All's Calm ... For Now

Two key moments in the conference realignment race occurred Tuesday, with the results likely pushing the Big 12 back together — minus Texas A&M, of course — for the time being.

First, Oklahoma came out, through an unnamed source in the Daily Oklahoman, and revealed some of its demands to push aside the Pac-12 and return home. That announcement came as happy news to those who wanted to see the league stay together: the Sooners had basically given their conditions to help keep the league alive.

But if that represented a shift in the right direction, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's announcement that his league had met and would not be expanding represented a complete U-turn of the Oklahoma bus toward the Big 12. Oklahoma president David Boren came out afterward and said he wasn't surprised by the Pac-12 decision, but after at one point acknowledging that the Sooners' options were between the West Coast-based conference and Oklahoma's current home, the elimination of one of those two options seemingly made the Sooners' choice for them.

That's not to say that it totally undid point one. To build, and start the process of maintaining, a successful relationship, Texas will have to come to the negotiating table. Bullet point No. 1, according to the Oklahoman's source, is the removal of Dan Beebe as Big 12 commissioner. And that shouldn't be an issue. There's enough of a consensus around the league that Beebe flat-out dropped the ball when it came to realignment, while commissioners like Larry Scott were able to act in a more forward-thinking manner. Further, the Longhorns didn't want Beebe in place when it happened, with Texas favoring current Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

The second negotiating point could be more tricky. Boren has made it clear that he doesn't approve of the Longhorn Network in its current form, and wants to find a way to make the network more equitable for everyone. Make no mistake here: Oklahoma may be the team with the juice to make the request, but the Sooners will be backed up here by everyone in the league.

It's akin to a fight with a bigger kid at school. None of the smaller kids — Iowa State, Kansas State, et. al. — want to pick the fight themselves. But when an equally-sized kid — in this case Oklahoma — stands up to the "bully", the smaller kids will rally around their champion.

Texas will come to the table. And it should. The best situation for the Longhorns is in a revitalized Big 12, perhaps with the addition of BYU and two other teams (TCU perhaps?), a point that was driven home by Longhorn football coach Mack Brown on the conference's Monday telecast when he essentially said that staying in the league was the best option for the student athletes.

Sure, there are some other angles to the conference realignment rat race. There are still spots open in other leagues, including a 14th spot open in the SEC that could belong to Missouri. But Missouri appears willing to work through any issues with the league and is operating in good faith.

No, the most important measures taken were those involving the Longhorns' main rival. And those measures could be the keys toward rebooting the Big 12 under more stable leadership and producing a stronger foundation for the league moving forward.


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