OU, OSU appear to be leaning west
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
9/16/11 at 3:29 PM
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NORMAN - It may now be just a matter of days before Oklahoma and Oklahoma State become members of the Pacific 12 Conference.
The future of the Big 12 Conference, however, seems much less clear.
Multiple reports, citing unnamed sources, placed OU administrators in a weekend meeting with University of Texas administrators, who flew to Norman on Sunday and reportedly appealed to the OU contingent to keep the Big 12 together.
Orangebloods.com reported that the seven-member OU board of regents was unanimous in wanting to go to the Pac-12.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that Texas sources made it clear UT wants to preserve the Big 12, but OU sources made it just as clear it plans to pursue Pac-12 membership along with Oklahoma State.
Records show a private aircraft from Austin spent just under three hours in Norman on Sunday afternoon.
University of Oklahoma regents have a regularly scheduled meeting at Rogers State University in Claremore next Monday. The meeting, however, was changed from a Monday-Tuesday event to Monday only "because they've got so much going on," an OU regent told the Tulsa World on Monday afternoon. A source said it's "very likely" conference realignment would be discussed at the regents' meeting.
The regent, who did not wish to be identified, said they "get briefed a lot. We understand what's taking place," but said details could not be divulged because negotiations were sensitive.
"If all of us start talking, then pretty soon you lose all power of negotiations and whatever somebody at OU, or wherever, is trying to achieve," the regent said. "You lose all negotiating power."
It has been widely speculated that the fate of the Big 12 rested with OU once Texas A&M was formally welcomed by the Southeastern Conference.
On Monday afternoon, after a week of legal threats from Baylor and other Big 12 schools, SEC commissioner Mike Slive all but brought the Aggies into the fold.
"In the 78-year history of the SEC, the conference had accepted the membership applications of only two institutions - Arkansas and South Carolina," Slive said. "Texas A&M is now the third. We remain optimistic that Texas A&M will be a member of the SEC and have started to look at schedules for 2012-13 involving 13 teams."
The Pac-12 hasn't issued invitations to OU and OSU - or anyone else for that matter - but that could be a formality as the conference covers its legal bases by waiting for any potential members to declare their intention to leave the Big 12 first.
Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12, spent a day in Oklahoma City last summer meeting with OU and OSU presidents and athletic directors before the schools decided to give the dwindling Big 12 another chance.
Oklahoma State University spokesman Gary Shutt told the Tulsa World that OSU had no comment to add to President Burns Hargis' statement last week that the Cowboys looked forward to an ongoing conference relationship with the Sooners.
"With each step, everybody moves a little closer to a resolution on this thing," Shutt said. "With the deal now with Texas A&M, it just moves us one step closer. Everybody gets to where they want to be, and we can all stop playing games."
Meanwhile, a Big 12 source said the conference was trying "to be as proactive as we can" in keeping the league together.
The source said commissioner Dan Beebe "has a phone to the side of his head from the moment he wakes up to when he goes to bed at night, getting issues resolved and keeping lines of communication open."
The Big 12 source said it had become "very unsettling, all the uncertainty, both professionally and personally. Especially going through it again after having last summer resolved it, or the appearance of a resolution. Yeah, it's causing a lot of concern."
The source said the more than two dozen employees within the conference office have precedent to maintain hope that their splintered league will eventually come together, whether with nine, 10 or 12 members, or with an entirely new legion of schools.
"We reflect back to last year and all the doomsday scenarios, everyone parting ways," the source said, "and in the end, cooler heads prevailed."
John E. Hoover 918-581-8384