Berry Tramel: OU wants no part of the SEC
Culture and academics would lead the Sooners toward the Pac-12 if the Big 12 falls apart.
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.
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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.