And so we start this circus again. On freaking Opening Day. Damned Aggies.
With Texas A&M's departure from the Big 12 (presumably to the SEC), the conference is at the point of total implosion. And three teams that already pondered their invites to the cosmic dance out West--the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma St. Cowboys and Texas Tech Red Raiders--really want to send back their RSVPs.
Bob Stoops is already dipping his feet in the Pacific and smelling those beautiful, speedy California recruits.
A year ago, Stoops endorsed the idea of OU joining the then-Pac-10 when that league attempted to expand to 16 members. He confirmed Tuesday that membership in a Pac-16 still excites him.
"Think about it," Stoops said. "A (league) championship game in the Rose Bowl, going to USC to play, the Rose Bowl and playing UCLA (the storied stadium serves as the Bruins' home field) ..."
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are three of the big college football powers remaining in the region, and it has to exasperate them that their conference is growing weaker by the second. A move toward a bigger conference seems necessary to consolidate their hold in the overall picture of big school college football.
I've already talked about this topic en masse back at the California Golden Blogs, and I'm pretty sure the conclusion I came to weeks ago sticks--for the Pac-16 to become a reality, the final piece to the puzzle has to be the Texas Longhorns. Yes, those same, stubborn, deceiving, two-faced Horns are going to have to be dragged to the Pac-12 in a strait jacket, but that's what's going to have to happen to get this expansion process to work.
The other three schools make no academic sense in the prestigious Pac-12 without Texas involved--they're currently competitive college football programs, but their academics are subpar and they only bring in the Oklahoma City market. UT-Austin brings in every major market in their state and opens up the second biggest audience in the country to the conference, plus can cancel out the lack of academic/Olympic clout by the other three invitees.
Texas has danced with the Pac-12 many times but refused to seal the deal. It's starting to look like arranged marriage may be in order to make this one work. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman believes Texas will end up in the Pac-12, and it might take some strongman tactics to get them there.
Should Oklahoma act upon its earnest desires and seek an invitation to join the Pacific-12 Conference — something I'm fully expecting to happen within days, if not hours — that decision could well be the killing blow to the Big 12 while also providing Texas the political cover to follow suit and ask for admission as well.
The Pac-12's not going to ask first. It's been down that road before, led along until the eleventh hour a year ago.
If OU gives notice that it is leaving the Big 12 — or if any of the other remaining eight members do, for that matter — the very foundation of the league would crumble.
OU wants to be more assertive and wants to blaze its own trail — separately or aligned with Texas — and will pull the trigger on the relocation it considered last June. Oklahoma State is along for the ride.
I think Texas would prefer the Pac-Large and would do cartwheels if OU made the first dramatic move, so the Longhorns' hands would be politically clean.
Ultimately, some serious neorealist politicking is going to have to take place, but in the end there doesn't seem to be much value in Texas deserting their partners and going independent. If Texas decides to go all Boba Fett on college football, who will return their calls? Texas A&M seems happy to go 3-9 in the SEC every year for the rest of their college football existence, so they're out. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State will be rather pleased to go west and go skiing everywhere. Only Oklahoma would probably be interested in keeping the Red River Rivalry going, and after that the landscape looks pretty bleak. Texas will have no choice but to join a conference that'll provide them with a host of attractive games with teams that hate their guts.
The other big impediment (as mentioned above) is the Longhorn Network, which runs counter to everything commissioner Larry Scott laid down in the debut of his Pac-12 Networks. Scott doesn't seem very interested in the Longhorn Network and he probably shouldn't be. Texas shouldn't be operating at an advantage to the rest of the conference in terms of distribution, which they will definitely enjoy with their ESPN connection. Unless Scott can get Texas to coalesce with a more regional approach to distributing their programming, then it's hard to see how the Pac-12 moves beyond a Pac-12. But whether Texas will be willing to back out of their grand new contract with Mickey Mouse might require
So a lot has to happen for the Pac-16 to fall into place. Right now, it's unclear how exactly Texas will oblige. Oklahoma better be really good at twisting the arm of their rival.