With the college football world in realignment mode this morning and presidents at Texas and Oklahoma authorized Monday to take action in regard to new conference affiliations for their schools, the future is in flux today for the Big 12 and for TCU.
A strong possibility exists that the Big 12 could lose four schools to the Pac-12 _ Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech _ to accompany the impending departure of Texas A&M, which is sitting on a conditional offer to join the Southeastern Conference, pending waivers of legal claims by Baylor and other Big 12 schools.
If such mass exodus occurs within the Big 12, league sources have confirmed discussions of a possible merger between remaining conference teams (Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri) and schools from the Big East, a league that lost Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference on Sunday. TCU has agreed to join the Big East next season.
TCU officials are expected to attend a meeting today that could bring more clarity to the school’s alternatives. The Horned Frogs’ current league, the Mountain West Conference, has discussed the possibility of merging with Conference USA to from a 22-team league. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told the Idaho Statesman that the MWC has had conversations with TCU about remaining in the league and told the newspaper that league presidents “would probably” endorse the idea if TCU officials were receptive to it.
At present, Big East membership includes an automatic berth in a BCS bowl for the conference champion. That is not the case with the Mountain West or C-USA, where SMU is a member.
In a statement, TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said school officials “are actively engaged in conversations with colleagues across the country to protect TCU’s best interests.”
Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said members of his league are “particularly intrigued by cooperative possibilities with the Mountain West.”
Within the Big 12, uncertainty is expected to rule the day until Texas officials decide on a future path. School officials have indicated their priority is to preserve the Big 12, if possible, but they continue to look at options in the Pac-12 and ACC. Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remain candidates to join Texas in an expanded Pac-12 if the Longhorns head in that direction.
“There are so many moving parts, all possibilities remain in play,” said one Big 12 source. “There are contingency plans being made for contingency plans.”
Although Texas officials continue to push to save the Big 12, that possibility grows more unlikely with each passing day. After receiving authority to negotiate a new conference deal for his school, Oklahoma president David Boren weighed in Monday on several issues that concern him about the existing Big 12, from the disproportionate influence given to Texas _ and its Longhorn Network _ in regard to conference issues, as well as the decision by Baylor and other Big 12 schools to use the possibility of legal action to block A&M’s desired move to the SEC.
“I don’t think you build trust and I don’t think you build stability in a conference by the threat of litigation,” Boren said. “If it takes the threat of litigation to keep a conference together, that’s not the right way to proceed … Stability is based upon trust. It’s also based on partnership. It also means the conferences that last are conferences in which the members are considered equal, in which they have mutual respect for each other and every voice is listened to.”
In terms of the league’s current situation, on the brink of breakup for the second consecutive year, Boren said: “I would simply say it is not a strong vote of confidence in the conference office that this has happened in such a short period of time.”
Boren has not ruled out the possibility of remaining in the Big 12 but his words suggest that a move to the Pac-12, OU’s other conference option, appears more likely. OSU regents meet Wednesday to take action in regard to conference realignment.
Multiple Big 12 sources expect OU and OSU to apply to join the Pac-12 by the end of the week. Tech officials have indicated a preference to remain aligned with Texas but could make a move independently if Texas officials veer off in an undesired direction
Below is a school-by-school breakdown of realignment possibilities on the horizon for Big 12 and D/FW- based schools, assuming the five Big 12 members in play with other leagues (A&M, OU, OSU, Texas, Tech) move on to other affiliations:
TCU _ Candidate for possible merger between Big East and Big 12 schools that do not voluntarily move to other leagues; candidate to return to the Mountain West.
Baylor _ Candidate for possible merger between Big East and Big 12 schools that do not voluntarily move to other leagues.
SMU _ Candidate for possible merger between C-USA and Mountain West schools.
Texas _ Pac-12 or ACC. A Big Ten possibility could surface later, if officials in that league choose to expand. Texas officials have said they do not want to be an independent, although that option would allow them to keep intact their 20-year, $300 million with ESPN for the Longhorn Network. The network would have to be modified in the Pac-12.
Texas Tech _ Pac-12. An option to join an expanded SEC, along with Texas A&M, could surface later if the Pac-12 door closes.
Texas A&M _ SEC.
Oklahoma _ Pac-12.
Oklahoma State _ Pac-12.
Missouri _ Candidate for possible merger between Big East and Big 12 schools that do not voluntarily move to other leagues. An option to join an expanded SEC could surface if the league chooses to go to 16 teams.
Kansas _ Candidate for possible merger between Big East and Big 12 schools that do not voluntarily move to other leagues.
Kansas State _ Candidate for possible merger between Big East and Big 12 schools that do not voluntarily move to other leagues.
Iowa State _ Candidate for possible merger between Big East and Big 12 schools that do not voluntarily move to other leagues.
_ Jimmy Burch