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Jenni Carlson: The Oklahoma Plan is so crazy it just might work

by Jenni Carlson Published: September 20, 2011
So, Oklahoma wants to reform the Big 12, oust the commissioner, lay ground rules for the Longhorn Network and do major surgery instead of putting more bandages on problems that continually threaten to kill the conference.


That's so crazy it just might work.

A day after OU president David Boren sounded like he had two feet out the door, he issued a late-night statement saying that the Sooners decided not to apply for Pac-12 membership. But our man Berry Tramel talked to several high-ranking sources who said the Sooners aren't satisfied with the current state of the Big 12 either.

They said conference commissioner Dan Beebe needs go. Ditto for the Longhorn Network's plans to broadcast a Big 12 game to the network and high school football highlights on the network.

Even if the announcements by Boren and the Pac-12 are for real - who knows what's posturing and what's truth telling in this whole mess? - the Big 12 needs to think long and hard about serious reform.

Boren talked in his we're-not-going-to-the-Pac-12 statement of Big 12 stability.

"Conference stability has been our first goal," he said, "and we look forward to achieving that goal through continued membership in the Big 12 Conference."

Translation: Now, I can focus on Beebe and Bevo TV.

Listen, I'm not ready to say OU's ideas will save the Big 12 for another year much less another decade or two, but these are the first tangible suggestions that anyone has proposed. It's the first plan that goes beyond extending an invitation to BYU and hoping for the best.

All that's going to do is make this a 10-team conference again. It's not going to bring stability to the Big 12.

The Oklahoma Plan might.

The truth is, this is a broken conference right now. That starts with the people who make decisions. The relationships between the schools are fractured. The camaraderie among the leaders is splintered. Even though our local schools are an exception — Monday’s comments from Boren and OSU president Burns Hargis were a reminder of just how much they’re attached at the hip — leaders who work together are a rarity in the Big 12.

Texas A&M’s administrators have the Aggies on the way to the SEC. Baylor’s have threatened a lawsuit. Texas’ have insisted they can do nothing as ESPN pushes the envelope with the Longhorn Network.

It’s been a big ol’ mess, and no one from the Big 12 offices seems to have been able to do anything about it. Why not call Texas and Texas A&M officials to headquarters, put them in a room and tell them to figure out how they can coexist? Why not bring together the schools like Baylor that feel threatened they’ll be left out in the cold with the schools like OU that are calling the shots and have them talk out their issues?

I’m not saying that Beebe has done nothing during these tumultuous times, but in 15 months, he has lost a quarter of his conference schools.

That’s a problem.

Consensus must be built among Big 12 schools, and that starts with good leadership at the top.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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