The Red River shootout: Future marquee game of the Pac-16? (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
This isn't even flirting at first glance. This is at best eyebrow-quirking.
Yes, there have been discussions between the Pac-12 and Texas and Oklahoma, according to sources.
Whether that meansand UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds have spoken directly, I cannot confirm.
But whether it’s Scott, deputy commish Kevin Weiberg (who used to run the Big 12) or one of the league’s media consultants on one end of the phone … and Dodds, Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione or ESPN officials on the other … the lines of communication are open.
That does not mean the Sooners and Longhorns are on the brink of joining the Pac-12 — not by any stretch. The Big 12 could very well remain intact for a few years.
In other words, this is less
Indeed, it looks like Texas is the deal-breaker between a Pac-12 and a Pac-16 (a Pac-14 would be a little too odd, and hard to break up by divisions). As suspected, the Olympic tradition is a huge deal for the conference, which prides itself on being the best in almost every major college sport. Texas brings a long tradition of excellence in nearly every sport. If Oklahoma and Texas were to go, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are almost certain to follow.
Additionally, if Larry Scott is going to make his big pitch toward Asian markets, the Olympic tradition will play very well overseas (maybe even just as much as the football). Add in Texas, and you have some of the most successful programs in the Director's Cup. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on their own just won't cut it--their football is great, but what's left behind it? Long-term growth for either is marginal; Texas provides additional stability and security, and ensures the Pac-16 will be one of the top two conferences of the new era.
Now could Texas and Oklahoma be playing it the other way? Wilner does raise that possibility.
I wonder if the latest grumblings out of the South Plains are simply a power play by Oklahoma in order to get more concessions from the Big 12 and ESPN.
The Sooners want their own 24-hour TV network and progress toward that end has been slow.
ESPN wants the Big 12 to survive. (More conferences = cheaper … and no blood on its hands.)
Texas also wants to Big 12 to survive.
ESPN handing Oklahoma their own network just to keep Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 would be so ESPN, and another wonderful twist in the pleas for amateurism. (The only thing amateur about college sports these days is the way ESPN treats its people.) But Oklahoma has to know that their own regional network would probably be laid out for them if they were to join the Pac-12. And with the Pac-12, they would enjoy equal distribution and fair revenue sharing; with the Longhorn Network likely to be the top draw, it'd be shocking if ESPN would negotiate a deal along a similar pay scale.
I don't think Scott is ready to make any deal for anything less than Texas, and the next (and final) step in expansion for the conference will only come to fruition with Bevo putting his stamp on the deal.
PS: Also, the idea that Rutgers and Pitt could save the Big 12 from extinction?