Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: September 14, 1:18 PM ET
Source: Oklahoma nowhere near move
By Andy Katz
The University of Oklahoma's leadership is interested in a move to the Pac-12 from the Big 12, but such a move is far from a done deal, as the school's overriding concern remains assuring a stable future for its athletic programs, a source said Tuesday.
"There is strong interest within the leadership of Oklahoma about the Pac-12, really strong, but to characterize it as already (having) been done, well, that's going too far," said the source. "It is fair to say there is strong interest, but that doesn't mean the Big 12 is not an option anymore. The concern is long-term stability."
However, Texas officials left the weekend meeting with Oklahoma officials convinced the Sooners plan to apply for Pac-12 membership, a Texas source told ESPN's Joe Schad.
"They want to go. We'd like for them to stay. It was disappointing," a Texas source confirmed to ESPN.
The Sooners don't have a specific timetable for reaching a decision, according to the source, but there remains hope that one can be reached within three weeks. It's not too late for the Sooners to make a move and be in a new conference in time for the 2012 football season, the source said.
The Sooners met with Texas officials Sunday in Norman, as was previously reported. But Oklahoma hasn't officially made up its mind as to whether or not it would leave the conference, the source said.
Among the major factors weighing in Oklahoma's decision are whether the Pac-12 would accept it as a member and whether the conference shows interest in growing to 16 teams.
"What is fueling the interest in the Pac-12 is the idea of stability. A year ago, while people were disappointed in the loss of two members (Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12), there was a structure put in place to make the league viable and everyone felt good about it," the source explained. 0
That resolution, along with the new television contract signed last April with Fox and the knowledge that three years remained on the current contract with ESPN/ABC, made staying in the Big 12 more palatable.
Then Texas A&M opted to leave the Big 12 and apply to the SEC for membership, throwing the Big 12's long-term future back in doubt.
"Texas A&M didn't leave the Big 12 because the competition wasn't strong enough or the financial model wasn't good enough,'' the source said. "All of those are in great shape. They're leaving for other reasons.''
Sources told Schad on Wednesday that
Texas is willing to make financial concessions in order to keep the Big 12 together, but if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State join Texas A&M in leaving the conference, Texas does not consider a Big 12 with seven teams remaining to be viable.
In that case, Texas options could include following the Sooners and Cowboys to the Pac-12, or seeking independent status, sources said. Texas could also explore the viability of the ACC or Big Ten as possible landing spots, sources said.
Among Texas' concerns related to a move to the Pac-12 are how to implement the Longhorn Network in the Pac 12's new TV framework, along with scheduling and travel concerns.
One problem with a Big 12 break up is that many of the schools in the conference have already spent or set in motion projects to spend money based on television revenue projections, a source within the Big 12 said.
The SEC has unanimously accepted Texas A&M, on the condition that the nine remaining Big 12 schools agree not to sue the conference and/or Texas A&M. But at least three schools -- Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas -- say they're not giving up their legal rights, meaning the SEC would have to waive the requirement for the Aggies to join in 2012.
Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw on Monday said the school had no change in its stance, and that it has not been contacted by the SEC to request a change.
Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have all said they will not sue the SEC, while Kansas State and Missouri have not indicated whether or not they will retain their legal rights.
There always is the chance that the Sooners could be the only school to be invited to the Pac-12 but that it would be extremely difficult for Oklahoma to move without its sister school, Oklahoma State, the source said.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has indicated his conference would not be the first to pursue expansion but would monitor the situation nationwide and possibly react to events.
Texas officials have publicly stated their desire to keep the Big 12 intact. The source said Oklahoma will have to make a decision before Texas makes up its mind what it will do with its future.
Texas has signed a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN for its new Longhorn Network, a 24-hour showcase for Texas athletics that has caused several Big 12 members to worry it gives the Longhorns too much power and influence, especially in the areas of exposure and recruiting.
Texas likely would have to accept an equal revenue sharing plan in a possible Pac-16 conference. But there are other options for the Longhorns, like the ACC, which would allow Texas to keep its own revenue without having to share with every other member.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Monday that the 12-member conference has "started to look at schedules for 2012-13" for 13 teams.
"Texas A&M is an outstanding academic institution with an exceptional athletic program, passionate fans and wonderful traditions," Slive said. "When Texas A&M joins our conference, we don't have immediate plans for a 14th member. We aren't thinking in terms of numbers. We think about the strength of the SEC and the attractiveness of Texas A&M as an institution."
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad contributed to this report.