NORMAN — Oklahoma's Bob Stoops knew it was coming. Just Tuesday night, during his radio call-in show, he called Texas A&M's move to leave the Big 12 “inevitable.”
By Wednesday morning, it was reality, with the school's president letting the league know it would begin the application process to join another conference by next summer.
But where does that leave OU, a storied program that has won seven national championships — and is intent on going for No. 8 this fall?
“Of course, I have to pay attention to it,” Stoops said. “I have great faith in our leadership at the university to handle those matters.”
Both OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and president David Boren were asked for comment throughout the day Wednesday, directly and through OU officials, but there was no statement from the school's higher-ups.
Oklahoma remained as quiet Wednesday as it has throughout all of the uncertainty and departures within the Big 12. As much as it has not been publicly heard or seen, OU officials have privately assured fans and told reporters that they are diligently working behind the scenes regarding the program's future.
“I feel our administration knows we have a strong hand to play,” Stoops said Tuesday. “At a school with the tradition and history we've got, we know that it's a strong hand.”
Stoops said he expects OU and/or the Big 12 to act “swiftly” in response to A&M's impending departure. He said Wednesday that OU officials have “kept me in the loop … they value my opinion.”
But Stoops said his involvement should be tempered, “because I trust their knowledge of how it broadly affects the university. They know better what's best for our program.”
OU hosts Texas A&M on Nov. 5. If this is the Aggies' last year in the Big 12, Stoops might have made his last trip to A&M's Kyle Field. Will he miss its vaunted environment?
“We're in a lot of good ones,” Stoops said of the Aggie atmosphere. “For me to sit here and brag on theirs wouldn't be fair.”
But Stoops did acknowledge “fun times” with some of OU's memorable games at A&M. Torrance Marshall's interception return for a touchdown in 2000. Jason White's clutch throws in 2004. Stoops' 4th-and-1 gamble from his own 29-yard line in 2006.
Stoops was specifically asked Tuesday at his news conference if Notre Dame would make for a good replacement, to help sustain the Big 12.
“Sure I'd like to see Notre Dame in. Who wouldn't?” Stoops said. “We've got to play them next year, anyway, so might as well be in conference. Maybe that's the invitation they're waiting on.”
The Sooners and Irish have a home-and-home scheduled for 2012 and 2013.
Notre Dame has indicated, according to reports, that it has no interest in joining a conference and abandoning its football independence. Other schools that have at least been discussed as replacements are Arkansas, BYU, Houston and SMU.
There's a feeling within OU's athletic walls that it would be tough for the Big 12 to survive with the way things have unfolded — and unraveled — in the past year-plus. Would that then open the door for the Sooners to jump to another conference such as the Pac-12 or the SEC? If so, would that move have to include some combo of Oklahoma State or Texas?
A lot of off-the-field questions remain to be answered, even with the 2011 season two days away from its start.
“Do I like the 10 teams? Sure. Do I like the 12 better? Probably. But we'll see,” Stoops said. “Ten would have been fine. But we'll see. Twelve, obviously in today's game and landscape, with the championship game, is probably better.”
How about nine teams — or at least a different 10th?