Coming 'Soon?' Oklahoma regents to meet Monday on conference future
The Pac-12 Conference could know as early as Monday whether it's going to expand for the second time in a year.
That's when the University of Oklahoma's board of regents is expected to discuss whether it will leave the Big 12 Conference, on the same day that the University of Texas board will meet to discuss "potential legal issues related to athletic conference membership."
The agenda for the Oklahoma meeting says the board will consider switching leagues the Sooners have said they're exploring all their options, but they're widely seen foremost as a Pac-12 target as well as any legal implications of such a move.
If the board approves a move, the Sooners could quickly start a chain reaction that again alters the landscape of college sports.
Many expect in-state rival Oklahoma State to join them in any move to the Pac-12, which could ultimately destroy the Big 12.
It remains unknown, however, whether Oklahoma and Oklahoma State alone (without Texas) would be enough to get the Pac-12 to expand again. When the league tried to lure six Big 12 schools to join last year, according to a report in The New York Times, its presidents viewed the Oklahoma schools as a "necessary evil" in order to land the Longhorns.
Still, the meeting could be the key to unlock a lot of movement.
Last month, officials at Texas A&M held a similar meeting and authorized president R. Bowen Loftin to act on switching conferences. Two weeks later, he announced the Aggies were leaving the Big 12, a move designed to make them available to join the SEC.
Of course, Baylor and several other Big 12 schools that fear being left behind have managed to forestall that move with the threat of legal action, and the Bears won't waive their potential legal claims until they know whether Oklahoma plans to stay in the league.
Commissioner Larry Scott has said repeatedly that the Pac-12 does not want to expand, but would consider it "the world changes" and rival leagues begin to do so. Scott has hedged his public comments just enough to avoid appearing as if he's courting any schools Â "it's our hope that the world stays the way it is and we get to enjoy what we've created," he said or backing himself into any corners.
"I don't think anyone in this day and age, with how dynamic the situation is, would stick their neck out and say nothing's going to change," he said before Utah played the USC Trojans last weekend.
Oklahoma and Texas were among six teams from the Big 12 that Scott tried to lure to the Pac-12 last year, before settling on Utah and Colorado. Officials from those schools reportedly met last week to discuss their future, and various media reports have said the Sooners are committed to leaving the Big 12.
Where that leaves the Longhorns remains uncertain.
They have made clear they want to remain in the Big 12, which would allow them to keep their 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network, but also reportedly have been in contact with the ACC about possible membership.
The Longhorns were considered strong candidates to join the Pac-12, but the Pac-12 evidently will not permit their new network to exist in its current form and potentially alienate other league members the way it has in the Big 12.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 has been scrambling to concoct options to stay alive, including adding replacement schools.
The league has reached out to several potential new members, with Brigham Young reportedly third on the list behind Notre Dame and Arkansas. The league could also lose members such as Missouri or Texas Tech, if those schools wind up in a package with Oklahoma to join the Pac-12.
The chancellor at Missouri, who's also the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, said he hopes the Big 12 can survive.
"I am hopeful, let me say," chancellor Brady Deaton told USA Today.
"I'm not Pollyannaish about it," he said. "I'm not naive. But I'm looking at the factors that are important to the future of the athletics and the academics of institutions in the Big 12. And as we all assess them, my hopes are that more and more will conclude, as I have, that a continuation of a strong Big 12 is in all of our best interests right now."
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