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September 12, 2011

Sources say OU board ready to apply to Pac-12

Oklahoma will apply for membership to the Pac-12 before the end of the month, and Oklahoma State is expected to follow suit, a source close to OU's administration told Orangebloods.com.

Even though Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Friday the Pac-12 was not interested in expansion at this time, OU's board of regents is fed up with the instability in the Big 12, the source said.

A contingent of University of Texas officials met with Oklahoma officials on Sunday afternoon, according to multiple sources, and the meeting didn't get very far.

According to sources, Texas wanted to talk about ways to solidify the Big 12, and OU officials didn't even want to discuss the Big 12. In the eyes of the OU board of regents, the Big 12 is dead, sources said.

"The conversation never even got to the Longhorn Network," one source close to the situation said. "It wasn't about UT's network or OU's network, it was about the OU board's concern for the instability in the Big 12 and how realignment can't happen every year."

The OU board of regents will meet within two weeks to formalize plans to withdraw from the Big 12 and apply for membership to the Pac-12, the source close to OU's administration said.

Messages left with OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder were not immediately returned.

If OU follows through with what appears to be a unanimous sentiment on the seven-member Oklahoma board of regents to leave the Big 12, realignment in college athletics could be heating back up. OU's application would be matched by an application from Oklahoma State, the source said, even though OSU president Burns Hargis and mega-booster Boone Pickens both voiced their support for the Big 12 last Thursday.

There is differing sentiment about if the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors are ready to expand again after bringing in Colorado and Utah last year and landing $3 billion TV contracts from Fox and ESPN. Colorado president Bruce Benson told reporters last week CU would be opposed to any expansion that might bring about east and west divisions in the Pac-12.

Currently, there are north and south divisions in the Pac-12. If OU and OSU were to join, Larry Scott would have to get creative.

Scott's orginal plan last summer was to bring in Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and put them in an eastern division with Arizona and Arizona State. The old Pac-8 schools (USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State) were to be in the west division.

Colorado made the move in June 2010, but when Texas A&M was not on board to go west, the Big 12 came back together with the help of its television partners (ABC/ESPN and Fox).

If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were accepted into the Pac-12, there would undoubtedly be a hope by Larry Scott that Texas would join the league. But Texas sources have indicated UT is determined to hang onto the Longhorn Network, which would not be permissible in the Pac-12 in its current form.

Texas sources continue to indicate to Orangebloods.com that if the Big 12 falls apart, the Longhorns would consider "all options."

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe held an emergency conference call 10 days ago with league presidents excluding Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M and asked the other league presidents to "work on Texas" because Beebe didn't think the Pac-12 would take Oklahoma without Texas.

Now, it appears OU is willing to take its chances with the Pac-12 with or without Texas.

There seemed to be a temporary pause in any possible shifting of the college athletics' landscape when Baylor led a charge to tie up Texas A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference in legal red tape. BU refused to waive its right to sue the SEC over A&M's departure from the Big 12, and the SEC said it would not admit Texas A&M until it had been cleared of any potential lawsuits.

Baylor, Kansas and Iowa State have indicated they will not waive their right to sue the SEC.

It's unclear if an application by OU to the Pac-12 would draw the same threats of litigation against the Pac-12 from those Big 12 schools.

Stay tuned.



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