Oklahoma President David Boren threw a grenade into the Big 12 Boardroom on Friday, announcing that the Sooners were looking at all options in terms of conference affiliation, and could decide something within 72 hours to two weeks, while other reports said OU’s "sole focus" was with the Pac-12.
Rumors swirled as fast at the wildfires racing through Central Texas, most putting Oklahoma State with OU on the move west as well with Texas Tech – and perhaps Texas. Missouri, which announced its own free digital channel, quickly began to look around and is among the schools rumored to join A&M in the move to the SEC to give it 14 teams.
Boren, a former U.S. Senator knew exactly what he was starting by publicly stating that the Sooners were looking around. Suddenly the pace of the game of BCS Conference Musical Chairs, dramatically quickened.
Boone Pickens, de facto head of Oklahoma State, chimed in with the thought that the Big 12 was not long for this world, that the Cowboys would head west with OU to the Pac 12, and he put the blame on Texas and the Longhorn Network.
Oklahoma meanwhile is making it clear that they are moving now because, a) they are worried about the stability of the Big 12 and b) they are tired of being seen as following Texas’ lead in all of the realignment talk.
"That is so overblown," said a high-level OU source. "Last year, Texas did all the talking. We have a feeling if you're strong, you don't have to tell everybody you're strong."
Our resident ambulance chaser, W.W. McClyde, has an excellent series on the effect of the ESPN/Longhorn Network on the changing landscape of college football, and he has one more segment coming detailing how the LHN is not a deal-breaker on Texas moving to the Pac 12.
I will only mention one factor here that gives both sides on the negotiating sides a reason to make a deal. Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott is not interested in going from 12 to 14 to 16 teams. He is ready make the Pac 12 the first 16-member Super Conference and would love to have Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
Scott made the perfect lawyerly statement about the LHN when he said, "I think you could certainly imply that ... the Longhorn Network would be certainly a huge impediment," he said.
Not impossible, just difficult.
Right now media contract projections are that Big 12 teams could realize $20 million a year from the network agreements with ESPN and Fox – but that was with Texas A&M as a member.
The Pac 12 is projecting to pay each of its 12 members $30 million a year when the new ESPN/Fox TV pacts kick in – along with the 6 "dual regional" networks.
The $1.7 Billion that the Big 12 is to see for 1st and 2nd tier rights could easily be assimilated into a Pac 16. As for the regional networks, the league is setting them up for two teams each that are geographical companions. The four teams from the Big 12 would easily fit into this package.
While the LHN is a sticking point, it is not a deal-beaker. As we said, the Pac 12 is already partners with the media outlets that control Texas and the other members of the Big 12. The Pac 12 is saying that the league will control these regional networks and will have control of all third tier rights (such as any live events and archival events). Why would Texas give up any of the power the LHN (and ESPN) give it?
Inventory & The Central Time Zone
Some Longhorn fans have lamented the potential move to the Pac 12 because of the time zone change and that away games would be much later. Media partners look at the other end of that equation. With Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, the Pac 12-16 has a solid footprint in the midwest, i.e. Central Time Zone.
Super Conferences are all about inventory, and Texas – the #1 revenue producer in Collegiate Athletics – would be the lynchpin in expanding that inventory into another time zone.
In most negotiations both sides have strong cards to play, and it is a matter of finding common ground. The Pac 12 offers Texas stability, a strong revenue stream, and the chance to still make more money off the LHN. Texas offers the Pac 12 a marquee program in the Central Time Zone and will be a leader in adding to that media revenue stream.
I have always thought that the LHN was not going to kill a move to the Pac 12 and I’m sure W.W. McClyde will flesh out the details of the possibilities in the third part of his series.
No matter what, Mack Brown said it best today in the Big 12 Coaches Tele Conference.
We were told last year we could join any league in the country if it changed. We've been told we can go independent, so there's going to be something really good for Texas at the end of this, so I'm really in one of those positions where our school will be OK regardless of what happens, and that's not the case for everybody, so I'm very fortunate. … We'll end up where we want to end up, and that's OK."