that Missouri had reached an informal agreement to become the 14th member of the Southeastern Conference. But the SEC issued a statement denying the report.
“The Southeastern Conference has not agreed, formally or informally, to accept any institution other than Texas A&M,” the statement said, referring to its invitation to A&M.
Missouri has called a Thursday meeting of its board of curators, who would need to approve any realignment move. Other regent/curator boards with meetings scheduled this week to discuss or take action in regard to realignment include Oklahoma State (today), Kansas (Thursday) and Kansas State (Thursday).
It was not clear Tuesday night whether those meetings would be scrapped in light of Scott’s announcement, which came at the end of a day of lobbying by Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton to try and bring everyone back in the Big 12 fold.
There may still be some ruffled feathers going forward. Sources from two other schools echoed Oklahoma’s concerns that the Big 12, and Beebe, gives preferential treatment to Texas. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Beebe declined comment.
For Beebe to be removed as the Big 12 commissioner, it would require a majority vote of league presidents. Beebe received a three-year extension in November. In announcing the extension, Deaton _ chairman of the Big 12 board of directors _ said Beebe had been an “outstanding leader” who “performed well beyond his job description” while keeping the league together amid turmoil last summer.
_ Jimmy Burch