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Pac-12's Preference For Status Quo May Have Given The Big 12 New Life

A decision by the Pac-12 Conference not to make any membership changes at this time could breathe new life into the Big 12, but not without some major changes of its own.

Dan Beebe, Big 12 Commissioner
Dan Beebe, Big 12 Commissioner

Just a day after it seemed certain that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were headed West, and were working to take Texas and Texas Tech with them to be part of the Pac-12 Conference, chancellors and presidents of the Pac-12 have sent a message: Not so fast.

The Pac-12 announced late Tuesday that it is not interested in expanding at this time. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said, "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."

A source close to the situation at Oklahoma told the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City Monday that negotiations with the Pac-12 were not as far along as the media had been intimating. The source said Oklahoma would be willing to remain in and work hard for the future of the Big 12, but only if certain critical reforms were enacted. Prominent among the reforms that the Sooners reportedly are insisting upon is the removal of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, as well as restrictions on the University of Texas' Longhorn Network. These two reform areas are believed to have strong support from others in the Big 12 as well.

"We were not surprised by the Pac-12's decision to not expand at this time," Oklahoma president David Boren said in a statement issued by OU after learning of Tuesday's decision by that conference's leadership."

While the door to joining the Pac-12 appears to be closed for Oklahoma and other interested schools at this time, Boren's comments indicated that this is still a very viable option for the Sooners in the future.

 "Even though we had decided not to apply for membership this year, we have developed a positive relationship with the leadership of the (Pac-12) conference, and we have kept them informed of the progress we've been making to gain agreement from the Big 12 for changes which will make the conference more stable in the future," the OU president said.

"While we have great respect for all the institutions that have contacted us and certain expansions proposals were financially attractive," the Pac-12's Scott said, "we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve."

It is unclear, but Scott's reference to a "culture of equality" may have said something about Texas' willingness to make concessions regarding its Longhorn Network.

"Conference stability has been our first goal, and we look forward to achieving that goal through continued membership in the Big 12 Conference," Boren said, which is a sharp departure from what OU's chief administrator has been quoted as saying in recent days.

According to the Daily Oklahoman's source, Oklahoma is not the only Big 12 institution that is displeased with Beebe. League presidents do not believe Beebe handled the situations with Nebraska and Texas A&M appropriately and that his actions were void of the leadership expected of someone in his position, the source said, adding that they also are displeased with the commissioners perceived concessions to officials at Texas.

The source said Oklahoma is only willing to remain in a reformed Big 12. This would include important changes to the Longhorn Network. The major points of disagreement with Texas' newly launched TV network, a joint project in conjunction with ESPN, are a reported agreement with Fox Sports to move a conference game to the Longhorn Network, and the network's recently announced decision to broadcast highlights from Texas high school games even after the Big 12 leadership voted to prohibit the Longhorn Network from broadcasting high school games live.

While this turn of developments was occurring with Oklahoma, et. al and the Pac-12, it also was reported on Tuesday that officials of the SEC had reached out to Missouri and extended an informal offer contingent on the future of the Big 12.

And the beat goes on and on. The Board of Curators at Missouri and the Kansas Board of Regents are scheduled to meet this week, and conference realignment is on both agendas.

This story has picked up so much steam that you almost need a program to keep up with all the action. Now if only there would be some substance.

Make sure to check out SB Nation's coverage of further college football expansion here.