September 19, 2011
As expected, the respective boards of regents for the universities of Oklahoma and Texas convened this afternoon to formalize the informal dealings that have both schools on the brink of defecting from the Big 12 to the Pac-12. And as expected, both boards voted to authorize their respective presidents, David Boren and Bill Powers, to do their jobs — specifically, to pursue whatever course is necessary and proper, etc., to execute the impending defections.
Now, we wait for the execution.
Unlike Powers, who reportedly made himself scarce as quickly as he could following the vote in Austin, Boren was explicit about Oklahoma's intentions: Even while taking pains to note that remaining in the Big 12 is still officially on the table, he cited concerns about "the instability of the Big 12" with Texas A&M poised to join the SEC, and told reporters informal talks with the Pac-12 have been "warm" and "constructive." "We believe this is a necessary and important step," Boren said, and unless that step is intended as some kind of elaborate double-bluff to keep Texas A&M in the league, the next one will be to join the Pac-12. As a rule, no one with the savvy to become a college president or regent is going to publicly announce their intentions to "explore our options" unless the options have already explored, the major wrinkles have been ironed and the approving nods are just waiting to be translated into signatures.
Boren also went out of his way to issue a statement of solidarity with Oklahoma State, whose regents are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to take the Pac-12 plunge themselves. Texas Tech should come next, tagging along after Texas, all of them expected to be officially extricated from the Big 12 by the end of the month. If Texas Tech is really good, maybe the Longhorns will even let it push the button that detonates the conference headquarters.
The only person in either state who doesn't seem resigned to the Big 12's fate? Texas head coach Mack Brown, who used his time with reporters on a morning conference call to make a heartfelt plea to keep the band together for the good of the cherished "student-athletes":
"For parents to travel all the way across the country is going to put a bigger burden on them. It's going to be more difficult," Brown said. "Right now, with the regional leagues the parents can go see their kids play. And that's really important. Because these kids are working their guts out year round for us to have a show on Saturday for the people to enjoy.
College football's as great as it's ever been. But we better keep considering what's in the best interest of the players or at some point they're going to get so frustrated it's not fun for them."
Brown makes a good point, and a doomed one: As if any important decision with tens of millions of dollars at stake has ever stopped to consider the well-being of the labor. Speaking shortly after Brown on the same call, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel offered no such illusions:
Despite comments from Texas coach Mack Brown about wanting keep the Big 12 Conference together, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel isn't chasing after elusive hope.
"That's naïve to even think that," Pinkel said during the Big 12's Monday morning media teleconference.
"All the institutions probably are hard at work. . . trying to come up with some clarity on this," Pinkel said. "But honestly, I have absolutely no control over it myself. … I don't know what's going to happen. From my standpoint I really don't want to comment any further."
There's a coach who knows his place: Standing on the sideline his president and athletic director tell him to stand on. It just so happens, in this case, that the odds of that sideline being in a Big 12 stadium after next year are currently very, very low.