"I guess it's perhaps the overstatement of the day that we're pleased the matter of conference membership has now been put to rest," said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "There's been a great deal of activity over the last several days. We've reviewed several opportunities for our league membership. Some involved remaining with several of our existing conference members, and others did not. There were very, I guess, numerous factors to weigh in this decision."
The conference now, after the shakeup takes place, will feature the same six teams in the south, including OU, OSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor, and the four remaining in the north, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri, most likely in just one division.
From an OU stand point, several things justified staying with the conference.
"It's probably important to recognize two of those factors, one being strength and maintaining relationships with institutions that are in a close geographical footprint to ours here in the state of Oklahoma," Castiglione said. "Also, the importance of maintaining and strengthening our recruiting base, being visible in our alumni and fan base and constantly thinking about what serves our competitive advantage here at the University of Oklahoma [was huge]."
And then there's the monetary issue.
"As many of you will probably ask, there's also a fiscal or a fiduciary responsibility that we have in making these decisions for a program which is truly now one of a handful left in college athletics that is totally self-sustaining, which means we don't depend on any state appropriation, any institutional financial support or student fees for intercollegiate athletics to maintain our operating budget," Castiglione said.
Coaches' and others' input within the program was put to use as well.
"And speaking of the university, I would want to point out that our president David Boren, our board of regents, many other members of our current staff, my staff, our coaches, have all been very, very helpful in providing input, feedback, council through this time," Castiglione said. "And it's been noted and considered as we weighed all those factors."
OU head women's basketball coach Sherri Coale was an avid opponent of the Pac-10 expansion's inclusion of the Sooners, but Castiglione was reluctant to comment on that.
"Well in all fairness to any one of our coaches, I'm not going to discuss what they said or didn't say," Castiglione said.
But he did add this.
"Their opinions or perspectives are critical in the fact of deliberations," Castiglione said. "And they're all considered, but however, there are many, many other things, and I know the coaches from what I've heard the last 12 hours, or whatever, 24 hours—the clock just keeps winding—but they are very, very pleased, very happy to be together with the colleges in this league."
The bottom line is this, though: The Big 12 remains in tact, and OU will be a part of it.
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