Pac-12 Talking Expansion
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The concept of the Pac-16 is again being discussed by Pac-12 officials as well as officials at Oklahoma and Texas, a source close to the situation told ESPN’s Joe Schad.
The source said the pair of Big 12 schools know the opportunity to join the Pac-12 is their decision. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech could also join the proposed Pac-16, according to the source.
We’re wedded to that model. Anyone who is going to be a member of our conference is going to be a part of our network model.
” — Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott on conference’s revenue-sharing model and the Longhorn Network
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Saturday the conference isn’t seeking expansion partners, but acknowledged that “schools have reached out to us.”
“We are not doing anything proactively,” Scott told reporters before Saturday’s Oregon-LSU game. “We’ve not initiated anything. But schools have called us. And we are certainly going to listen. We always are going to evaluate.”
Scott emphasized the conference wasn’t being “predatory.” While Scott was aggressive last year trying to expand Pac-10 membership to 16 teams, with Texas as the cornerstone, he said his motivation then was securing a lucrative TV contract. He’s done that with a 12-team league by signing a $3 billion, 12-year deal with ESPN and Fox, the richest deal in college sports.
“We haven’t felt one iota of need since we expanded,” Scott said.
In other words, Scott feels good about where the Pac-12 is positioned at present and if anything were to change. “I wouldn’t rule out any possibility,” he said.
Citing that TV deal and its revenue-sharing model, Scott did say that Texas could not keep the Longhorn Network if it were to join the Pac-12.
“We’re wedded to that model,” Scott said, adding, “anyone who is going to be a member of our conference is going to be a part of our network model.”
However, a source told ESPN’s Schad that Pac-12 officials believe the parties could work through Texas’ network issues.
Even with Scott in Arlington, Texas, for Saturday night’s LSU-Oregon game, Texas officials told HornsNation.com’s Carter Strickland there is no meeting scheduled between Scott and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds.
Scott has no plans to meet with Oklahoma officials, a school source told The Oklahoman on Saturday.
Oklahoma was offered a chance to join the Pac-10 or SEC last year but decided to stick with the Big 12, even as Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Colorado for the Pac-10. The Big 12 took a further hit when Texas A&M announced Wednesday it will leave the Big 12 by July 2012 if it can find another home, preferably in the SEC. The Aggies’ departure would drop the league that once had 12 teams to nine members.
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Dodds told The Associated Press the Longhorns love the Big 12 and want to stay in league. He said Texas will be watching to see what happens to the league over the next few days if Oklahoma decides to leave.
With all the moving pieces, Oklahoma State billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens said Saturday he doesn’t think the Big 12 will exist in five years and believes the Cowboys will end up in what’s now the Pac-12 Conference.
While Pickens said Oklahoma State does not need to make a hasty decision, school president Burns Hargis said in a statement that the school is “moving ahead. Oklahoma State University’s athletic program has never been stronger from top to bottom, putting us in a position to explore and pursue options, including the possible expansion of our current conference. We are in close communications with our colleagues at the University of Oklahoma and expect a decision soon that will be in the best interest of our institutions and the state of Oklahoma.”
On Friday, Oklahoma president David Boren confirmed multiple conferences have shown interest in the Sooners and he expects to decide whether to leave the Big 12 or not within the next three weeks.
Boren said Oklahoma is seeking stability in its conference relationship with “partners that are both outstanding athletically and academically as well because a conference that’s strong is not only stable but it’s one in which there are multiple relationships, along with sports, between the university members.”
Missouri athletic director Mike Alden called Boren’s comments eyebrow-raising, given what Missouri thought was a conference-wide belief in the future of the Big 12.
“It’s somewhat surprising that comment came out because I know everybody’s been working together,” Alden told The Associated Press Saturday. “You put something like that out there and it just reinforces that image of being unstable.”
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger concurred with his partner at Missouri, telling The Associated Press on Saturday he was “disappointed” by Boren’s comments.
Zenger spoke at halftime of Kansas’ football game and declined to answer questions, saying, “We were disappointed to hear the comments yesterday from Oklahoma. We thought we had nine schools that were committed, strongly committed, to the conference.”
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Kansas State athletic director John Currie also said Saturday his school remains committed to the Big 12, whether that means in its current configuration or through future expansion.
Currie told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday he believes the nine schools that will make up the league after Texas A&M departs prefer to see the Big 12 endure. He also says the conference could add one or more members, but the primary goal is to achieve stability.
Scott said Saturday further consolidation and more stability, in whatever form, would be healthy for college football.
“I think people ultimately will want to gravitate toward conferences with stability, associating with them,” Scott said. “And I consider our conference one of those.”
New Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton, who was also at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night, said he has concerns about conferences growing too large. The former University of Arizona president said, however, that college football is strong enough to survive however it is configured.
“At this point, I’m not a fan of the megaconference,” Shelton said. “Not because I think it’s the death of college football, but I think it just on the whole brings more problems that have to be sorted out from benefits.”
Joe Schad is a college football reporter for ESPN. Information from ESPN.com’s Ted Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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