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Pac-12 stays put, limiting options for OU and OSU

BY BERRY TRAMEL Staff Writer btramel@opubco.com Published: September 21, 2011

Both Boren and OU athletic director Joe Castiglione have stated their desire to make the Big 12 work, as have OSU president Burns Hargis and athletic director Mike Holder.

“No one wants to give up on it,” an OSU source said of the Big 12. The problems have “nothing to do with finances. It has nothing to do with success. For the league to be falling apart, it's crazy.”

But the high-ranking source from a Big 12 school said OU was willing to consider only a reformed Big 12.

The source said conference expansion is not a major issue, that while the Big 12 likely needs to return to 10 or 12 schools, the reforms are a much higher priority for stabilizing the conference.

Tuesday, the Birmingham News reported that Missouri has tentatively agreed to join the Southeastern Conference, “barring new developments.” It's unknown whether the Pac-12 announcement constitutes new developments.

Texas A&M's move to the SEC has been held up by Baylor's threat of litigation. But the reforms OU seeks would not entice the Aggies to remain in the Big 12.

“We are gone,” said an A&M official.

Earlier Tuesday, OSU booster Boone Pickens, who tried to use his influence in the state of Texas to get A&M to make the same demands of UT that OU now is making, said he detected a thaw in the Aggies' stance.

Pickens even contacted Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Pickens said he told Perry to show America that “you fix problems, don't contribute to 'em.”

Perry is a former Texas A&M yell leader. “After the Aggies leave school, they're still looking for a yell leader,” Pickens said. He said he told Perry to be that leader.

But A&M vice president for communications Jason Cook, responding to Pickens, said, “Texas A&M has made our intentions perfectly clear. We do not intend to be a member of the Big 12 past this season.”

A&M officials apparently believe that Beebe was part of the problem.

“The perception is, he answers only to one school (Texas),” the source said. “That does not work.”

The source said Beebe made the decision that appeasing Texas was the Big 12's best hope for stability. “He made the wrong decision,” the source said. Instead, that led to instability, with the departure of Nebraska and now A&M.

The source said Big 12 presidents view Beebe as a commissioner serving only one school, Texas. They lay Nebraska's departure in June 2010 at the feet of Beebe.

“When a commissioner has a tin ear to what's happening in Nebraska and doesn't get himself up there …” the source said.

Ironically, the source said, Texas supported another candidate for commissioner four years ago, Jack Swarbrick, while OU supported Beebe.

“The best commissioner's a consensus builder,” the source said. “We need a consensus-builder commissioner.

“You take the Big Ten, SEC, the Pac-12, their conference office runs circles around our conference in capability, not to mention bias. This commissioner totally cost us Texas A&M.”

The source said that OU could even push for revenue-sharing of individual networks. Texas is reaping more than $12 million a year from its ESPN contract with the Longhorn Network.

“What if we share a small percentage?” the source asked. “That's a real strong show of support. Where's anybody going to go in any other conference that doesn't want all your network? Wouldn't it be a nice show of good faith?

“It would be making sure the conference was evenhanded and stable. It's true there's some things in favor of the Pac-12. Plain stability. We don't want to have to do this every year. What do we do? What do we do?”


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