Is the talk of Oklahoma being unhappy and wanting to leave the Big 12 just talk or are the Sooners really looking around? Either way what does it mean for Oklahoma State as that is what is really important. Has Oklahoma State become a true power five school that doesn't need an associate to join up with?
Earlier this week the "mouth of the south" on ESPN's family of networks Paul Finebaum told a Birmingham, Alabama radio station that the University of Oklahoma and it's president, David Boren, badly wanted out of the Big 12 and were ready to leave for the best offer from other power conferences. Even a year ago the thought of Bedlam rival Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 and Oklahoma State behind would cause some panic, Sure, there are defiant members of the Cowboy family, I used to be one, that would say, "fine, go ahead and leave Sooners." Some take that stand out of anger over how OU loves to refer to the Cowboys as "little brother." Still, others would love to see the split because they tire of losing to Oklahoma in football. I hate to lose the competition and the rivalry because an opponent that challenges you is an asset and not a hinderance. Also, there was that question in the back of Oklahoma State leaders and followers or whether their school would be attractive without the attachment of OU. I believe there would be and that OSU no longer needs OKlahoma to be a viable attraction to other power five conferences with the exception of the Big Ten.
If you believe Finebaum, then that independent attraction is needed, but if like me, you don't believe Finebaum has great sources on this issue then there are other considerations to ponder.
Now, before the Sooners can go there is the little item of the Grant in Rights that the Big 12 members signed back in the days of needed and virtually forced solidarity following the departures of Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas A&M from the conference and the additions of TCU and West Virginia. The document serves as a declaration that the Big 12 Conference (schools as a group) own the television rights of each member institution through the school year 2024-25, and that any school departing must send all profits from Tier 1 and Tier 2 television rights to the Big 12 to be split among its' members. A pretty huge hang-up for Boren and OU unless they can find a legal loophole and most attorneys claim there is not one.
In the Sunday Oklahoman their sports columnist and proclaimed conscience of the Sooners and sometimes, the Big 12, Berry Tramel claims that OU doesn't want to leave the Big 12 they just want it to be more relevant, more prestigious, and befitting of their involvement especially of their beloved football program.
Oklahoma State fans should be in agreement especially since their growing football program is currently considered to be better in the upcoming season by none other than the "mothership" of all sports media outlets in ESPN. Oklahoma State should be demanding a strong conference and needed fuel to fire the Big 12 and it's top team to the College Football Playoff. It could very well be the Cowboys as the top candidate from the conference this season to be in the "final four of football."
The problems are Texas is considered a mediocre brand these days. Baylor football has taken a major backward step following the criminal and moral issues involving their football program and campus. Texas Tech is struggling and TCU looks to be heading that direction. Iowa State and Kansas may be on the way up after residing in the basement or close to it. West Virginia and Kansas State make up the level immediately below the Cowboys and Sooners. It will take some work to make the Big 12 more attractive.
Now, if Oklahoma were to decide to skip out and accept an offer to be in the SEC or the Pac-12, the two most likely options, could Oklahoma State exist and even wrangle an invite to join another power five conference if the Big 12 imploded?
My answer is yes. Oklahoma State still has 51 NCAA championships, fourth most in Division I history. In the accurate standings Penn State is next at 49. Oklahoma State now even has a national football championship that they can wave. That is important because all the wrestling, golf, cross country, and baseball championships are nice but in the land of power five it is football that gets your foot in the door and an invitation to join the club. Oklahoma State currently has a football program that is easily a top 20 program in the nation and is very close to being considered a top 10 program. Yes, athletic director Mike Holder got Boone Pickens to invest heavily and get a stadium and football program headquarters built. Whether Pickens likes him, likes to criticize him, or both or neither; head coach Mike Gundy has combined his experience and knowledge of the school and the hard work of himself, his staff, and his players in building a consistent 10-win a season program that has gone now to a school record 11 bowl games in a row. That is the ninth longest bowl streak in college football and only Oklahoma (18) is ahead of them in the Big 12.
Now, try this on for size and yes, Oklahoma State is in the club of the winningest football programs recently in college football. Here are the top schools (by number of wins in college football since the start of this decade (2011-recent):
1. Alabama 76 wins
2. Clemson 71
3. Florida State 68
4. Ohio State 67
5. Stanford 64
6. Boise State 63
7. Oklahoma 61
8. Wisconsin 60
9. Oklahoma State 57
10. Louisville 56
Excellent company to keep. Oklahoma State also has a solid athletic program overall that includes plenty of recent NCAA appearances in men's and women's basketball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf, baseball, soccer, men's and women's cross country and track and field. Softball is climbing and was back in the NCAA last year and should be this year. The facilities for all sports except baseball are above average with some elite. The only exception is baseball and that is very close to happening.
Academically, and yes that counts, Oklahoma State is in good standing with its' APR ratings. Now, OSU is not going to be invited to join the Big Ten as being a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities is a prerequisite, but Oklahoma State is well within academic range of the other conferences. For those that wonder here is the way OSU stacks up with both the Niche list of top American universities and the U.S. News and World Report list of top national universities. I am using the Big 12 as my barometer.
201. Iowa State
248. Oklahoma State
306. Kansas State
361. Texas Tech
410. West Virginia
U.S. News and World Report
56. Texas (tie with others schools)
71. Baylor (tie)
82. TCU (tie)
111. Iowa State (tie)
118. Kansas (tie)
135. Kansas State (tie)
152. Oklahoma State (tie)
176. Texas Tech (tie)
183. West Virginia (tie)
It's not just sterling, but the Spears School of Business and the Engineering School are both in the top 100 of their categories.
It all adds up. If Finebaum is right and Oklahoma is looking to leave or if the eventual break-up of the Big 12 is not destined to happen until 2024-25 and the end of the Grant of Rights, as long as Oklahoma State continues to foster and improve the success they have had in football and all other areas stay status quo then the Cowboys don't need the Sooners or anybody else. They will find a good home in the power five for the future.