OU, Texas authorized to act on Pac-12

Updated: September 20, 2011, 2:39 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The University of Oklahoma's board of regents and its counterpart at Texas granted their school presidents Monday the authority to take action regarding conference realignment.

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.

After the regents meeting had adjourned, Oklahoma president David Boren admitted he's had "very warm and constructive discussions" with Pac-12 officials, but wouldn't say when the Sooners might apply for conference membership.

But Boren made it clear that OU had not notified the Big 12 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.

A source close to the OU athletic department, however, said Tuesday that the Sooners remain "focused on the Pac-12, period."

One of the topics addressed in Boren's discussions with the Pac-12 has been the possible use of a "pod" system in scheduling, which alleviated one of OU's major concerns with joining the conference, according to the source.

The concept of a so-called pod system, if a Pac-16 were created, could portion the conference into four four-team pods, which would help continue cherished rivalries.

The Big 12 has moved to the brink of extinction again, just one summer after Colorado and Nebraska left and the remaining 10 members pledged to stick together, then hammered out a $1.2 billion television contract. They decided not to create a conference network similar to the ones in place by the Big Ten and Pac-12, not to split revenue equally and not to create any barriers to Texas' creation of the Longhorn Network through a 20-year, $300 million agreement with ESPN that since has proved to be divisive.

Brown As much as we talk about money, as much as we talk about college football ... we better go back and make sure that we're taking care of the players and that the players and the high school coaches are always considered in the equation.

-- Texas coach Mack Brown

On Sunday, those Texas-OU 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.

"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 said, adding that he speaks daily with Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis.

Oklahoma State's regents have called a special meeting for Wednesday on the topic.

"There has been a great deal of movement around the country and press reports around the country concerning conference realignment,'' school president William Powers told the Texas board. "We believe that it would be very helpful if the campus and I, and along the terms that were discussed earlier with consultation the chancellor and the chairman of the board and others, be able to explore options and have the authority to make decision with respect to this including continued participation in the Big 12."

"And we will do that first and foremost with the interest of our student athletes and the long-term interest of the University of Texas in mind.''

Texas coach Mack Brown shared the apparent skepticism of an overwhelming majority of fans throughout Big 12 country when he said the best interests of players should be duly considered in any decisions on conference alignment.

That sentiment was echoed by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.

"The actions taken today by the governing boards of the universities of Oklahoma and Texas was anticipated," Beebe said in a statement. "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."

Texas' regents met privately by telephone before approving a motion that still would require any move executed by Powers to be submitted to the regents for final approval. After the vote, Powers said only that the process is "ongoing" and left without further comment.

Boren said the schools are "always stronger when Texas and Oklahoma move together," but it's possible the two could part ways.

"We have different perspectives," Boren said. "I would put it this way: We're listening with respect to each other at this point in time, but it's too early to tell whether we'll make a common decision or not."

According to the results of a poll released Monday commissioned by Baylor and conducted by KRC Research, college football fans prefer traditional rivalries and regional conferences over super-conferences.

According to the poll of 1,500 college graduates within Big 12 states, conducted this past weekend, 76 percent of fans said they would be disappointed by the creation of super-conferences.

Brown turned impassioned in the Big 12's weekly football conference call with the league's coaches and media. "As much as we talk about money," Brown said, "as much as we talk about college football, as much as we talk about realignment, as much as we talk about great games, playoffs and all that stuff, we better go back and make sure that we're taking care of the players and that the players and the high school coaches are always considered in the equation.

"Because if not, we're not going to have a game, and they're the ones that are playing. And, for parents to travel all the way across the country is going to put a bigger burden on them."

The breadth of consideration should extend even wider, according to Baylor vice president for marketing and communications John M. Barry.

"We believe strongly that taxpayers, elected officials, university alumni and others ought to have the opportunity to contribute to the on-going dialogue regarding the so-called super conferences," Barry said in a statement released with the poll's results.

Brown cautioned the conference maneuvering and resulting logistics could spoil the allure of the sport for players.

"It's going to be more difficult," Brown said. "And right now with the regional leagues the parents can go see their kids play and that's really important because these kids are working their guts out year-round for us to have a show on Saturday that everyone enjoys.

"College football's as great as it's ever been, but we better keep considering what's in the best interest of the players or at some point they're going to get so frustrated it won't be fun for them."

Information from SoonerNation's Jake Trotter, HornsNation's Carter Strickland, ESPN's Joe Schad, ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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