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September 4, 2011

Sources: Texas being told to slow things down

Legislators and statewide office holders have swung into high-pressure mode to get Texas president Bill Powers and athletic director DeLoss Dodds to slow down any decision that might involve the Longhorns joining the Pac-12, multiple sources said Sunday.

With reports surfacing that Oklahoma is all but ready to commit to the Pac-12, Texas lawmakers are so concerned about the Longhorns possibly following suit that a full-court press is being made to slow things down by elected officials and corporate CEOs with influence, sources said.

"We don't want any hasty decision being made that hasn't been well thought out," one lawmaker told Orangebloods.com on Sunday.

Sources said the reason lawmakers are hot is that they received assurances from the Big 12, including Powers, that the Big 12 would survive without Texas A&M.

And because of those assurances, lawmakers did not take an aggressive stand against Texas A&M withdrawing from the Big 12. But that may be changing.

Sources said members of the Legislature are or will be reaching out to Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin to tell him the Aggies may no longer have the blessing of lawmakers to leave the Big 12, especially if it looks like the Big 12 will collapse.

According to sources close to Texas A&M, there is expected to be more movement involving the Aggies and the Southeastern Conference Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.

Sources say statewide office holders such as lieutenant governor David Dewhurst and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus haven't been active on realignment up to this point but now are getting involved.

A source in the Big 12 says there is also an increasing likelihood of litigation against the Southeastern Conference as well as the Pac-12 if the Big 12 comes apart.

In other words, it's about to get messy.

Orangebloods.com reported Friday night that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe held an emergency conference call Friday afternoon with Big 12 presidents - excluding OU's David Boren, UT's Bill Powers and A&M's Bowen Loftin. The purpose of the call, sources said, was to get the rest of the Big 12 to "work on Texas" and keep the Longhorns in the league.

It's Beebe's belief that Oklahoma wouldn't be accepted into the Pac-12 without Texas, sources said. But sources have told Orangebloods.com Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott would take OU and Oklahoma State with or without Texas.

The question then becomes would OU go to the Pac-12 without Texas?

There is wide belief among those involved in this situation that OU needs the Texas rivalry and the ability to keep playing games in the state of Texas for recruiting purposes so much that it would forego the Pac-12 if Texas decided to stay in the Big 12.

But reports out of Oklahoma the past two days have said OU is totally focused on the Pac-12 and may be ready to commit.

A source close to Texas told Orangebloods.com Friday night that Texas is "leaning" toward the Pac-12 if Oklahoma would make such a move.

That source said Sunday the percentages of Texas joining OU in a move to the Pac-12 "are increasing. But a lot can change in seven or eight days."

Those things that could influence Texas' thought process are the pressure from lawmakers to hold the Big 12 together; ESPN's influence on the situation as the Tier 1 rights holder in the Big 12 and as the owner/operator of the Longhorn Network; and perhaps the appeal of another conference, the Texas source said.

A Texas source and an industry source say the Longhorn Network can be reworked to accommodate the Pac-12 and is not an obstacle for Texas to join that league. But sources say Texas has not indicated to ESPN that it plans to change conferences.

Legislative sources say Texas is telling them if Oklahoma leaves for the Pac-12, the Big 12 is dead and the Longhorns' best option would be to go with OU and join the Pac-12. Those legislative forces, however, are telling Texas to tell Oklahoma to slow down.

The pressure is mounting everywhere in this latest round of college realignment.

Stay tuned.



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