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It's the Big 12 vs. the world: Are things about to get messy?
By now, just about anybody and everybody who is going to speak up and say something about the future of the Big 12 Conference has done so — at least once.
That includes presidents of universities, such as OU's David Boren, who, last Friday, kicked off this wild and wacky weekend with a matter-of-fact statement about the Sooners' potential interest in exploring other options.
That was followed by a flurry of statements from around the league. Mizzou's Gary Pinkel had this to say: “Obviously, we have some issues in our league. When you have Nebraska leave one year. Colorado leaves. Also now Texas A&M. Three really good football teams. … You know, we’ve got some issues. Without question there’s some issues that other leagues don’t have. You don’t hear anything about any other league in the country having these kind of problems. We all know where it starts. Mike Alden’s not the point man here. Dan Beebe is. Dan Beebe’s our commissioner. He’s the guy to ask. I don’t know what they’re going to do. I’m just focusing now on winning the football game. … There’s just no one in the country, no other league in the country, where this stuff goes on. And it’s really a shame because the potential of the league is just so tremendous."
The parade didn't stop there, as ADs from around the league, including KU's own Sheahon Zenger responded to Boren's statements in a variety of ways. Some backed the Sooners boss and said they, too, were tired of living in an unstable world. Others lashed out and said that it was statements like those that created the instability in the first place.
But it didn't stop there either. Even well-known boosters, such as Oklahoma State's T. Boone Pickens chimed in with their thoughts. Clearly, in at least some form or another, this has become an every-man-for-himself situation.
Insiders have told me that there still is enough interest within the Big 12 to fight to keep the conference going. Other sources have said the league is dead and it's only a matter of time at this point. So much remains unclear, yet, somehow, we appear to be trudging closer to a resolution by the minute.
Or at least that's what I thought until I read this article, from Orangebloods.com, in which Chip Brown says that multiple sources told him that Texas lawmakers (remember when they wanted to be involved a few weeks ago?) are now trying to lean on the folks at UT in an effort to pump the brakes on the whole deal.
"We don't want any hasty decision being made that hasn't been well thought out," one Texas lawmaker told Orangebloods.com on Sunday.
Brown went on to report that sources said lawmakers received assurances from the Big 12, including UT president Bill Powers, that the Big 12 would survive without Texas A&M.
Remember them? Isn't it funny how the Aggies' quick and decisive actions have made them mere observers in the messiest round of conference realignment talk yet? I guess there's something to be said for knowing what your future holds.
And that brings us to now. Oklahoma evidently has options and, at the drop of a hat, could make a move that would burry the conference. But are they holding aces or simply trying to bluff their way into better standing in the Big 12? Oklahoma State appears to be tied firmly to OU's boat and seems happy to go along for the ride.
Texas, though in a slightly weaker position than it was a year ago, continues to hold heavy artillery. The Longhorns, should they get tired of fighting the fight, could jump ship for the Pac-12 even faster than OU, though there are more obstacles in the Longhorns' way and, better yet, more reasons for them to want to stay.
Missouri, a major player last go around, has remained pretty loyal this time. With good reason. The Tigers believe they have options, but they're not 100 percent sold on them and don't want to do anything to jeopardize the league they're in until they have to. Smart move. Kansas is taking a similar approach and has similar leverage.
That leaves K-State, Baylor and Iowa State. It's likely that each is panicking big-time and, at this point, may very well be hoping for major conference expansion beyond 16-team conferences. If the leagues grow to 18 or, gasp!, 20, as some have suggested, that dramatically increases K-State, Iowa State and Baylor's odds of remaining in a major conference and keeps them — for now — from having to face the music of what life might be like in the Mountain West.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, a man who's, no doubt, reveling in all this attention, said Sunday that his league had been contacted by several schools: "I will say schools have reached out to us," Scott said. "We are not doing anything proactively."
I guess the definition of proactive could be up for debate. Maybe Scott's doing nothing out front and above board, but he has to be doing a happy dance behind closed doors at the idea of both Texas and Oklahoma possibly coming west.
So that brings us up to date. It seems, right now, as if everybody is waiting for somebody else to make a move and nobody is taking any action themselves. We all know that's not true, but the first one to flinch could be the one who ends this thing.
As for KU's involvement in all of this, the Jayhawks are not without options. Sources have said that KU's talks have been productive and have many in the athletic department believing that Kansas will be fine once all of this is over.
What "fine" means is another matter, but it seemed to sound as if it meant that Kansas would not get left out in the cold. I've been told that the Big 12, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 all remain in play for the Jayhawks.
One source familiar with the goings on from last summer told me a few weeks ago that KU actually was in good shape with the Pac-12 last summer and, had things fallen apart then, would've been more than welcomed to join OU, Texas and the rest of the defectors out west.
If that was the case then, it could be the case now, too. Of course, as we've seen oh so many times before, things change can change fast when you're talking realignment.