Pac-12 happy to sit out this round of conference realignment drama
The Pac-12 decided on Tuesday night to remain at its current 12-team format
Sources claim Texas was unwilling to split revenue from its own TV network
Adding Oklahoma or Oklahoma State presented too many issues for the Pac-12
In the end, the Pac-12 presidents never even voted to decide whether they should expand. They liked what they had, and they didn't want to deal with more drama even if it meant more money.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's statement late Tuesday night had an air of finality that -- while stopping short of saying the league would never expand -- certainly made clear the Pac-12 intends to sit out the round that has seen the SEC (sort of) take Texas A&M and the ACC take Pittsburgh and Syracuse. "After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference," Scott said in the statement. "While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve."
A source said early Wednesday morning that the Pac-12 did not want to accept Texas if the Longhorns weren't willing to fold their Longhorn Network into the Pac-12's regional network structure and share revenue equally with all members of the conference. Texas, the source said, was not willing to do that. At the same time, the source said, taking only Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would have created another complicated set of issues, leading Pac-12 leaders to conclude that staying at 12 was the best move for the conference. Next year, league members will begin splitting a 12-year, $3 billion media rights deal. Adding members might have increased everyone's share of the pie, but it also might have lured in the same kind of infighting that has plagued the Big 12.
Oklahoma president David Boren released a statement late Tuesday saying that he wasn't surprised by the news from the Pac-12. Boren had gone out on a long limb in recent weeks. Monday, Boren paid lip service to the idea of the Big 12 staying together, but his words seemed to suggest the conference had no hope for survival. Tuesday, that possibility seemed even more remote when The Oklahoman, citing a high-ranking Oklahoma source, reported that Oklahoma had issued a series of demands to stay in the Big 12 that included the dismissal of Commissioner Dan Beebe and restrictions on the Longhorn Network.
It's unclear now whether Oklahoma now has the leverage to make any demands. If another conference is courting the Sooners, they still might be able to get what they want. But no one in any other conference has acknowledged the possibility of taking Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which have worked together throughout the process. It also is unclear whether Big 12 members can finally set aside the differences that now have threatened the conference's survival twice in 15 months. Also, will another school want to join the Big 12 given the league's instability?
A Texas A&M source said late Tuesday that the Pac-12's move might actually clear the way for the SEC to officially accept the Aggies. Texas A&M's move has been delayed because Baylor has threatened a lawsuit against the SEC. The belief at Texas A&M is that if the remaining nine Big 12 schools stay together, Baylor will have its home in a BCS automatic-qualifying conference and thus no reason to sue. In response to speculation that the Big 12 could somehow bring the Aggies back into the fold, Texas A&M vice president for communications Jason Cook wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that the school's aim has not changed. "Texas A&M has made our intentions perfectly clear," Cook wrote. "We do not intend to be a member of the Big 12 past this season."
If the Big 12 does stay together, it probably would scuttle the SEC's plan to add Missouri as a 14th member. Any such move was always contingent on the demise of the Big 12.
Meanwhile, after a meeting of the seven remaining Big East football schools in New York on Tuesday night, Commissioner John Marinatto said the league would aggressively pursue replacements for Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which on Sunday announced plans to join the ACC. Marinatto also reaffirmed that the league intended to force Pittsburgh and Syracuse to stay in the Big East for another three years. The league's bylaws require schools to give a 27-month notice before leaving.
So, for those keeping score at home: The ACC and SEC have expanded. The Big East, having lost two schools, plans to add more. The Big 12 continues to put the func in dysfunctional, but if its members can put the pieces back together one more time, it may add another school or three more schools to get back to 12.
The Pac-12? Nah. Its members are happy to enjoy what they have without all the drama.
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