Pac-12 no longer seeking expansion, OU left to re-evaluate conference plans
In the late hours of Tuesday night, the Pac-12 Conference all but ensured the survival of the Big 12 by announcing it will remain a 12-team conference and will not pursue expansion.
“After careful review, we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement issued after 10 p.m. “While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve.”
The announcement threw a major kink into OU’s exploration of conference options outside the Big 12. Though rumors constantly swirl of other offers on the table from the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, the Sooners’ most attractive possibility had been the Pac-12, as OU President David Boren indicated Tuesday after being handed the power to decide the university’s future conference affiliation by the OU Board of Regents.
Now OU, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech are likely left without a chance at what they considered greener pastures out west, and there’s renewed hope for the Big 12 Conference to survive another realignment scare.
However, the SEC also announced it would not be expanding a little more than a week before it voted again to allow Texas A&M into the fold, so this could all be posturing and power plays between the Pac-12 and the schools that seem eager to join.
If not, the next step for OU likely will be to pursue resolution with the nine other schools in the Big 12.
The last few weeks have shaken the already unstable conference, and if the Sooners wish to restore order, they’ll need to spearhead a campaign to bring back strength to the Big 12.
The biggest issue to address would be the Longhorn Network. In the potential deal with the Pac-12, it appeared the conference would work with Texas to come to a consensus regarding the school’s network with ESPN.
But the LHN has already proven a divisive issue in the Big 12. Many cited its existence as the reason Texas A&M wished to leave for the SEC, so Texas will have to budge to stay in the Big 12.
Boren will likely continue to examine the opportunities on the table for OU, but with the centerpiece gone, fixing the Big 12 might just be the only remaining option left worth pursuing.
BOREN'S STATEMENT REGARDING THE PAC-12
"We were not surprised by the Pac 12's decision to not expand at this time," Boren said in a statement issued about an hour after the Pac-12's announcement. "Even though we had decided not to apply for membership this year, we have developed a positive relationship with the leadership of the conference, and we have kept them informed of the progress we've been making to gain agreement from the Big 12 for changes that will make the conference more stable in the future. Conference stability has been our first goal, and we look forward to achieving that goal through continued membership in the Big 12 Conference."