Relative to Wednesday’s mass chaos, Thursday was a calm day in the world of conference realignment.
That’s not to say things weren’t happening.
As the Big 12 Conference strives to stay alive for the second year in a row, and the rest of the country awaits the outcome with nationwide conference restructuring potentially hanging in the balance, university officials throughout the league used Thursday as an opportunity to sit back and re-evaluate their position.
That’s thanks in large part to Baylor’s efforts on Wednesday to stall, if not derail, Texas A&M’s move to the SEC, which seemed to be a slam dunk as recently as Tuesday night when the SEC voted unanimously to welcome the Aggies.
Not content simply to let the conference dissolve, Baylor, which one source said acted alone in starting the push to slow the Aggies’ departure, stood up for itself and threatened legal action, causing the Aggies to tap the brakes. By the end of the day Wednesday, several other schools, including Kansas University, had jumped in line behind Baylor.
“What that showed is that the have-nots have some power,” one university official said Thursday. “And what that did is gave everyone a chance to breathe.”
What began earlier this week as a power play involving the league’s giants — Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma — quickly shifted into a scenario in which the so-called little guys were calling the shots. At least momentarily.
Sources indicated Thursday that Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri all had become instrumental in backing Baylor and fighting to keep the Big 12 intact.
One Big 12 source said what went down Wednesday humbled some of the Big 12’s power brokers and sent a clear message to the entire league that jumping ship would not be easy or tolerated. However, it may still happen.
Thursday evening, reports surfaced that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, both rumored to be hot-to-trot to join the Pac-12, had waived their right to sue the SEC or A&M regarding the Aggies’ efforts to leave the Big 12. The SEC has said all along that it would not take the Aggies if the threat of legal action loomed.
Whether Thursday’s move was made as a precursor to the Oklahoma schools reaching out for harmony in the Big 12 or to pave the way to the Pac-12 is up for debate. One indicator may have come during Oklahoma State’s matchup with Arizona Thursday night on ESPN, when notable OSU alum T. Boone Pickens told the broadcast team that he hoped the Big 12 survived but added that, if it did, equal revenue sharing had to be part of the equation.
So now all eyes shift to Oklahoma again, which is one week into its self-proclaimed exploration of other opportunities.
Friday, OU president David Boren said the Sooners would decide whether to stay or go in the next three weeks. Reports Wednesday indicated OU was a university divided on the issue.
As the days go by, the pressure for Oklahoma to remain with its Big 12 brothers seems to be mounting. And this time it’s coming from more than just Texas.