Oklahoma Now Sitting Firmly Between a Rock, a Hard Place, and Texas
The University of Oklahoma got some very bad news Tuesday when Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said the conference would not be expanding past its current number of teams.
More recent revelations have since come forth that it was because the Pac-12 wanted all four (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) or none at all because, in the words of one of the school AD's, there were just no good scheduling models around 14 teams.
Translation: Texas controls Oklahoma's fate, and when Texas wouldn't give up the Longhorn Network, OU got declined.
I was speaking with an acquaintance who is from Oklahoma and a die-hard Sooner fan about this when it came up a year ago. I told him that Oklahoma had no good options. He, of course, was convinced that every conference in the country would take Oklahoma at a mere hint that the Sooners wanted to go.
Well, the score has been settled and we now know which one of us was right. There are scattered reports that Oklahoma put their feelers out to the Big Ten early on after Texas A&M started flirting with moving to the SEC. The idea was that they wanted to reunite with Nebraska, get out of Texas's shadow, get into a better academic conference, and be closer to their opponents for travel than would be the case in the Pac-12.
These reports also indicate that the Big Ten's answer was a polite "we're not expanding right now."
The ACC has not been linked in any way to Oklahoma though reports did have them talking to Texas. Some rumors have also circulated around the ACC casting its eye toward Kansas for basketball but there hasn't been any serious talk about that.
And now the Pac-12 has said if you can't deliver Texas on our terms (ie. shared revenue from the new Longhorn Network), we're not interested.
So the options for the Sooners are pretty much as follows: join the SEC or stay in the Big 12.
There are multiple problems with joining the SEC and it centers around the fact the OU would be a 3-4 loss team on average in the SEC, and they rather like being in the conversation for the national title instead. Before OU fans slam that assumption in the comments section, first examine Bob Stoops's tenure at OU.
In twelve seasons, he has 31 losses. That's an average of 2.5 losses per season—in the Big 12. With his share of Texas-based recruits on his roster, mind you.
Since the SEC is a more difficult conference, OU would thus likely average another loss per year which would bring the 2.5 to 3.5 which is why I said 3-4 losses per year.
Further proof of that rests in Stoops record against the SEC in those 12 seasons. He's 3-3 against the SEC (having played Bama, LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Florida).
But two of the wins were against Alabama during probation and sanctions, prior to Nick Saban's arrival. Against SEC teams not on probation with sanctions, Stoops is 1-3.
In the SEC, based on the recent history and the Stoops era, Sooner fans would feel more like they were stuck in the Gary Gibbs era.
And remember, Oklahoma has managed this mediocre break-even record against SEC competition while getting quite a few Texas players on their roster from the exposure they get playing in Texas every year.
But Texas has already told Texas A&M that if they leave the conference, don't look for the series to continue. And they've pretty much told OU the same. And given that Texas wins pretty close to every time they play poker with Oklahoma, the Sooners know they mean business.
Without playing the Red River Rivalry for a guaranteed game in Texas every year, the recruiting pipeline would fall off some. Not dramatically, mind you, but some.
Thus, OU would have to face those same SEC teams with potentially less-talented recruits.
With 3-4 loss seasons, the constant national title talk would subside. With fewer games in Texas and less buzz surrounding the program, the recruiting would taper off even more. And Oklahoma becomes a program that has a great history but would have to start catching some breaks to be see the national title game.
So the SEC is a voluntary step down the relevance ladder for Oklahoma given where it has been recently—and Texas knows it. So now, Texas really does call all of the shots.
Give up or share the revenue from the Longhorn Network? Not a chance! Allow another Texas team (like TCU or SMU or Houston) in the conference (which gives OU more chances to play in front of Texas crowds?) Nope, not gonna happen.
On the field, Texas has a 59-41 advantage over the Sooners in the 100 games not decided by a tie. That's a 60% win rate. And before last year's OU win, Texas had won four of the previous five in the series. There have been streaks where OU has won a few in a row and vice-versa. But the long term series history and the most recent history have both belonged to Texas.
And Now the Horns are 2-0 in conference expansion poker too.
I doubt we'll see this same scenario play out again because Oklahoma has now lost all ability to bluff. And that's good for college football since it was arguably David Boren's comments of a few weeks ago that caused a one team shift (Texas A&M to the SEC) to morph into near Armageddon.
If the Longhorns aren't going to give up the Longhorn Network in its infancy, they certainly aren't going to give it up once they've gotten used to the revenue. Thus, it will be even more difficult for the Pac-12 to come to terms with Texas in the future. And as we just witnessed, the Pac is not interested in OU without Texas. So Texas has effectively taken OU's only good option away from them and put them in an even tighter squeeze.
David Boren bluffed and then backpedaled. It didn't work. In the meantime, he found out the hard way that the old saying really is true.
If you mess with the bull, you're gonna get the horns.
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