The University of Oklahoma is considering remaining in the Big 12, but only in a “reformed” version of the conference that includes restrictions on Texas' Longhorn Network and removal of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, a high-ranking source at a Big 12 school said Tuesday.
OU president David Boren said Monday the Sooners would decide soon between applying for Pac-12 membership or staying in the Big 12, and the source outlined the parameters for remaining in the Big 12.
“It's going to take major, major reforms” for OU, and thus Oklahoma State, to consider remaining in the Big 12, the source said. “We'd have to have an interim commissioner.”
The source said the league presidents do not believe Beebe responded with adequate leadership to Nebraska's and Texas A&M's frustration, even though Beebe was rewarded last November with a contract extension through 2015.
The Big 12 has lost three members in the last 15 months, and “the relationships were so bad (with) the commissioner,” the source said.
The other reform the Sooners demand is Texas and ESPN retreating on some of their plans for the Longhorn Network. The UT/ESPN partnership angered Big 12 members on two counts: 1) ESPN reached an agreement with Fox Sports to move a conference football game to the Longhorn Network; and 2) The Longhorn Network announced it would show high school highlights even after the conference voted to keep televised high school games off school-branded networks.
The source said it is not inevitable that OU and OSU will go to the Pac-12, even though the OU regents support the move.
Both Boren and 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 at a Big 12 school said OU is 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 likely that the Big 12 would not continue without Missouri.
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.