Report: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State surprised by Pac-12 snub

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By now, you know how it works: it’s all a “done deal” until it isn’t.

At the height of the conference realignment drama, all signs pointed to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State leaving — or, at the very least, wanting to leave — for the Pac-12, but in the 11th hour, the Pac-12 decided not to expand any further.

How close the deal was to being finalized, we’ll probably never be 100 percent sure. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott claims it was never that imminent; Oklahoma played it off like it was one big psyche for the Big 12.

“We were not surprised by the Pac 12′s decision to not expand at this time. ” OU president David Boren said via statement after the announcement. Conference stability has been our first goal and we look forward to achieving that goal through continued membership in the Big 12 Conference.”

The OU president later clarified his comments:

“We were all getting very tired, truthfully,” Boren said. “Everybody was kind of saying, ‘Let’s just make a decision.’ We came to our decisions roughly at the same time. As to who took the first step among us, I’d say we came to a conversation in which we both … I was sort of saying to him, ‘Hey, it looks like we’re leaning toward staying.’ He (Scott) was sort of saying to me, ‘The longer this drags on, the frustration of our presidents is getting greater.’ He was saying, ‘I think we’re pretty happy. Why should we expand?’ It all kind of came together virtually the same day.”

But while OU labeled the decision as mutual, the Tulsa World has obtained e-mails and documents that indicate perhaps the decision by the Pac-12 to remain in the status quo was more of a surprise to the Oklahoma schools than they let on.

An e-mail thread among OSU officials show the school was looking to call a special Board of Regents meeting to discuss “attractive options” for conference affiliation in the final days before the Pac-12 opted to stay put. It was believed that wherever Oklahoma went — or stayed — the Cowboys would do the same. In a Sept. 18 message, OSU regents spokesperson Brent Gooden noted that Texas and Oklahoma were likely to authorize conference decision-making power to their presidents, and it appears OSU was prepared to do the same with an ad hoc group formed by regents chairman Jay Helm.

“To ensure the president [Burns Hargis] had access to three regents to seek their individual input as events unfolded, an ad hoc group consisting of Chairman Helm and Regents (Calvin) Anthony and (Joe) Hall was made available to the president on a moment’s notice, if necessary,” Gooden told the TW. “These regents were basically on call 24/7 should the President need one of them.”

But it appears the “deal” fell through before either president could take any sort of action, as Scott and Texas reportedly could not come to an agreement on how to pursue the Longhorn Network.

Does that mean the two Oklahoma schools were surprised by the Pac-12’s decision to stay at 12 members? Maybe, maybe not; surprise here probably means OU and OSU thought they were on their way west until Scott said no. We don’t know.

One thing to keep in mind is that if OU was on the phone with Scott on a regular basis, then a “rejection” was likely communicated as well. OU and OSU have been paired at the hip during this entire process, and if OSU was looking to explore all options, it’s  probably because it’s in-state partner was doing the same.

Fluidity has been a word often used to describe the realignment situation. I can’t imagine that didn’t extend to communication lines between the Pac-12 and Oklahoma.

The only thing that seems to matter now,though, is that the Big 12 is still together and has a lot of group therapy hours to complete if they’re going to remain a conference.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”