John Klein: Hargis says OSU is fine with a 10-team Big 12
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, May 20, 2012
5/20/12 at 6:35 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Hargis says OSU is fine with a 10-team Big 12
EXPANSION OF THE Big 12 Conference should not be ruled out, but it does not appear likely in the near future, said Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis.
Hargis, who chairs the Big 12 expansion committee, said he does not speak for all of the schools, but "we were very happy with where we are with 10 teams."
Hargis has been among a handful of university presidents who have been at the center of Big 12 realignment, expansion or explosion.
In the past year, OSU has been rumored to be on the verge of leaving the Big 12 to join the Pac-12 Conference, close to brokering a huge deal to expand the Big 12 and content with the downsized 10-team league.
Now, after a year in a reconfigured 10-team league, the Cowboys apparently are happy with the current alignment.
"To be honest, I think everybody liked it," said Hargis during a recent interview. "It was a very good number for our league.
"I think it was great that everyone played everyone else in football. I think two games against everyone in basketball was a good thing. I know our coaches liked it. Right now, I'd say we're pretty happy at 10."
Hargis has been a steady voice during realignment, often urging caution and patience during what has been a turbulent two years.
He chaired the committee that elected to keep the conference at 10 teams when Nebraska left for the Big 10 and Colorado went to the Pac-12 two years ago.
Then, when Texas A&M and Missouri announced plans to go to the Southeastern Conference last year, Hargis was again on the point as the league decided to get back to 10 teams by adding TCU and West Virginia.
Now, Hargis hopes the league will take some time to see how the current alignment works for the Big 12 and if the current membership is a good fit.
"We're only going to find out how this works with the current members by taking the time to see how it goes in the next year or two," said Hargis.
Hargis seems to be a steadying influence on a league that has been torn apart by rumors, accusations and backroom deals.
Regardless of the numerous conflicts, OSU seems to be one of the schools that has sat on the sideline and tried to keep the peace.
That may or may not be an accurate description of OSU's involvement, but there is little doubt the Cowboys have emerged in a solid spot.
Most believe OSU has been open to a handful of options, including a move to the Pac-12, as long as it went with Oklahoma and Texas.
OSU seems to have a bond with Texas that the Cowboys are eager to maintain. In addition, despite their Bedlam differences, OSU has a natural bond with Oklahoma.
"I don't think anyone should underestimate the strength of our bond with the University of Oklahoma," said Hargis. "I have known (OU President) David Boren for a very long time, and we are committed to what we believe is best for our state.
"We believe it is best for our state for OSU and Oklahoma to go hand-in-hand in realignment. We have been in constant contact with OU throughout this entire issue."
Hargis, from the start of realignment debates, has pushed to keep the Big 12 together. He has said repeatedly that a united Big 12, with similar schools in this region, is best.
So when Texas A&M and Missouri started to move toward to the SEC, Hargis was among the first voices in the Big 12 to push for TCU.
"That was as natural as anything we could do," said Hargis. "Obviously, TCU was a peer and rival for Baylor. In addition, TCU made sense in all areas. It was a natural in geography and academics and sporting history."
It also didn't hurt that TCU's football program had become a national power in recent years, with two BCS bowls in the last three years.
TCU is also in the midst of a major football stadium renovation that will give the Frogs one of the top facilities in the league.
Adding West Virginia may have been more of a debate.
"We share a lot of the same culture with West Virginia," said Hargis. "I think they fit into the Big 12 very well."
What they didn't fit into was the geography. West Virginia will have to fly halfway across the country for every road game, and probably all of the championship tournaments, in the Big 12.
That's why Hargis is not closing the door on expansion.
"I think there is some sentiment to get them a neighbor in our league," he said.
That would mean an expansion to 11 teams.
"That's not a problem," said Hargis. "The Big Ten did 11 teams for many years without any problems. We would redo the scheduling somewhat and it would work just fine.
"I don't think anyone has a problem with 11 teams. I also don't think anyone has a problem in going back to 12 teams."
The who, in expanding to 11 or 12 teams, seems to be the issue. Who do you get and what do they bring to the league?
"There's nothing wrong with 12, and that allows a championship game in football," Hargis said. "That was a huge financial deal for the league to have that game. It was not insignificant to drop down to 10 and lose that championship game.
"But, we didn't mind it. We won the league this year. The 10-team round-robin schedule worked out just fine for us this year (in football)."
But it is obvious Hargis doesn't believe there is an urgent need to make a sudden move.
"These things move very fast, so you never know," he said. "But, I think the 10-team league worked well last year, and we're fine doing it again next year.
"We'll keep an open mind, but 10 seems a good fit right now."