Big 12 stabilizes after yearlong conference realignment drama
The Big 12 Conference survived a tumultuous conference realignment situation in 2011.
The conference, already unstable from Colorado and Nebraska’s June departures, was shaken again when the Southeastern Conference extended an official invitation for membership to Texas A&M in August.
The Aggies quickly expressed their intentions to leave, which would drop Big 12 membership to just nine schools.
Movement rumors swirled around multiple teams — including OU — for months, and the Pac-12 emerged as the most-spoken-of potential destination for the Sooners amid the uncertain future of the Big 12.
Baylor struck back, threatening litigation if the Aggies tried to jump to the SEC and the Big 12 crumbled. Several other schools jumped in with the Bears in an attempt to salvage what was left of the conference.
The Big 12 sought to retain stability by inviting Notre Dame and Arkansas, but both schools declined.
With A&M’s move blocked and the rest of the conference waiting on Oklahoma or Texas to make a move, OU President David Boren was thrust into the limelight of conference realignment when the Board of Regents gave him the reins to the university’s future Sept. 5.
The schools threatening to negate A&M’s move said they would drop the potential lawsuit if OU reaffirmed its commitment to the Big 12 and ended all talks with other suitors.
“Very important to us as we consider the most important step for us to take is long-term stability for the university within a conference framework,” Boren said. “Obviously, we do not want to continue to have these kinds of situations where our membership in a conference is still undecided, has to be revisited every year.”
Though Boren stayed quiet about his dealings, he did make clear that the Sooners wouldn’t be going anywhere without Oklahoma State.
“Whatever we do, we’re going to do it together,” he said. “I think that’s very good news for the state of Oklahoma.”
The Big 12 was given new life Sept. 20, when the Pac-12 announced it would no longer seek other teams to expand its conference.
With the most promising moving option off the table, Boren said OU would stay, but only a “reformed” version of the Big 12.
Three days later, the conference ousted commissioner Dan Beebe and announced expansion plans.
Down four teams with at least two publicly declined invites, the Big 12 looked eastward for expansion possibilities.
In October, the Big 12 coaxed Texas Christian to renege on joining the Big East Conference and added the Horned Frogs to the fold.
The conference also added West Virginia after a legal battle over a settlement amount the Mountaineers owed the Big East for leaving.
With 10 schools again, conference members have said future expansion isn’t out of the question but that they’re done for now.
Even though the conference seemed to have stabilized, Missouri said it wasn’t through looking for other options. The SEC, in need of another team to balance its addition of Texas A&M, stepped up to the plate and invited the Tigers as well.
The initial reforming wrapped up Friday, when the conference officially announced Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby as its new commissioner.
Campus reporter Tim French contributed to this story.