Half Big 12 Off As Everybody Wonders About Future
DALLAS (AP) – Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is willing to play wherever his school’s president and athletic director decide is best, even if it means a move by the top-ranked Sooners could trigger the nation’s first 16-team super conference.
“It seems that’s the direction the world’s going,” Stoops said Monday. “So if it is, so be it.”
Stoops stopped short on speculating what might happen or saying what he prefers.
Oklahoma president David Boren said just before the season’s opening weekend that the Sooners would decide within the next three weeks, if not sooner, if they would leave the Big 12 for another conference.
“As long as we get to play, I’ll go play wherever,” Stoops said during the Big 12 coaches’ weekly conference call. “I’ve got great faith in (the president and AD), so for me to say what I’d prefer wouldn’t be right to do.”
With half the Big 12 heading into an off week, after all 10 teams won their openers at home, there are more questions about the future of the league.
After trimming down to 10 teams with the losses of Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12), the Big 12 hadn’t even opened its new season before Texas A&M last week formally announced its intention to leave the league.
The Aggies are expected to apply for membership to the Southeastern Conference, as early as this week when they are one of the teams with an open date.
“I did not think it would come up again,” Texas coach Mack Brown said about questions of the Big 12’s future. “I thought it was over for at least 10 years.”
There had been interest from the then-Pac-10 last summer of Texas and Oklahoma, along with Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, heading West as potentially part of a 16-team league.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Saturday before the Oregon-LSU game in Texas that schools have reached out to his league recently. Scott wouldn’t say who they were while attending Oregon’s game against LSU at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night, but said he was listening even though he wasn’t recruiting new members for his league.
Stoops said his focus is on playing sixth-ranked Florida State on Sept. 17 after an open date. Brown is getting his Longhorns ready to play BYU on Saturday.
Of course, those powerhouse teams will be fine no matter what happens.
“It seems like there’s about five different scenarios out there that everybody thinks are guaranteed to be the case,” Brown said. “I’ve got my hands full with Brigham Young on Saturday night and I know we’re in the Big 12 until the end of the year.”
There is more uncertainty for teams such as Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State should the Big 12 crumble.
Brown acknowledged that he feels sorry for some teams that may be left scrambling if there are changes, but pointed out that last year things were “all over the place” before Texas and Oklahoma decided to stay put.
“We were told last year we could join any league in the country we wanted to if it changed. We’ve been told we could go independent, so there’s going to be something really good for Texas at the end of this,” Brown said. “Our school will be OK regardless of what happens, and that’s not the case for everybody. … We’ll end up where we want to end up.”
Second-year Kansas coach Turner Gill insists he is not too concerned and has confidence in Big 12 leadership, including the presidents and chancellors of the league’s schools.
“I believe that the Big 12 Conference will be standing strong at some point in time,” Gill said. “How it all shakes out, I don’t know, but I do have confidence that there will be a Big 12 Conference.”
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he has addressed his team about the situation, telling them to take care of “what is really significant” for them on the field playing games.
Snyder shared with his players some of the history of Kansas State, from being part of the Big 6 Conference that started in the 1920s, to the evolvement into the Big 8 and later the Big 12.
“You can’t afford to get caught up in the politics of what’s taking place in our conference,” Snyder said. “That’s for somebody else.”
Baylor’s Art Briles, whose team is coming off a 50-48 opening win over defending Rose Bowl champion TCU, said he isn’t really thinking about what might happen since he can’t change it. The coach doesn’t plan to talk to his players about it unless they ask, and none of them have asked.
“I have absolutely no control over what’s happening,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “I’m just going to focus on our big game this week against Arizona State.”
While Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech all have open dates already, Missouri and Oklahoma State have short weeks of preparation.
Before Missouri plays at Arizona State on Friday, Oklahoma State is home Thursday against Arizona. At least for the Cowboys, they have a rematch of a team they beat 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl last December.
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