A basketball Cinderella story plays out in the NCAA Tournament. Inevitably, the focus shifts away from celebrating the players who made it happen to guessing the coach’s next job. What a buzz kill for the alumni.
Now it’s happening to the football season, at the beginning instead of the end. Conference realignment talk dominates.
Anxiety about the future replaces excitement about the birth of a new football season. Fears that road trips to college football games will go the way of leather helmets prey on the minds of those who prefer the status quo. It’s a sad thought, but one gaining traction with each move toward super conferences.
With threats of more realignment looming, it’s time to position for tomorrow, not pine for yesterday. I never had fallen into the Armageddon camp regarding the Big 12 disappearing, but I don’t deny that a column penned by Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman spooked me worse than any other development since the ground began to quake early in the summer of 2010.
Bohls, no homer columnist, rightly opined that Oklahoma determines the future of the conference.
In his view, Texas would love to see OU go to the Pac-12 so that Texas could follow in the wake of all the criticism aimed at the Sooners. The Longhorn Network? Bohls said it would be downsized and become one of seven regional networks in the Pac-16, which would include Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
It’s a scary thought for KU, which would be left trying to get into either the Pac-16 (instead of Texas Tech), the Big Ten (not likely) or the Big East (the most likely outcome if the Pac-16’s not interested).
Bohls is a well-sourced reporter, so it’s not easy to guess his whisper. No way it was an Oklahoma decision-maker. If OU actually does want to make the move, it sneaks out under the cover of darkness.
What would be in it for Texas to leak such a scenario? Forcing Oklahoma’s hand to come out and state that the Sooners are not interested in fleeing the Big 12. Period. Such a statement would ease insecurities Texas might have about potentially losing the mutually beneficial partnership with OU.
Knowing OU and Texas are staying put also would make the Big 12 a more attractive option for potential members.
Those who have known Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione for a long time consider him an honorable gentleman and believe him when he says his preference is to stay in the Big 12. Still, it pays to remember that in the end it was not Texas A&M’s athletic director, rather its president, who made the move to the SEC happen.
Fifteen months ago, Sooners football coach Bob Stoops said he was intrigued by the idea of competing and recruiting in the Pac-10. Disregard that. Again, coaches don’t make the decisions to leap. Some believe that, when polled by the AD, not a single coach at A&M was in favor of leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.
So how worried should KU be about its conference vanishing? Tough call, because it depends on Oklahoma and Texas, and decisions about athletics often come from higher offices than can be found in athletic complexes.