As a college football consumer, I can think of few things cooler than the Oklahoma Sooners in the Southeastern Conference.
Getting LSU on Sooner soil. A turnpike series with the Razorbacks. OU-Alabama, of which we got a glorious sip in 2002-03.
And that's just the tip of the Mason-Dixon Line. OU-Georgia. OU-Florida. OU-Tennessee.
The SEC has its duds — Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, at times Kentucky and Ole Miss — so sure, sometimes the ice cream is melted at the bottom of the sundae. But boy, that top half is rich.
Alas, David Boren and his regents, Joe Castiglione and his staff, Bob Stoops and his coaches, are not college football consumers. They are college football decision-makers, and their charge is not necessarily to look out for those of us seeking excitement on autumn Saturdays. Their charge is to look out for good old O-K-U.
Which is why they're not looking at the SEC. The reasons are twofold: culture and academics. OU leaders want no part of the SEC's cutthroat football recruiting culture, which has led to recent scandal. And OU leaders are enticed by the academic reputation of the Pac-12, which the SEC can't match.
So as the Big 12 teeters for the second straight summer, know that the Sooners are looking west, not southeast, should they decide that Big 12 isn't worth saving.
The SEC? Really a last-resort option for the Sooners. At least that's how the leadership sees it, according to sources. OU would petition the Big Ten, hat in hand, before joining the SEC.
Such a revelation brands the Sooners as wusses. Which they're not. OU is playing at Florida State in five weeks. Next year, the Sooners play TCU and Notre Dame. Soon enough comes Ohio State and LSU and Tennessee and, well, you know the drill. That's not the nonconference schedule of a wuss, when you've also got Texas, OSU, Texas A&M, Missouri and Texas Tech waiting in league play.
Sure, the SEC minefield would give any coach pause, and it no doubt does Stoops. But from extensive talks with all kinds of OU leaders, he might be the easiest sell on the SEC. Stoops is a little feisty, you know. Wouldn't take much to talk him into a little leg-wrestling with the likes of Auburn.
But no football program is bigger than the university it represents, and conference affiliation is a major part of a school's profile. A change in conference affiliation is a massive move, which has all kinds of ramifications and can reap all kinds of dividends. Or exact all kinds of costs.
And that's why OU brass prefers the Pac-12. Academic status. It appeals to the Sooners' ivory tower crowd to be in a league with Stanford, Cal-Berkeley and UCLA. No, Vanderbilt isn't Nashville Junior College, but the SEC lacks the academic clout of the Pac-12.
I know, I know. I hate academic snobbery just as much as you do. Be it from the Ivy Leaguers or goobers like Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who last year took potshots at OSU and Texas Tech. I swear, Boone Pickens was so mad, I thought he was going to buy the Mizzou campus and burn it to the ground.
But academic status or snobbery or whatever you want to call it is with us always, and a conference relationship with the likes of the California intelligentsia appeals to those in power out here on the prairie. As it should. Just as Nebraskans were proud of their newfound status upon joining the Big Ten.
And as for the SEC recruiting culture, that's not just a Sooner thing. That's a widespread belief, even before the recent scandals that have plagued the conference that has won the last five national championships. Join the SEC, join a band of thieves.
I know, OU has a checkered past with the NCAA. But under Boren, the university has worked hard to redeem its image. Recovering alcoholics shouldn't spend all night in a bar, and recovering NCAA rule-breakers shouldn't join a league where rules not broken are severely bent.
I don't know if the SEC's reputation is deserved, although the Scam Newton case smells on both sides of the Mississippi. In this case, perception is as good as reality. Most football schools outside the SEC believe that league plays fast and loose on the field by playing fast and loose with NCAA rules.
So if OU has any other options, it will say thanks but no thanks to the SEC. And just might say yes to the Pac-12, should the Big 12 fall.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.