Regents from both Texas and Oklahoma yesterday gave their presidents the authority to find a new conference. And the Big 12 isn’t sitting still, discussing with the Big East about a possible merger of the two leagues should the Longhorns and Sooners leave, according to a person involved in the discussions.
The person, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about what is going on behind the scenes, said there has been dialogue between athletic directors and high-level officials in the Big 12 and Big East offices.
“Those conversations are alive and ongoing,’’ the person said.
Texas and Oklahoma are both trying to decide whether to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12, taking Oklahoma State and Texas Tech with them.
Oklahoma president David Boren said it is not inevitable that his university will leave, but he said the Big 12 must share television revenue equally among its members for the Sooners to stay. If Oklahoma leaves, so will Oklahoma State, Boren said.
Texas president Bill Powers was given the authority to negotiate a move, with any decision requiring the regents’ approval. Texas Tech would likely follow its richer, more powerful neighbor. Texas officials have said they want the Big 12 to hold together but would keep “all options’’ open for the university, including reported discussions with the Pac-12 and ACC.
Texas A&M has already said it plans to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference by July if legal issues can be addressed. Factor in the recent losses of Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12), and the Big 12 could be left with Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State.
The trend toward 16-team superconferences picked up steam Sunday when the Atlantic Coast Conference announced it was officially adding Pitt and Syracuse - just years after taking Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College from the Big East.
The ACC might not be done adding Big East teams. The conference reached 14 members with Syracuse and Pitt, and gaining UConn and Rutgers would allow it to continue to expand its presence in the Northeast.
UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun said yesterday he wants the Huskies to be part of the nation’s best basketball conference - whatever that will be. Calhoun said he has consulted with university president Susan Herbst about a possible move, and believes she will do the right thing for the school. But he stopped short of endorsing a move to the ACC.
Without Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the Big East still has six football members - UConn, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida, Louisville, and West Virginia. Plus TCU is slated to join in 2012, giving the Big East a presence in Big 12 country.
The Big East also has seven non-football members. Managing the agendas of the football and non-football schools has been an issue for Big East commissioner John Marinatto.
A union between the Big 12 and Big East could create one BCS automatic qualifying league, but there’s no guarantee some of those schools won’t also look elsewhere.