The University of Oklahoma administration has been noticeably quiet on the latest round of conference musical chairs. President David Boren finally talked Friday, and he spoke volumes.
Boren confirmed the whispers floating recently that OU has grown weary of trying to hold the Big 12 together. More importantly, he and athletic director Joe Castiglione are actively exploring other conference options.
In the process, he likely initiated the era of superconferences.
Simply suggesting that Texas A&M could bolt the Big 12 for the SEC this summer touched off a movement among the Aggie faithful that ultimately proved unstoppable. As soon as the members of the A&M administration expressed their dissatisfaction with the Big 12 (read: Texas), it was like tossing a match on their tinderbox of a fan base. Judging the reaction to the idea of de-coupling from the Longhorns, it was clear nothing short of changing conferences would satisfy Aggie fans.
Since the Aggies told the Big 12 to kiss off, the rumored candidates to take their place – and potentially expand the conference – have ranged from impossible (Notre Dame) to uninspiring (BYU) to unacceptable (Houston). Now that OU’s higher-ups are dangling the possibility of the Pac-12 in front of Sooner Nation (and Bob Stoops), do they really think sticking with the Big 12 will sit right?
Also, consider what it means that Boren is the one out in front this time, not Castiglione. Boren apparently has some idea just how important this move is to both average fans and OU’s boosters and regents as well.
(And, seriously, what school worth its salt would want to join such a dysfunctional league? Check out Dan Beebe’s plan for keeping his conference together. Because holding Texas A&M hostage last year worked so well…)
Now, let’s see how the dominoes probably fall.
With OU and, in all likelihood, Oklahoma State apparently on their way out the door, the Big 12 will die a quick death. Missouri will leave as soon as possible. The demise of the Big 12, precipitated by OU, would then give the Longhorns the political cover needed to join their longtime rivals out west.
At that point, the only real question left to answer is how dedicated UT is to making the Longhorn Network a success. So long as the LHN exists in its current form, the chances a conference would be willing to work with TexPN seem remote.
Logistically, making a go of independence as soon as 2012 may be manageable. Given the current climate, however, those prospects pale in comparison to aligning with a conference with a cutting-edge commissioner and lucrative TV contract. Texas Tech can even come along, too.
Voilå – your first 16-team superconference.