Oklahoma, Texas clear path to leave Big 12

By Jim Vertuno

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 19 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

"We have different perspectives," Boren said. "I would put it this way: We're listening with respect to each other at this point in time, but it's too early to tell whether we'll make a common decision or not."

Texas officials have said they want the Big 12 to hold together but would keep "all options" open for the university, including reported discussions with the Pac-12 and ACC. But Texas has little appetite for a Big 12 without rival Oklahoma or Texas A&M.

"Last time everybody talked about where everybody was going, we ended up staying in the same place," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "So my thoughts have always been the same: I think the University of Texas wants to stay in the Big 12."

Texas Tech president Guy Bailey said it's a sensitive time and "any comments regarding Tech's plans are premature at this time." Tech's regents are not scheduled to meet until next month.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has said his league is not necessarily looking to expand, and some university leaders have expressed concerns about expanding again after adding Utah and Colorado this year.

There is no guarantee the Pac-12 presidents will welcome new members, especially if Texas is not one of them.

But ultimately, the Big 12's future likely comes down to whether the schools raking in the most money want to share enough of it with those earning the least, or if they'd rather leave their current rivals behind and chase a bigger paycheck.

Any move by Texas could be complicated by the Longhorn Network as school officials explore whether other leagues would let them keep their recently launched venture or force them to make changes to fit established media rights guidelines. For example, Pac-12 bylaws created six regional networks that are shared by conference schools.

School and conference officials from the Big East and Big 12 have been discussing ways to merge what's left of the two leagues if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, a person involved in the discussions told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the talks.

The Big East is left with only six football members after Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced plans to join the ACC this weekend, and the Big 12 could be in a similar situation if Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech all join Texas A&M in departing.

Texas lawmakers will be keeping their eyes on any move but are unlikely to interfere, said state Rep. Dan Branch, the Republican chairman of House Higher Education Committee.

Branch said he has told Texas regents and administrators he would like the state's major universities to be rooted in the conference in the middle of the country, not one that is "Los Angeles or Atlantic-centric."

"I hope they will also take into consideration the greater good for Texans," Branch said. "(But) I understand in this new world, we've got to allow those regents and presidents to make those decisions."

The NCAA has no authority over conference affiliations, though NCAA President Mark Emmert said Monday that he has been contacting university presidents and conference commissioners. He said he is urging them to consider the well-being of the student-athletes.

Emmert also said talk of having four or five superconferences is nothing more than conjecture.

College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo, AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins in Dallas, Michael Marot in Indianapolis and Kristie Rieken in Houston; and Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas, contributed to this report.

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