Realignment focus shifts to Oklahoma, Texas

By Jeff Latzke And Jim Vertuno

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 19 2011 12:13 p.m. MDT

Players of the Texas Longhorns take the field for their game against the BYU Cougars on September 10, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Erich Schlegel, Getty Images

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Oklahoma cleared the way Monday for its possible departure from the Big 12, with university president David Boren demanding the league move toward an equal revenue-sharing model and create stability or else lose the Sooners to the Pac-12.

Rival Texas also moved closer to the door, raising the prospect that one of the nation's biggest conferences could lose its two richest, most powerful programs.

After being granted the power to choose a new conference home for the Sooners, Boren said he is focused on only two options: a fractured Big 12 that isn't currently suitable or the expanding Pac-12, which already claimed Oklahoma's conference rival, Colorado, last summer.

"The status quo is certainly not stable," Boren said. "That's one of the things we're weighing: Can it be made stable?"

Texas counterpart Bill Powers, granted similar decision-making power by his regents less than an hour later, said he would consider options "including continued participation in the Big 12" but made no mention of the Pac-12, the ACC or any other potential destinations.

The Big 12 has moved to the brink of extinction just one summer after the remaining 10 members pledged to stick together, then hammered out a $1.2 billion television contract. They decided not to create a conference network similar to the ones in place by the Big Ten and Pac-12, not to split revenue equally and not to create any barriers to Texas' creation of the Longhorn Network through a 20-year, $300 million agreement with ESPN that proved to be divisive.

"I would simply say it is not a strong vote of confidence in the conference office that this has happened in such a short period of time," Boren said.

Texas A&M has already said it plans to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference by July if legal issues can be addressed. If Oklahoma leaves, so will Oklahoma State.

"Whatever we do, we're going to do it together and I think that's very good news for the state of Oklahoma," Boren said.

Oklahoma State's regents have called a special meeting on the topic Wednesday.

"Oklahoma State has attractive options and we are working with our colleagues at the University of Oklahoma to make sure the best interests of both institutions and our state are achieved," Hargis added.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said in a statement that the conference is "assuring our members that maintaining the Big 12 is in the best interest for their institutions."

"It is my opinion that the case for the Big 12 Conference continues to be as strong today for all of our current members as it was last year, especially considering the welfare of those to whom we owe the greatest responsibility — the student-athletes," Beebe said.

Boren has previously said he would consider the league a better option if it expanded back to 12 teams, and he said Monday that better revenue sharing must also be in place for the Sooners to stick around.

"Our goal is to be an equal partner in any network, and we think it ought to be the goal of every other member of any conference that we're a part of to be an equal member of that conference," Boren said. "We all ought to value each other — every single member of that conference — and none of us should seek to play a stronger leadership role than anyone else."

Texas' regents met privately by telephone before approving a motion that still would require any move executed by Powers to be submitted to the regents for final approval. After the vote, Powers said only that the process is "ongoing" and left without further comment.

Boren said the schools are "always stronger when Texas and Oklahoma move together" but it's possible the two could part ways.

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