The ACC might not be the only big-name conference adding schools in the near future.
Pac-12 officials are engaged in “active discussions” with Texas and Oklahoma about how to make the Big 12 schools’ addition to the conference work, a source within the Big 12 confirmed to ESPN.com’s Joe Schad.
Another source confirmed to Schad on Sunday night that Texas president Bill Powers met with Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in Los Angeles this weekend. Texas officials traveled to California to watch the Longhorns game against UCLA.
ESPN.com’s Ted Miller writes about all things involving the Pac-12 in the conference blog.
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Earlier, The Austin American-Statesman reported the Pac-12 was working out final details to add Texas and Oklahoma to the conference, along with fellow Big 12 schools Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. The Statesman cited a source close to the situation that stressed the deal is not yet complete, but that talks were “heating up.”
A source told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz the move to add Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State still has a long way to go before the Pac-12 leadership would be comfortable recommending it to the league’s presidents, who have made it clear to the league’s leadership that they don’t want to expand beyond 12 at this point.
The proposed deal would allow Texas to keep ESPN’s Longhorn Network, though The Statesman reports the network would have to add other Pac-12 programming to the network.
The new Longhorn Network, a 24-hour showcase for Texas athletics, has caused several Big 12 members to worry it gives the Longhorns too much power and influence, especially in the areas of exposure and recruiting.
“This is not yet a done deal,” a source familiar with the discussions told The Statesman, saying nothing had been definitively confirmed. “It appears that Scott is going to be able to work some magic and help Texas keep the Longhorn Network and their revenue stream.”
Big 12 blog
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ESPN, which operates the Longhorn Network, had no comment.
The University of Texas regents are set to meet Monday to discuss the future of the Big 12. The meeting will come on the same day that University of Oklahoma regents are meeting on the topic of conference affiliation.
A source close to the Oklahoma athletic department told SoonerNation’s Jake Trotter it’s expected that the Oklahoma board of regents will vote Monday to authorize president David Boren to take action regarding conference realignment.
The source said Pittsburgh was one of the Big 12’s top options as a replacement for Texas A&M, and that when Pitt announced it was going to the ACC, it “clobbered everything” regarding the Big 12’s future.
Another source close to the situation told The Statesman it’s expected the Texas board, like Oklahoma, will vote Monday to authorize Powers to make a decision regarding realignment.
A source told Katz the Pac-12 wouldn’t be surprised if the board of regents suggested an application to the conference from Texas and Oklahoma Monday, but “it ain’t getting done anytime soon.”
The trend toward 16-team superconferences picked up steam Sunday when the ACC announced it was officially picking off the two longtime Big East schools to continue cannibalizing its northern neighbor. Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College had already left the league for the ACC in recent years, and now the Big East is left trying to hang on to its five football members and find a way to survive in an ever-changing college sports landscape with the pending departure of Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Boren made it known more than two weeks ago that his school was shopping for a possible new home for the second straight summer after entertaining thoughts of joining what would become the Pac-12 or the SEC. Instead, the Sooners decided to be content in a downsized, 10-team Big 12 — until Texas A&M, frustrated by the Longhorn Network, further fractured the conference by seeking out a spot as the SEC’s 13th member.
Boren said he expected Oklahoma’s decision to come within a three-week span that runs out this week, conveniently after the board of regents is poised to grant him the power to choose a new conference Monday at a meeting in Tulsa. Texas’ regents will meet two hours later in Austin with the same move on their agenda.
“This time things seem to be moving more quickly than a year ago,” said Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti, refusing to commit to the Big East nor express interest in joining the exodus to the ACC. “If that’s a sign of things to come, it is hard to say, but I do think as more pieces continue to be in motion it starts to trickle down to more people in the process.
“I would imagine the next 30 days are going to be a telling period of time for our entire industry.”
With two teams already leaving last year — Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 — the Big 12 is in a precarious position as its two richest, most powerful programs flirt with new partners. Oklahoma State is likely to follow Oklahoma wherever it goes, and Texas Tech would likely do the same with Texas.
If all four go, and A&M heads to the SEC, it would leave just five Big 12 teams in the same quandary as the Big East’s orphaned programs.
“Oklahoma plays a leadership role in our conference, like they always have, and we respect our colleagues there and certainly hope they will continue to look at the viability and strengths of our league,” Kansas State athletic director John Currie said.
The movement toward megaconferences has centered around leveraging billion-dollar television contracts at the expense of traditional rivalries and simpler logistics. The Big Ten showed everyone the potential with a first-of-its-kind conference network, and the Pac-12 also turned its increased membership into a big-time TV deal.
The ACC is following suit with its move to 14 teams, while the Big 12 is finding out its $1.2 billion deal apparently didn’t go far enough because it left a loophole allowing the creation of the Longhorn Network through a 20-year, $300 million agreement between Texas and ESPN.
That played a large role in Texas A&M’s decision to leave that does not share revenue equally among its members. It’s move to the SEC is on hold because of the threat of lawsuits by Big 12 members including Baylor. Several influential Baylor alumni and University of Texas benefactor B.J. “Red” McCombs took out full-page ads in Texas newspapers Sunday suggesting the Big 12 is “a conference not only worth fighting for, it’s worth waging peace for.”
“I’d say the Aggies need to sit down and work out their problems,” said Oklahoma State booster T. Boone Pickens, emphasizing that he doesn’t speak for the school. “I think Texas is the real problem in the conference. They have a different deal than everybody else’s. I think it’s going to have to be equal.
“So, the problems I see are in the conference, and they need to be resolved or every year you’re going to have another brouhaha and have problems. So, get it fixed.”
The ACC seemed to cement its future together by not only adding members but increasing the exit penalty to $20 million. The Big East’s exit fee is only $5 million, but schools wanting to leave are supposed to provide 27 months’ notice.
By then, the shifts in college athletics could touch every school from the BCS level on down. Connecticut and Rutgers are among the schools already being mentioned if the ACC expands again, and commissioner John Swofford said the league is “not philosophically opposed to 16” members.
And the leftover teams in the Big East — and potentially, the Big 12 — will need to find new dance partners to keep their status as BCS automatic qualifiers, if that system even survives.
“I can say that in all my years of collegiate athletics administration, I’ve never seen this level of uncertainty and potential fluidity in schools and conferences,” Swofford said. “Schools, they’re looking for stability, and when that stability doesn’t exist, for whatever reason, as long as that’s going on, I think the conferences that appear to be stable moving forward are going to receive inquiries from schools that are desirous of having that kind of stability.”
Information from ESPN.com college football reporter Joe Schad, ESPN.com senior college basketball writer Andy Katz, SoonerNation’s Jake Trotter and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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