Oklahoma fans and quarterback Baker Mayfield continued to ride a roller coaster and this time in Dallas at the Big 12 Conference meetings the Mayfield case took a turn upwards. Now the former Texas Tech walk-on that left for Oklahoma and has developed into one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football will get his year of eligibility back from the Big 12 and play two more seasons for the Sooners. It all came about with a subtle change in the proposal that was being voted on by the Big 12 faculty reps.
"The faculty had one more meeting this morning at which they met on their own and decided they wanted to take a new look at this whole area and what they ended up with was instead of the previous proposal which virtually would have been an open market place for anybody that had never been on scholarship to transfer without losing a year of eligibility," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby began explaining the vote on a new proposal. "They abandoned the other one and ended up passing 7-3 a proposal that will allow anyone that was a walk-on non-scholarship athlete that had also not had a written offer of aid from the institution that they were currently at."
In other words, if a walk-on athlete at one school wanted to transfer and his current school did not offer him a scholarship then he could go to another conference school and not be subject to the extra year of play being taken as a penalty.
As the commissioner outlined in Wednesday's news conference, the Big 12 policy is in place for Oklahoma quarterback to take advantage of this new rule and he will have now two seasons of eligibility remaining at OU. Texas Tech never offered or promised him a scholarship after he played in eight games as a walk-on true freshman including starting the season opener, so he falls under the criteria of the new rule passed by the Big 12 faculty athletic reps.
Bowlsby was joined in front of the media at the news conference that started over an hour after it was scheduled by Big 12 Chairman of the Board and University of Oklahoma President David Boren.
"I think this was a very good action by the faculty athletic representatives," said Boren with a big smile. "I think also requiring written evidence of an offer of a scholarship of which in the case of Baker Mayfield there was no such offer at the time. I think that strengthens that. I obviously am pleased by their decision because I think it is not only fair in this particular case but fair to all student-athletes."
The media then turned their attention to the more popular subjects of expansion, a conference network, and the future health and stability of the Big 12. They peppered Boren with most of the questions.
"They were mostly information sessions," Bowlsby said in one of his few opportunities to speak as Boren got most of the questions from the media and Bowlsby looked on enjoying the break. "There wasn't much in the way of action items."
As Boren talked about all the options and the increase in technology being a major factor with any decision the conference members might make in the future, he centered first on revenue and preached that the Big 12 cannot be revenue disadvantaged. He said the Big 12 doesn't have to make dollar for dollar what other leagues (SEC and Big 10) make but it has to be close.
"We'll be announcing tomorrow the revenue distributions and what will be paid to the individual members of the conference and when you look at the revenue distributions then the conference is not nearly as disadvantaged as what it would look like on a gross basis," Boren said.
Asked point blank his philosophy on expansion and whether he still felt the Big 12 was disadvantage with just 10 members he came off his previous stance and preached patience and that at a time with the Big 12 so strong that they could be prudent and careful about going forward. He would not name any potential schools that might be candidates to join the Big 12 if expansion is the strategy going forward. He also wouldn't confirm but hinted that there were Power Five conference schools that would be candidates and had shown interest in joining the Big 12.
"We're going to look at all the possible strategies in making our conference stronger. I think our conference is extremely strong and I want to underline that," Boren said emphatically with some skeptics present in the media seating.
"From my point of view, from having been a president throughout the entire history of the conference, I don't think this conference has ever been stronger. I think we have shown ourselves to be athletically strong. I think the relationship with the board members in the conference, the institutions has never been stronger, and I don't think there has ever been a stronger commitment. I think what we are going to have to do is sort through all possible strategies as far as strengthening our conference from a revenue standpoint as well as athletically and academically."
One of the more humorous responses was to a question on whether OU and Texas could be on the same page and be happy with a plan for the Big 12 moving forward. Boren said he gets no greater joy than when Oklahoma beats Texas in football, basketball or baseball. However, he said the two schools more often vote together on issues rather than on separate sides. He said he had great respect for Texas and would never want to do anything that would disadvantage Texas or any other member of the conference.
There wasn't a lot of information gained, a lot of rhetoric, Boren philosophy, and of course, Baker Mayfield gained a year of eligibility. Give Chip Brown of Horns Illustrated credit, nothing else is going to happen at these meetings, but the data and information passed out may provide a blueprint for what could occur before the end of the summer. What could happen?