Sooners leaving Big 12? OU prez says school will decide soon
School president David Boren says several conferences have shown interest in OU
He says he expects to decide within three weeks wheather OU will stay or leave
OU stayed in the Big 12 last year despite overtures from the Pac-10 and SEC
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- University of Oklahoma president David Boren says multiple conferences have shown interest in the Sooners recently and he expects to decide whether to leave the Big 12 or not within the next three weeks.
Boren said Friday that Oklahoma is seeking stability in its conference relationship with "partners that are both outstanding athletically and academically as well because a conference that's strong is not only stable but it's one in which there are multiple relationships, along with sports, between the university members."
He said he tried to prevent Texas A&M from leaving the Big 12 and was disappointed the Aggies announced this week they would seek to join another conference - most likely the SEC - by next July.
"Of course, we have some great partners in the existing Big 12. We have interest from other conferences and other universities, so it's really a tribute to the strength of our program at the University of Oklahoma that there is so much interest in us," Boren said.
"So, we have to carefully evaluate the various comments that are being made to us and the various possibilities that are being shown to us before we decide what's best for the university to do."
Athletic director Joe Castiglione, who attended a ceremony with Boren to celebrate a $10 million donation toward a campus dormitory, said he was "not here to answer any of those kind of questions." Castiglione has not commented publicly on Texas A&M's departure from the league, nor on Oklahoma's future plans.
Oklahoma was offered chances to join both the Pac-10 and the SEC last year but decided to stick with the Big 12, even as Nebraska left to join the Big Ten and Colorado joined the Pac-10. A&M's departure would leave drop the league that once had 12 teams down to nine members.
"I don't think there's anything that has to be, at all, and everything doesn't have to be done today. I mean, there's nothing that says the conference will collapse at nine," Boren said. "We have a full season to play and we'll have to go through.
"Obviously, I think if we could eventually - and that doesn't mean in one year, maybe it's going to take two or three years - if we were to eventually get back to 12, I would feel better about it."
Boren said the bottom line is "I don't think OU is going to be a wallflower when all is said and done."
"I don't know how long it will be before clarity comes to us. My experience is that on these kinds of things, it might be a matter of 72 hours, it might be a matter of two weeks. I don't really think this is something that is going to linger on beyond two or three weeks at the outside," Boren said.
"It's been consuming my life the last few days, but it's a fascinating challenge and we're just in the search for what's best for the university."
Boren confirmed that he flew to Missouri, whose chancellor is the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, and then to College Station last week to try to prevent the Aggies from leaving. He said he's disappointed that he thought the Sooners had conference stability and instead face the same challenge as last summer.
"We don't know what's going to happen. Some things are trends beyond the control of any one university," Boren said. "Is there going to be a continued trend toward consolidation? Are we going to see conferences that are now 12 ... move to 16? Is that going to happen? Maybe that's not going to happen."
"You've seen both. You've seen a tendency toward consolidation and then you've seen some pushback in the very largest conferences from schools that say, `Not too big.' We're trying to sort all that out. At this point in time, I'm being very honest with you. I do not know with certainty or perhaps even can't hazard a totally intelligent guess as to what our final decision will be. But we are carefully looking over all of the options. There is no school in the Big 12 more active than we are right now."
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