NCF Nation: David Boren

The Big 12 made it official on Thursday afternoon: Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby is the new man in charge of the Big 12. He'll be introduced as commissioner at a press conference on Friday morning.

I'll be there at the Big 12 offices in Irving, Texas, for sure, so be sure to check the Big 12 blog for coverage.

Bowlsby will take over for interim commissioner Chuck Neinas on June 15. Neinas replaced fired commissioner Dan Beebe in September 2011.

"I am proud to have been selected to lead the Big 12 Conference as its Commissioner. The member institutions represent the best in competitive intercollegiate athletics and they occupy a prominent place in the history of sports in America," Bowlsby said in a statement. "I am excited to work with a very talented and committed group of Presidents and Chancellors to advance the Conference on the national sports landscape. Additionally, the directors of athletics, senior woman’s administrators, faculty athletics representatives, coaches and conference office staff are among the very best in the country. The future is exceedingly bright and I look forward to engaging with my colleagues to achieve great things in the years ahead."

In a tweet, Kansas State AD John Currie said the league's presidents and search committee "hit a home run" with the hire.

"Bob Bowlsby is a highly respected and experienced college athletics administrator who has a reputation for integrity and excellence. His vision will be shaped by successful experiences at leading institutions in other BCS conferences which will serve the Big 12 very well as he leads us into a bright future," Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said in a statement.

Oklahoma president David Boren also lauded the selection.

"His combination of skills makes him the ideal selection," Boren said in a statement.

Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis explained those skills in the Big 12's announcement of the Bowlsby hire.

"The institutions of the Big 12 wanted a Commissioner that could take us to the next era as a conference with the addition of TCU and WVU, and we unanimously agreed Bob is that leader," Hargis said. "The search committee looked for a candidate that has a vision for the next generation of college athletics, and his credentials and ideas exceeded this. He understands enhancing athletic competition among conference schools, the challenge of balancing academics and athletics for our student-athletes, and working with our broadcast and bowl partners."

Big 12 set on 10 members for 2012

November, 7, 2011
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Don't expect the Big 12 to expand further for 2012, but don't rule out a move to 12 after next season either.
University of Oklahoma president David Boren said Monday the Big 12 Conference is settled with 10 teams through the 2012 football season, but didn't rule out the possibility that two more teams could be added in 2013.

"Definitely, I think we have the opportunity to back to 12, if we want to," Boren told The Associated Press.

Boren did not identify which other schools have expressed an interest in joining the conference.
See the full story here.

It's the right approach for now. If Missouri had stayed, inviting Louisville to be the 12th member would have been a big positive step.

Missouri's gone. Louisville is the logical next step, and maybe Cincinnati or BYU could be next on that list, but for now, it looks like TCU and West Virginia will be the only new additions to the Big 12.

The legal issues surrounding West Virginia's move are still unsettled and, if anything, delays Missouri's exit to the Big 12 until 2013.

That would make this whole situation more messy for everyone, but for now, the Big 12 looks like it's narrowed down what its future will look like.

One voice needed for Big 12's next step

September, 23, 2011
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The Big 12 tried to put on its Sunday best at its Thursday night Big 12 revival.

After it ended with everyone confused, it's clear that not much has changed.

There’s still fighting -- this time Missouri and Oklahoma sending mixed messages -- and Texas is sitting satisfied.

Thursday night, OU and Mizzou held simultaneous press conferences.

Oklahoma president David Boren said all remaining schools -- except for Texas A&M -- "agreed" to give a six-year grant of their first- and second-tier television rights to the Big 12. That means that all revenue from the top television games -- shown currently on networks owned by ABC/ESPN and Fox -- would continue to go to the Big 12 even if a school bolts to another league.

Signing over those rights would mean that Oklahoma, or any other school, would not be paid directly for media revenue, regardless of which conference it was in. The money would be paid to the Big 12. If a school left, the Big 12 would collect revenue from the new conference.

Money would then redistributed through the rest of the conference.

In short, the agreement would make Big 12 teams very attractive to the Big 12 -- and no one else.

[+] EnlargeDan Beebe
AP Photo/Cody DutyThe loss of Colorado, Nebraska and likely Texas A&M resulted in a loss in confidence with commissioner Dan Beebe.
Except that it hasn't happened yet.

While Boren trumpeted it as an agreement, Missouri said no such thing. A source later confirmed that "there was no agreement, only an agreement to work toward that as a potential outcome."

On Missouri's conference call, there were literally two voices speaking, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton first before wires were crossed and Boren blared above the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Boren and Deaton spoke simultaneously, drowning out their conflicting messages by coming together ... and forming unintelligible noise.

Boren said when he arrived to the podium at Norman that the league's conference call had ended just minutes earlier.

It was probably worth the extra time to get their stories straight before causing yet another black eye for the Big 12, which is trying to rebound from its second major crisis in 18 months.

Contrast that with the Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC. When was the last time Ohio State's decision-makers, Gene Smith or E. Gordon Gee, talked about anything publicly regarding conference alignment?

Each conference has a singular voice, a leader, a representative of the conference. Whatever the conference does, commissioners Jim Delany, Mike Slive and Larry Scott are the ones voicing it. They lead their conferences.

Dan Beebe never proved to be the leader the conference needed.

He was a good man in an unfortunate situation -- a near untenable one, really, considering what he had to deal with -- but a change was necessary.

Beebe ceded to Texas' desire to create its own network last summer. The Big 12 would have died without it, but ironically, it sparked Texas A&M's decision to apply to the SEC.

The departures of Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M, however, resulted in Beebe being seen as an ineffective leader, both inside and outside the conference.

[+] EnlargeTexas Longhorns flag
Harry How/Getty ImagesInterim commissioner Chuck Neinas will have to battle the perception that Texas runs the Big 12.
The Big 12 will have a new commissioner, and interim commissioner Chuck Neinas will have to battle the perception that Texas runs the league if the Big 12 wants to convince anyone it has any stability.

He'll also need to serve as the Big 12's voice if he wants to get anything done and move forward from Thursday's debacle.

The next step is painfully obvious. The Big 12 must have equal revenue sharing if it's going to move forward and not be seen as (or be) dysfunctional, which Thursday night's debacle proved.

Every other league shares its revenue equally. The past 18 months have provided a long enough case study to show that doing otherwise does not work.

Oklahoma made it clear that it's willing to sacrifice its bigger share to fight that battle.

"Would equal distribution mean a financial contribution for the good of the conference? Yes. Would we be willing to do so? Yes," Boren said.

On Wednesday, Dodds told reporters that Texas is committed to equal revenue sharing for Tier 1 and Tier 2 media rights.

But for now, forget revenue sharing, expansion, media rights or anything else on the horizon for the Big 12.

The conference won't move forward until it can settle its biggest and most difficult opponent: Itself.

More from OU's Big 12 press conference

September, 22, 2011
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Lots of news from Oklahoma's press conference earlier today, but here are some of the other notes that didn't make the first update.

Oklahoma talks its conference shopping spree

Oklahoma president David Boren opened up about the Sooners' search for a conference, stating that a "stable Big 12" was the first choice, but they had conversations with the Pac-12.

The Sooners didn't use any outside sources for the search, and instead consulted with coach Bob Stoops and athletic director Joe Castiglione.

Stoops clearly had reservations about leaving for a league without Texas, but Boren said the Big 12 proved it could be stable and the Pac-12 and Oklahoma came to a near-simultaneous, "mutual" decision for Oklahoma not to join.

[+] EnlargeDavid Boren
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinOklahoma president David Boren said the school looked at the Pac-12 but that a "stable Big 12" was the first choice.
"We achieved substantial reforms and we were able to make very important steps toward greater stability of the Big 12 Conference," Boren said.

I agree with that if the league can get the media rights turned over to the conference for six years, through the renewal of the league's Tier 1 rights in five years, but for now, that's not official. Oklahoma better make it so, because there's no question the wires were crossed regarding how far along that agreement was.

Will it happen? My guess is the Big 12 eventually gets this done, but Missouri, whose chancellor is the chair of the board of directors, wasn't exactly trumpeting the Big 12's stability like Boren was. Not a good sign, but time will tell how major of an issue this becomes.

Boren said the Big 12's nine presidents agreed that they were in the conference, but I'd hold off on declaring this league stable until the media rights are officially given to the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma are ready to stay in the Big 12.

Is Missouri?

What school is running the Big 12?

Boren took exception to the idea that Texas had been "driving the train" in the Big 12 over the past year, until Oklahoma took over that role in the Pac-12 negotiations, but handed it back to Texas when the Pac-12 announced it would not expand.

Boren went on a measured, mini-rant that made a lot of good points. I'll let him explain.

"The University of Oklahoma does not have any ambition to drive the train anywhere. We have no desire to dominate the Big 12 Conference. None whatsoever. We have a very strong feeling that those conferences that have been the most stable are conferences in which every member feels valued equally," he said, later adding, "We don't want any one school dominating the Big 12 and we have no ambition to dominate the Big 12. ... All we wanted in this conference was stability so that we could concentrate on winning games and providing quality of life for our student athletes and not having drama every year."

He emphasized that more than just Texas and Oklahoma explored their conference options, and he knew of at least four, acknowledging that more might have done so, but he didn't know for sure.

"I hope no one will write in the future that anyone is driving the train in this conference. That's our goal," Boren said. "I don't care whether that's Texas driving this conference or Oklahoma driving this conference or Missouri driving this conference or Kansas with their basketball strength driving this conference. If we get to a situation where anybody drives this conference, then it would weaken us. Strong conferences are the conferences where there's a great amount of partnership and mutual respect and trust across the board."

Oklahoma, Texas still together, on and off the field

Bob Stoops reiterated his belief that the rivalry with Texas is important for the university, and that he didn't want it to go away, which it likely would have if the Sooners went to the Pac-12 without Texas.

For now, that game will remain at the Cotton Bowl, and Boren expressed a strong desire to keep it there.

As it should be. Texas and Oklahoma play that game every year, but the State Fair is what makes that game special. Moving it to JerryWorld would be a colossal mistake.

Big 12 headed for binding TV rights

September, 22, 2011
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Lots to get to on the blog tonight.

First off, you can read our news story on tonight's news conference at Oklahoma. Here's an update of what was decided.

More on the way later tonight.

Big 12 headed for binding TV rights

The Big 12's presidents agreed to grant their television rights to the conference for six years, Oklahoma president David Boren said at a news conference on Thursday. Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said at a news conference also on Thursday night that the agreement was not official, and the league had agreed to pursue such binds.

A source at Missouri confirmed to ESPN.com that they were told "there was no agreement, only an agreement to work toward that as a potential outcome."

The Big 12 signed a 13-year, $1.1 billion deal with Fox Sports last summer for Tier 2 rights and the Tier 1 rights for ESPN/ABC are up for renewal in five years. By signing away the media rights to the conference, any team that left the conference during that period would offer no television revenue to a prospective new league. Any television revenue produced by that team would go to the Big 12.

"We felt that we needed a lot more than an expression of solidarity," Boren said, referencing "unequivocal commitments" that held the Big 12 together in 2010, when the Big 12 last faced near extinction. "It was a very important item to show we mean business about staying together."

Boren added: "That grant of rights really has teeth in it, because when you've granted your rights, it's very unlikely that a member would receive an invitation to another conference."

Texas A&M still headed to the SEC

Tonight's agreement has had no effect on the Texas A&M and its intended departure to the SEC.

Boren said Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin was on the teleconference, but was careful to note that it was "highly likely" that the Aggies would continue to chart their intended course for the SEC. Boren also said the league would not give up on convincing Texas A&M to stay until the Aggies became official members of the SEC.

The league's presidents did not discuss waiving rights to legal action that would allow Texas A&M to continue with its intended move to the SEC after the conference's presidents voted to accept them on the condition that each Big 12 team waive those legal rights.

“Another key to Big 12 stability will be for the league to assist Texas A&M with our departure," Texas A&M spokesman Jason Cook told the San Antonio Express-News.

New interim commissioner officially appointed

Dan Beebe is out, and Chuck Neinas is in. Neinas has dealt with scores of athletic departments around the country, and recommended more than half of the athletic directors in the Big 12 to the administrations in their current schools. Boren lauded Neinas as a figure respected around the country.

Neinas
Neinas
Neinas will take over only as interim commissioner, though. He is not a candidate for the permanent job, which may take a "few months" to fill, Boren said, though he established no concrete timeline for the hire.

"We needed someone to lead us through a healing process," Boren said of Neinas. "There's no one better to do that."

Expansion has been re-opened

While the Big 12 nearly broke apart, the efforts of an expansion committee were obviously halted. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds are on the committee, which has been re-activated.

The league doesn't know if it will expand to 10 or 12 teams, but will do its "due diligence" and is open to both.

I'd expect negotiations with BYU to be re-opened, and for the Big 12 to seriously talk with remaining teams in the Big East like West Virginia and Louisville, but also seriously talk to schools closer to the Big 12 footprint, like TCU or Houston.

Nothing's off the table yet, though. As it should be this early in the process.

Boren refused to name any names or publish any list of prospective members.

"We want anybody we look at for expansion to know they were our first choice," Boren said.

Big 12 committee formed

This is also an important development. Chairman of the board of directors Brady Deaton is putting together a "committee" to handle a variety of tasks facing the Big 12 currently.

For now, no change in revenue sharing has been enacted, but if it's going to happen, it will be explored by this committee.

Deaton is expected to put it together by the end of the day on Friday.

The league agreed not to air grievances with others in the league publicly, which is necessary for the appearance of stability. It also agreed that any disagreements would be settled privately through the multi-purpose committee that Boren called a "special working group."

Concessions by Texas and Oklahoma?

It's clear so far that Texas and Oklahoma have and are willing to give on some issues. Oklahoma got its wish with Beebe's ouster and a commitment with the media rights that would ensure stability, but Texas AD DeLoss Dodds told local media on Wednesday that he did not want to sign over media rights.

Judging by Boren's comments, that stance has softened. Maybe he was leveraged into it, or maybe it was a measure of good faith. Either way, it looked like it happened.

Oklahoma has also made it clear that it would not stand in the way of equal revenue sharing. The Sooners, as one of the Big 12's top earners, would get less money in that agreement.

"Would equal distribution mean a financial contribution for good of the conference? Yes. Would we be willing to do so? Yes," Boren said. "We would hope that wouldn’t occur overnight."

Boren said he hoped such a plan would be fazed in slowly.

As for Texas? Maybe we'll hear from them soon.

Lots more coming on the blog tonight. Stay tuned.

OU 'not surprised' by Pac-12 decision

September, 21, 2011
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Oklahoma president David Boren released a statement on Tuesday night in response to the Pac-12's announcement that it would not expand.

"We were not surprised by the Pac 12's decision to not expand at this time. Even though we had decided not to apply for membership this year, we have developed a positive relationship with the leadership of the conference and we have kept them informed of the progress we've been making to gain agreement from the Big 12 for changes which will make the conference more stable in the future. Conference stability has been our first goal and we look forward to achieving that goal through continued membership in the Big 12 Conference."

Oklahoma went out of its way to make it clear that it did not apply for membership for the Pac-12, regardless of whether or not it had the intention to do so.

I wouldn't take the last sentence as an unequivocal commitment to the Big 12, but it would seem now, with no other realistic option, that's where the Sooners are clearly focused.

A wild day, no doubt. Just another one in the shifting landscape (or is it?) of college sports.

Beebe: Texas, OU decisions 'anticipated'

September, 19, 2011
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Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe released a statement on Monday evening in response to Texas and Oklahoma's announcements that they have authorized their respective presidents to act on behalf of the university in matters pertaining to conference realignment.
"The actions taken today by the governing boards of the universities of Oklahoma and Texas were anticipated. It is my opinion that the case for the Big 12 Conference continues to be as strong today for all of our current members as it was last year, especially considering the welfare of those to whom we owe the greatest responsibility-the student-athletes. We continue to apply all effort and resources toward assuring our members that maintaining the Big 12 is in the best interest for their institutions."

After Monday's regents' meeting at Oklahoma, OU president David Boren said he had spoken with Pac-12 officials, calling them "warm and productive discussions."

Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, essentially the Pac-12's No. 2 man behind commissioner Larry Scott, served as Big 12 commissioner from 1998-2007.

From our report:
Boren made it clear that OU had not notified the Big 12 Conference it was leaving and that remaining in the Big 12 was "still on the table." He added, however, that the threat of litigation by other Big 12 members had not affected OU's position of exploring realignment.

"Obviously, we do not want to continue to have these kinds of situations where our membership in a conference has to be revisited every year," Boren said.

Texas, OU presidents authorized to act

September, 19, 2011
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The boards of regents from Texas and Oklahoma both authorized university presidents to act on behalf of the university at Monday afternoon meetings.
The moves clear the way for the Sooners and Longhorns to apply formally to the Pac-12, with whom they have been undergoing discussions in recent days on how to make the schools' addition to the conference work.

On Sunday, those talks were still a long way from the point at which Pac-12 leadership would be comfortable recommending the move to the league's presidents, a source told ESPN.com's Andy Katz. The proposed expansion would include fellow Big 12 schools Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Nothing's official yet, of course, but Texas A&M made this same decision on August 15 before formally withdrawing from the Big 12 on August 31.

Texas's president is Bill Powers. Oklahoma's president is David Boren.

The steps are in place for Oklahoma and Texas to follow the Aggies out the Big 12 door, but like Texas A&M, this is just one important step among many before either school joins a new conference.

Oklahoma regents to meet on Monday

September, 15, 2011
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The next step in conference realignment might be taken on Monday, if only an informal step.

Oklahoma's board of regents are scheduled to discuss the university's conference affiliation at a meeting on Monday.
The school's board of regents has posted the agenda for Monday's meeting. It's a single paragraph that says the board will consider switching conference affiliation, and any legal ramifications of such a move.

The agenda says the regents may discuss the topic behind closed doors and "take any appropriate action."

Oklahoma president David Boren spoke to reporters on Sept. 2, acknowledging that Oklahoma has had contact with multiple conferences.

"I don’t really think this is something that’s going to linger on beyond two or three weeks, from the outside," Boren told reporters on Sept. 2.

Texas A&M had planned to leave for the SEC last week, but was accepted into the league on the condition that each Big 12 school waive its right to legal action. Several Big 12 schools have yet to officially do so.

"We obviously want stability in our conference relationships. We want partners that are above outstanding, both athletically and academically," Boren said. "A conference that’s strong is not only stable, but it’s one in which there are multiple relationships, along with sports, between university members."

A&M president 'disappointed' in threats

September, 7, 2011
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The most famous bow tie in Texas has spoken.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin released a statement Wednesday morning in response to an SEC statement and reports that Baylor had threatened legal action toward Texas A&M if it left for the SEC.
“We are certainly pleased with the action taken last night by the presidents and chancellors of the Southeastern Conference to unanimously accept Texas A&M as the league’s 13th member," Loftin said in the statement. "However, this acceptance is conditional, and we are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in Big 12 Conference. These actions go against the commitment that was made by this university and the Big 12 on Sept. 2. We are working diligently to resolve any and all issues as outlined by the SEC."

The Big 12 said it waived all legal action in a letter to the SEC on Sept. 2, but that reportedly did not include individual schools. Oklahoma president David Boren admitted to reporters on Sept. 2 that Oklahoma was weighing its options regarding conference affiliation.

Will Baylor cede its suit and allow Texas A&M to go on its way? Or will this be decided in a court somewhere?

We may find out soon.

Big 12 country gets even shakier

September, 3, 2011
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Oklahoma has a decision to make, and OU president David Boren says he wants to make it within the next couple of weeks.
University of Oklahoma president David Boren says multiple conferences have shown interest in the Sooners recently and he expects to decide whether to leave the Big 12 or not within the next three weeks.

Boren said Friday that Oklahoma is seeking stability in its conference relationship with "partners that are both outstanding athletically and academically as well because a conference that's strong is not only stable but it's one in which there are multiple relationships, along with sports, between the university members."

If Oklahoma wanted, it could presumably become the SEC's 14th team, but the university turned down a reported invitation last summer and hasn't expressed much interest in joining the league since.

But the Pac-12? The Sooners' bags were packed last summer before Texas decided to stick with the Big 12 instead of heading west. But with the Big 12 down another big program -- Texas A&M is all but officially headed to the SEC -- the Sooners may not want to stay in a league that's been weakened significantly in the past year and a half.

Baylor AD Ian McCaw told reporters on Friday night that the Big 12 expansion plans are on hold until the Sooners make up their minds.

"I don't think there's anything that has to be, at all, and everything doesn't have to be done today. I mean, there's nothing that says the conference will collapse at nine," Boren said. "We have a full season to play and we'll have to go through.

"Obviously, I think if we could eventually -- and that doesn't mean in one year, maybe it's going to take two or three years -- if we were to eventually get back to 12, I would feel better about it," Boren said.

Boren said the bottom line is "I don't think OU is going to be a wallflower when all is said and done."
Three Oklahoma officials released statements on Thursday afternoon in response to the death of Sooners linebacker Austin Box:

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops:
"We're all shocked and heartbroken. Austin was a great young man, a great young man to coach and a great teammate. He played an integral part in our success the last three years and was looking forward to a big senior year. As heart-wrenching as this is for us, we know it's even more difficult for his family. More than anything, our thoughts and prayers are with them."
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione:
"This is a devastating day for the OU family. Austin was incredibly well-liked by his teammates, coaches and fellow students, and will be greatly missed by all of us. We're providing all the appropriate resources necessary to help everyone in his family, and ours, cope during this extremely difficult time."
University of Oklahoma president David L. Boren:
"The University family is deeply saddened by the tragic death of student-athlete Austin Box. Our hearts go out to his family and friends."

The Oklahoma City medical examiner's office told me earlier this afternoon that the cause of death was unlikely to be known before Friday. We'll have more details as they become available.

Will Stoops be able to say 'no' to Florida?

December, 26, 2009
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[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/Dave Weaver Coaching at Florida could be a special opportunity for Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.
An indicator of how strong a pull Florida still has on Bob Stoops and his family could be seen earlier this week.

The Stoops family packed up for their condominium to spend Christmas at Crescent Beach, Fla., not too far away from the beach house owned by Steve Spurrier, his old boss at Florida.

Stoops still loves the Florida lifestyle and found virtually any excuse to return there -- even during the salad days of his Oklahoma run through the Big 12.

So now with the Florida job open, it will be interesting if Stoops can turn down an offer to return to the place he first built his coaching reputation. Stoops was the respected defensive coordinator under Spurrier for three seasons before he was hired at Oklahoma in December 1998.

He's still known as "Bobby" by Gator fans, but is respected for the job he did in leading the Gators to the national championship in 1996.

Stoops has had other opportunities over the years. Notre Dame made a big push earlier this season after other schools and professional teams came calling. Stoops was in the mix when Florida hired Ron Zook and Urban Meyer earlier this decade.

You don't hear him called "Big Game Bob" as much around the Big 12 as before -- particularly after his 7-5 record this year. It was his worst regular season mark in his 11 years with the Sooners. But Stoops remains one of the seminal figures in the conference's growth after claiming a record six Big 12 titles.

He enjoys a relationship with Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and school president David Boren that might be unrivaled for a college coach anywhere.

And it appears he is already itching for the challenge of bouncing back after this season's disappointment. Stoops has already arranged for the Sooners to have the Seattle-based Pacific Institute help rebuild his team's psyche next season like it did with Alabama this year.

But Florida clearly would be a special opportunity. He is familiar with recruiting throughout the sunshine state and it would give Stoops a chance to claim a program that is only a season removed from back-to-back national championships.

Would that be enough of a pull to get Stoops to leave Oklahoma after he's turned down so many other jobs over the years?

We'll have to see over the next several days.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Isn't there supposed to be a recession that hampers discretionary spending across the country?

Oklahoma football appears to be about as immune to economic forces as any entity after the school announced they have a 99 percent retention rate among season-ticket holders.

The school announced that about 69,000 general-public season tickets were sold for the upcoming season. When added to the 8,000 season tickets sold to Oklahoma students, it provides the basis for the 77,000 season tickets the school has sold for home games.

School officials report that the typical renewal rate is about 96 percent and has never dropped below 94 percent in Bob Stoops' coaching tenure. The current figure is believed to be a school record.

 "The season ticket renewal rate is evidence of the strong support given to the University of Oklahoma by our graduates and the people of Oklahoma," Oklahoma president David Boren said. "The support of Oklahomans for both our athletic and academic programs inspires us to reach for even higher standards of excellence."

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione also is grateful for the strong, broad-based support for his program.

"When we speak so glowingly about their dedication and support of our program, it's not just lip service," Castiglione said. "These numbers illustrate why we praise them the way we do; they're remarkable. We don't have all the figures, but it wouldn't surprise me if that renewal rate led the nation. This rate would be exceptional any year but is especially notable during these challenging economic times."

Stoops called out Sooner fans before the Texas Tech game last year, hoping they would provide more of a homefield advantage for a game that helped decide the South Division championship.

The ploy worked as the Sooners claimed an impressive 65-21 victory over the Red Raiders, helping catapult them to their record third-straight Big 12 championship. Oklahoma's home record under Stoops is 60-2 with a current 24-game home winning streak that is the longest in the nation.  

"They're incredible," Stoops said of the Oklahoma fans. "The love they have for this program is overwhelming, and it means so much to us. From a coaching perspective, it's rewarding to me to hear our players talk about (the fans). They can't wait to tell people what it's like to play in front of that crowd in Norman, and the personal meaning it has to each one of them is something that's hard to describe."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops tried to diffuse any controversy linking him with the Denver Broncos job by taking some unusual steps.

Stoops originally was not slated to meet with the media before deciding late Friday that he would meet with them after the Sooners' practice Saturday at Barry University. He had to know that questions about the vacant NFL job would be asked  -- and they did, barely three minutes into the press conference. 

But by firmly discounting any stories of interest for the job, Stoops has done what he could to extinguish any controversy through the BCS title game on Thursday night.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the Broncos move on the job. If they do not hire somebody by the time the Oklahoma game is over Thurday night against Florida, look for Stoops' name to heat up again.

But at this point in his career, it would be hard to think that Stoops would be interested in coaching in the NFL -- despite his previous association with Denver owner Patrick Bowlen, an Oklahoma graduate as an undergrad and from law school.

The Broncos are one of the model franchises in the NFL. Bowlen isn't considered a meddling owner. He's fired only three coaches in his 24-season tenure as owner and cried when he let Mike Shanahan go last week.

But Stoops might have a better job with the Sooners. He's close with athletic director Joe Castiglione and school president David Boren and is assuredly bigger than the Oklahoma program. It wouldn't be that way in Denver.  

Stoops has maintained that the NFL could interest him one day and I think it would. But I think he would like to see his three children complete high school before taking the challenge.

And additionally, he's pretty well compensated at Oklahoma, which has to be considered one of the top 10 college jobs in the country. He will collect $6 million in 2008, thanks to cashing in a $3 million bonus for finishing 10 years on his job.

I don't think the Sooners were going to be distracted by talk about him and the Broncos.

But Stoops took steps to assure his team it didn't become a problem -- just to make sure.

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