Texas and Oklahoma cleared the way Monday for their departure from the Big 12 Conference, with regents at both powerhouse schools giving their presidents the authority to find a new home.
University of Oklahoma president David Boren said he is focused on either keeping the Sooners in the Big 12 or moving to the Pac-12. While he said it’s not inevitable that Oklahoma will leave, he said the league must share television revenue equally among its members for the Sooners to stay.
“Our goal is to be an equal partner in any network, and we think it ought to be the goal of every other member of any conference that we’re a part of to be an equal member of that conference,” he said.
Texas regents gave president Bill Powers the authority to negotiate a move to a new conference, with any decision requiring their final approval.
Oklahoma State’s regents have called a special meeting on the topic Wednesday, and Texas A&M has already said it plans to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference by July if legal issues can be addressed.
If Oklahoma leaves, so will Oklahoma State, Boren said. He has been talking with Oklahoma State officials and expects the in-state rivals to stick together.
The Big 12 did not return a call seeking comment.
It is the second straight year the landscape of college athletics has been shaken by alignment changes.
The Big 12 lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 over the summer and, with A&M’s foot out the door, the league formed after the 1995 season from members of the Big Eight plus four from the old Southwest Conference finds itself in a precarious position.
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are likely to follow their richer, more powerful neighbors wherever they go. That would leave five remaining Big 12 teams in the same quandary as the five Big East football members remaining after Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced plans to join the ACC.
School and conference officials from the Big East and Big 12 reportedly have been discussing ways to merge what’s left of the two leagues if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12.
The Big 12 does not have equal revenue sharing like other power conferences, and members bristled after Texas inked a 20-year, $300 million agreement with ESPN to create a Longhorn Network.
The trend toward 16-team superconferences picked up steam Sunday when the Atlantic Coast Conference announced it was officially adding Pitt and Syracuse – just years after taking Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College from the Big East.
The NCAA has no authority over conference affiliations, though NCAA President Mark Emmert said Monday that he has been contacting university presidents and conference commissioners. He said he is urging them to consider the well-being of the student-athletes.
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