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.