This report is posted today on the website of The Daily Oklahoman.
The University of Oklahoma is considering remaining in the Big 12, but only in a “reformed” version of the conference that includes hard and fast rules for Texas' Longhorn Network and removal of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, a high-ranking Big 12 source told The Oklahoman on Tuesday.
OU president David Boren said Monday the Sooners would decide soon between applying for Pac-12 membership or staying in the Big 12, and the source outlined the parameters for remaining in the Big 12.
“It's going to take major, major reforms” for OU, and thus Oklahoma State, to consider remaining in the Big 12, the source said. “We'd have to have an interim commissioner.”
The source said the league presidents do not believe Beebe responded with adequate leadership to Nebraska's and Texas A&M's frustration. The Big 12 has lost three members in the last 15 months, and “the relationships were so bad (with) the commissioner,” the source said.
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 it is not inevitable that OU and OSU will go to the Pac-12, even though the OU regents support the move.
Both Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione have stated their desire to make the Big 12 work, as have OSU president Burns Hargis and athletic director Mike Holder.
“No one wants to give up on it,” an OSU source said of the Big 12. The problems have “nothing to do with finances. It has nothing to do with success. For the league to be falling apart, it's crazy.”
But the source said OU is willing to consider only a reformed Big 12.
The source said conference expansion is not a major issue, that while the Big 12 likely needs to return to 10 or 12 schools, the reforms are a much higher priority for stabilizing the conference.
Texas A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference has been held up by Baylor's threat of litigation. But the reforms OU seeks would not entice the Aggies to remain in the Big 12.
“We are gone,” said an A&M official.
Earlier Tuesday, OSU booster Boone Pickens, who tried to use his influence in the state of Texas to get A&M to make the same demands of UT that OU now is making, said he detected a thaw in the Aggies' stance.
Pickens even contacted Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Pickens said he told Perry to show America that “you fix problems, don't contribute to ‘em.”
Perry is a former Texas A&M yell leader. “After the Aggies leave school, they're still looking for a yell leader,” Pickens said. He said he told Perry to be that leader.
But A&M vice president for communications Jason Cook, responding to Pickens, said, “Texas A&M has made our intentions perfectly clear. We do not intend to be a member of the Big 12 past this season.”
Another Big 12 source said OU's demands could prompt Texas to compromise. If the Sooners and Cowboys leave the Big 12, Texas is not likely to stay and almost surely would have to acquiesce on its network anyway, in some other league. Why not give in and keep the Big 12 together?
“You've got to have some of these items of trust,” the first source said. “Some clear understanding of what individual networks can do.”
The source said OU's goal is not to run the Big 12. He said OU's goal is to not have any school run the conference.
And the impression has been that Texas, via Beebe, has run roughshod over the Big 12.
“The perception is, he answers only to one school,” the source said. “That does not work.”
The source said Beebe made the decision that appeasing Texas was the Big 12's best hope for stability. “He made the wrong decision,” the source said. Instead, that led to instability, with the departure of Nebraska and now A&M.
The source said Big 12 presidents view Beebe as a commissioner serving only one school, Texas. They lay Nebraska's departure in June 2010 at the feet of Beebe.
“When a commissioner has a tin ear to what's happening in Nebraska and doesn't get himself up there…” the source said.
Ironically, the source said, Texas supported another candidate for commissioner four years ago, when Beebe was hired, while OU supported Beebe.
The source also said Beebe left items off the conference agenda that could have helped corral The Longhorn Network, such as a conference game being televised.
“The best commissioner's a consensus builder,” the source said. “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.”
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.
“What if we share a small percentage?” the source asked. “That's a real strong show of support. Where's anybody going to go in any other conference that doesn't want all your network? Wouldn't it be a nice show of good faith?
“It would be making sure the conference was even-handed and stable.
“It's true there's some things in favor of the Pac-12. Plain stability. We don't want to have to do this every year. I don't want our successors having to deal with the drama. What do we do? What do we do?
“Don't proclaim the end of the Big 12 too quickly. It's not off the table. We've got to get some reforms to make it stable. It's not working as it is.”
Here is the link to the story on the newspaper's website: