Commentary

Sooners have lost bargaining power

Updated: September 21, 2011, 2:31 PM ET
By Jake Trotter | SoonerNation

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Pac-12 Conference's decision Tuesday night to remain at 12 teams and not take on Oklahoma, along with Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech, sent shockwaves through the Sooner State.

Where does this leave the Sooners? What does all this mean for OU? SoonerNation examines those questions, and others:

What happened in the last 48 hours, and why did the Pac-12 decide not to expand?

Monday, the OU board of regents authorized president David Boren to "take action" regarding conference realignment. The regents supported a move to the Pac-12, and all signs pointed to the Sooners applying for membership by the end of the following week. After the meeting, Boren talked as if a move to the Pac-12 was a foregone conclusion, taking shots at Baylor, Texas and the Big 12 Conference office.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had given OU assurances that the Sooners would be accepted into the league, with or without Texas. Turns out that wasn't the case. The plan all along was to add the foursome of OU, OSU, Texas Tech and Texas, and when Scott failed to get guarantees that Texas would back an equal revenue sharing plan, he pulled the plug on the deal.

Scott chose not to endorse expansion, and the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors -- wary of adding OU without Texas -- never took a vote. Instead, they reaffirmed during a conference call Tuesday night the decision to stay at 12 members.

When did OU learn the Pac-12 would not be expanding?

According to one source, OU left Monday's regents meeting with the belief it would have inclusion in the Pac-12 should it apply. Sometime between Monday night and Tuesday evening, Scott informed Boren that this was no longer the case.

Considering the timing of the leak to The Oklahoman detailing OU's list of demands for staying in the Big 12, Boren most likely was informed Tuesday morning.

What's the Big 12's future?

OU and Texas will now be forced to do what they should've done weeks ago: Sit down at the table, work out their differences and come up with a comprise that will stabilize the Big 12.

All along, Texas wanted to stay in the Big 12 to keep its Longhorn Network. OU just wanted to be in a league that was stable. The other seven schools always preferred to remain in the Big 12 -- even Missouri, which reportedly has had discussions with the SEC. So there's no reason that the Big 12 can't survive, even with Texas A&M still determined to join the SEC.

But it will take concessions from Texas. OU wants Dan Beebe out as commissioner. Fair or not, the perception is that Beebe holds the interests of Texas above others. OU and the others want Texas to share some of its revenue from its network, and relent from televising any high school content.

If Texas compromises, the Big 12 could actually survive long-term. If not, the league probably won't. Keep in mind, Texas is not known for its ability to compromise.

Has OU lost its bargaining power?

Some of it, for sure. If Texas refuses to acquiesce to all of OU's demands, what recourse do the Sooners have at this point? Before Tuesday, they could have threatened to bolt to the Pac-12 and leave Texas in a tight spot. Now, they have little with which to threaten. The only other conference that's an option for the Sooners is the SEC, which would love to add OU and figures to be following the developments in the Big 12 in the next few days closely. But OU sources continue to indicate that the SEC is a last resort, and OU would probably be inclined to remain in the Big 12 without concessions from Texas, rather than bail for the SEC. The Sooners can exert pressure on Texas, but their position of power has diminished in the last two days.

Who will be the 10th school the Big 12 adds? Brigham Young has been among the Big 12's top choices for expansion, along with Pittsburgh and Arkansas. The Panthers and Razorbacks are off the table, but BYU remains firmly in play.

Despite the Big 12's infighting, BYU has several reasons for joining the conference. BYU's football independence has attractive qualities, but downsides, too. Despite games against Texas, TCU and Ole Miss, the Cougars' overall schedule is pedestrian. BYU also has little chance to play in a decent bowl and no chance for a BCS bowl. Meanwhile, BYU's archrival, Utah, plays a Pac-12 schedule and has better bowl options. None of this sits well in Provo, and it could ultimately persuade BYU to jump to the Big 12.

If the Big 12 expands to 12, who will be the other two teams?

Ironically, the instability of the Big 12 prompted the ACC to take preemptive action. The ACC feared the SEC would look to its conference for a 14th member after taking Texas A&M. By adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the ACC strengthened its conference. But by doing that, the Big East was weakened. Now, schools like Louisville and West Virginia are up for grabs. Both would expand the Big 12 footprint, both have solid football programs, and both could be looking for ways out of the Big East.

A third option the Big 12 could look at is TCU, which has support in the league. Oklahoma State booster Boone Pickens has been publicly stumping for the Horned Frogs. The Longhorns, though, don't want another Texas school in the league.

Will more dominoes fall related to conference realignment?

With the Pac-12's announcement, the focus of realignment will shift from the west to the east. The SEC eventually will add a 14th member, and could make a move on Missouri, which would throw the Big 12 back into chaos. Grabbing anyone from the ACC like Florida State or Virginia Tech will be tough considering the ACC is proposing a $20 million exit fee. For those reasons, West Virginia might be the most feasible option.

The ACC, which expanded to 14 by adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse, could stand pat, or could add another two schools. Connecticut and Rutgers are there for the taking, but Notre Dame has expressed a desire to apply to the ACC over the Big Ten, should it decide to forego its football independence. The ACC can afford to wait on Notre Dame.

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation.

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