Dallas — The most important commodity in an unsteady Big 12 is options.
Think of options like a huge stack of poker chips. While they provide no guarantee, they beat the alternative.
Texas A&M, waiting and hoping to turn a conditional bid into full-fledged Southeastern Conference membership, has a viable option. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State sure believe they have options other than their current conference.
Then there’s Texas, whose motto throughout realignment has been, “We’ll be in a good place.” The Longhorns’ challenge in the coming days and weeks will be pinpointing what constitutes the best place, now and 10 years in the future.
Multiple Big 12 school sources and college football insiders familiar with Texas’ thinking offered insight into what might come.
The Longhorns left Sunday’s Red River summit with Oklahoma convinced that the Sooners would soon apply to join the Pac-12 followed by Oklahoma State. Whether the Pac-12 would open the door on further expansion is unclear. The implications are clear.
“If they go,” one school source said, “it’s a whole new ballgame.”
Texas’ priorities would include its athletes, as well as academics and economics. Keeping the Longhorn Network whole factors into the equation too.
But how many options does Texas have, ranging from the status quo to an unexpected escape like the Atlantic Coast Conference?
Here’s a breakdown:
The Big 12: Texas’ first and foremost option, even without Texas A&M. As a nine-team league, the Longhorns believed it would still be viable. Without Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Texas “would look seriously at its options,” the school source said. “It’s all over the map.”
One possibility for the downsized Big 12 might be to invite Big East schools Pittsburgh, Louisville and West Virginia. Discussions were only in the formative stage before Big 12 turmoil halted talks. Texas would have a huge say in the Big 12 composition.
Other conferences: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott thought he had landed the Longhorns in June 2010, only to discover differently the next day. He could still get Texas as part of a foursome with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. He’s been clear that the Longhorn Network must be folded in the Pac-12 TV deal as a statewide network.
An even more creative deal might be necessary for Big Ten membership and neither the conference nor Texas is known for compromise.
Strangely, the ACC might emerge, even though conference strength, geography and rivalries make little sense.
Independent: The concept sounds nice. In reality, it would be a nightmare from a standpoint of scheduling. Look at BYU’s home football schedule this season. And finding a home for the men’s and women’s basketball and the Olympic sports could be problematic. Consider this a last resort.