Texas A&M exhorted to remain in Big 12

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma State megabooster T. Boone Pickens believes the Big 12 will survive the latest conference realignment threat, and suggests that Texas A&M stay put instead of joining the Southeastern Conference.

"That's a big mistake for Texas A&M," Pickens said Tuesday night before being inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

"They're moving out of Texas when they do that. I don't think that's a smart deal."

Texas A&M regents met Monday to authorize the school president to move the program into another conference, but the SEC has said it is sticking with its current 12 members -- for now.

Pickens attended Texas A&M for one year before transferring to Oklahoma State, where he has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the program, including the primary gift to renovate the football stadium that now bears his name.

"I don't want the Big 12 to break up. I don't want to go to the Pac-10," Pickens said. "If you go to the Pac 10, you're going to end up in the Eastern Division. I think the Pac-10, I don't know whether the Eastern Division would ever break in against the Western. But if you beat the Western, then that's the way you break in.

"And so, we can play against the West Coast. That doesn't bother me. It's just a long way out there."

Pickens grew up in Holdenville and regularly attended Oklahoma football games in Norman. He recalls talking with his father decades ago about Nebraska wanting to leave what was then the Big Six and join the Big Ten -- a move that finally happened last year.

But he thinks there's more loyalty among the remaining schools that have been rivals long before four Southwestern Conference teams merged with the Big Eight to form the Big 12 in the mid-1990s.

"The rest of the conference isn't quite that way. ... There's too much tradition just to wash it out and we scatter," he said. "I think OU and Oklahoma State will stick together if something happens. We're kind of a stick-together crowd in this state.

"The Aggies ought to stick with Texas. They have a hard time hugging Texas. I don't know if you've noticed that. But I can always hug Sooners if they don't beat us."

Pickens, who's on the board of directors of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, said he doesn't believe the Big 12 will break up -- or even lose A&M.

"The Aggies, they're very spirited guys and all. I don't think they'll move," he said. "I don't want them to. Texas doesn't want them to either. Nobody wants them to leave."

"They've got three weeks to come to their senses," he added. "I think they'll stay with the conference."

The rest of the hall of fame class included former Oklahoma defensive lineman Lucious Selmon, former WNBA player Crystal Robinson, and former New York Knicks guard John Starks. Olympic silver medal-winning wrestler Tommy Evans and former NCAA track champion Jim Bolding were honored posthumously.

"Can you believe it? I never was that good of a basketball player," said Pickens, who got cut by former Oklahoma A&M basketball coach Henry Iba.

"I told John Starks he only played one year as a Cowboy, and I said, 'Well, you lasted a little longer than I did.' "