David Boren authorized to take action in conference realignment
BY Staff Reports
Monday, September 19, 2011
5/30/12 at 8:21 AM
University of Oklahoma President David Boren was authorized to take whatever action deemed necessary in the ongoing conference shuffle, it was announced at a Monday regents meeting at the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Center.
"With how fluid things are with the conference and with how fast-paced things are moving, we believe it is in the best interest for the university to give President Boren the authority to seek out and analyze realignment options," OU Regents Chairman John M. Bell said.
"Given the instability of the Big 12, we believe this is a necessary and important step."
Said Boren, "Our first obligation is to the University of Oklahoma -- not just in this recent case but in the long-term interest of the university."
Whatever direction OU takes - remaining in the Big 12 Conference, a jump to the Pacific-12 Conference or something else entirely - it’s a near certainty the Sooners would remain paired in a conference with Oklahoma State. Presidents and athletic directors at both schools, as well as many fans, major donors and even state legislators, have been vocal about OU and OSU staying together.
Boren did not specify any conferences OU would be moving to if it left the Big 12, however, he said he has had informal discussions with the Pac-12 that have been "warm" and "constructive."
"The Big 12 has not been taken off the table," Boren said. "Beyond the Big 12, our principal focus is the Pac-12."
During the 90-minute executive session, Bell said OU Regents were briefed extensively by the school's legal counsel on the possible ramifications of what a conference realignment would mean for OU.
Bell said the recent legal issue regarding Texas A&M's exit from the Big 12 is an example of what one school has experienced.
The SEC said it would not allow A&M to join its league until all the Big 12 schools relinquished their right to sue over the Aggies' exit. However, Baylor has said it won't give up those rights.
Also on Monday, University of Texas regents met and gave its president, Williams Powers, the authority to remain in the Big 12 but can't change conferences without approval. That announcement also came after the UT regents went into executive session.
Regarding Texas, Boren said, "We're not going to cede our sovereignty to anyone else.
OSU regents are scheduled to meet 2 p.m. Wednesday in Stillwater.
Boren did say OU is working closely with OSU in its decision.
He said he is in constant conversation with OSU President Burns Hargis.
"Whatever we do, we're going to do it together," Boren said.
In a statement released by the Big 12, commissioner Dan Beebe said, "The actions taken today by the governing boards of the universities of Oklahoma and Texas was anticipated. It is my opinion
that the case for the Big 12 Conference continues to be as strong today for all of our current members as it was last year, especially considering the welfare of those to whom we owe the greatest responsibility-the student-athletes. We continue to apply all effort and resources toward assuring our members that maintaining the Big 12 is in the best interest for their institutions."
The SEC already has welcomed Texas A&M - which announced two weeks ago it was formally leaving the Big 12. The SEC now is seeking a 14th member and possibly more.
With A&M's possible departure, the Big 12 future is unclear.
The Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday afternoon that Texas administrators were in discussions over the weekend with the Pac-12 (the Longhorns played at UCLA on Saturday) to tweak the new Longhorn Network so it could fit within the Pac-12’s existing television structure. An unnamed source told the newspaper it seemed like the deal would get done and UT would join OU, OSU and Texas Tech in the Pac-12, likely starting in the 2012-13 academic calendar.
Also Sunday, the Kansas City Star reported that Pac-12 presidents were on a conference call to discuss Texas and that it seemed likely the Longhorns would leave for the Pac-12 with OU, OSU and Tech.
Such a move could be a lethal blow for the Big 12 as schools such as Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri scramble to find a home.
But given the landscape, there may be enough Big East schools left over - TCU, Louisville and Cincinnati, for instance - to merge with the remaining Big 12 schools and form a new league entirely.
University of Oklahoma Regents Chairman Dr. John Bell gets up to head to executive session as OU President David Boren takes a sip of water at the OU regents meeting at the Schusterman Center. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World