The Omaha World-Herald reported this week that the Big Ten has done “homework” on OU, Kansas and Vanderbilt as potential members. You can read that report here.
Homework can mean many a thing. It can mean in clandestine meetings at an Atlanta hotel. It can mean checking the list of American Association of Universities members. It can mean all things in between.
So who knows? It seems clear that the Big Ten was interested in some prestigious ACC members — North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virgina, something along those lines — which led to the ACC’s announcement of the schools signing away their grant of rights to the league, a stability enhancement that has helped the Big 12 and in theory would do the same for the ACC.
I would guess that the Big Ten’s “homework” is nothing beyond general running of numbers. What kind of market value would the Sooners, Jayhawks and Commodores bring, compared with the economic clout? The Big Ten is into academic snobbery, which is why it would consider a Vandy and might not consider an Oklahoma.
What would be the pros and cons of the Sooners considering a Big Ten move, if OU somehow could get out of its grant-of-rights deal?
Politically, it would be difficult to go anywhere without OSU, though it’s less difficult if the Cowboys are in a good position anyway. Which might or might not be the case.
Recruiting would take a major hit. Texas A&M got a big recruiting boost going to the SEC. But that’s the SEC, and the Aggies are based in Texas. OU’s Texas pipeline would be crippled. No games in Texas would be tough, and yes, that means OU-Texas would be endangered; if the Longhorns cut the cord with the Aggies, you don’t think the ‘Horns would cut the cord with the Sooners? Heck, UT might call A&M and say, let’s resume the series and play in Dallas during the State Fair. Selling kids on the Big Ten is much more difficult than selling kids on the SEC. No way would Bob Stoops support such a move. When Stoops was fired up about the Pac-16 in the early days of conference upheaval, the premise was that at least four Big 12 South schools were going West. That apparently wouldn’t be the case with the Big Ten.
But from a campus standpoint, OU academicians would be excited about the Big Ten. The Big Ten has academic prowess, and OU president David Boren long has attempted to — and succeeded in — upgrade the university’s academic reputation. OU’s academic side was fired up about the Pac-16. It would be even more excited about the Big Ten.
Rivalries would take a hit, although renewal of the Nebraska series would be great. However, Texas is a better tradition than Nebraska was. That would not be a good tradeoff. The Bedlam Series, I assume, would survive. Occasional games against Michigan and Ohio State — no way would they be annual — would be great. So that would be a good tonic for the loss of annual rivalries like Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Traveling fans would be harmed by the move. It’s easy to get to seven of OU’s nine Big 12 rivals. Only Iowa State (which is doable) and West Virginia (which is not) are not easy drives. That would change in the Big Ten. Nebraska is about eight hours from Norman. Iowa City is about nine hours. Those would be the closest Big Ten schools, unless Kansas came, too.
Minor sports? Depends on which one. Baseball would be hurt badly. Wrestling would be thrilled.
Financially, which is what matters most, I guess, would probably be a boon to OU. Which is why the Sooners would consider it. But I hope they don’t. In fact, if I was OU and intent on leaving the Big 12, I would make the Big Ten my third priority. Out West, with other Big 12 schools, would be No. 1. SEC would be next. Then the Big Ten.