In light of Oklahoma president David Boren calling the Big 12 "psychologically disadvantaged" last week, we pose this question in our weekly Take Two: should the league be worried that Oklahoma wants to "take steps" toward expansion?
The Big 12 should be concerned about Boren’s comments. Oklahoma is a signature school in the Big 12 and if the Sooners aren’t happy, the rest of the conference must take notice. Now, taking notice doesn’t mean overreacting and expanding within two or three years, but conversations need to be had and the Sooners must feel like they’re being heard. After all, the most recent round of realignment was sparked by schools like Nebraska feeling like their voice and desires were secondary priorities.
If Oklahoma doesn’t feel like its voice matters the Sooners might decide to look elsewhere. And, if they do, the Sooners will be just fine. The same can’t be said for everybody else. This isn’t the first time Boren has voiced a desire to expand, so any other conference that might want to add a brand like Oklahoma will have its ears perked, but every school in the Big 12 might not be so lucky.
The Big 12 is in its current predicament because of a lack of proactive planning in the past. That mistake needs to be rectified, and that’s at the foundation of Boren’s stance.
If the Big 12 prepares as if it is going to expand in two years right now -- by doing its due diligence, picking priority targets and coming up with multiple plans -- it won’t be caught off guard if another round of realignment is sparked by another conference within the next five years. Just because the plan is in place doesn’t mean it needs to be executed. Boren is talking about expansion in the long term, but preparing now will help every single school in the conference -- because they will have emergency plans in place -- if another realignment earthquake hits college football.
The Big 12 should be concerned because, above all else, Boren is right.
The Big 12 should be concerned with a lot of things. Oklahoma leaving the conference should not be one of them.
Sure, the majority of those with power in the Big 12 are against expansion at the moment. But I think many of them will come to realize what Boren already knows: the Big 12 probably won't be able to survive in the long-term without expansion.
Boren mitigated his comments by saying the Big 12 needs to find the "right" partners. The reason the Big 12 hasn't expanded yet is because it hasn't found those partners yet. But the consolidation of the Power 5 conference has created a mini arms race among Group of 5 teams. Colorado State and BYU and Cincinnati and Memphis all seem to understand that the Big 12 will be their final chance at getting into a Power 5 league before that train leaves the station for good. There might not be any good expansion options today. That doesn't mean there won't be five years from now.
Yes, Oklahoma will have the recourse to leave if it doesn't get its way. But with the granting of rights contracts locked into place for the next decade, we're still a ways away from any Armageddon scenario. The Big 12 has plenty of time to hash this out. The concern should be focused on that. Not on the possibility of Oklahoma trying to bolt.