Pac-12 commissioner Scott: listening, not luring
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is willing to listen if Oklahoma or anyone else wants to join his conference.
Speaking before No. 3 Oregon played No. 4 LSU at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night, Scott acknowledged that ''schools have reached out to us.''
He said that the courtship is different from last year, when the league was looking for expansion candidates. He repeatedly said the conference was not doing anything to seek new members.
''Any suggestion whatsoever that our conference is being predatory, that's just wrong,'' Scott said. ''We have not had expansion as an initiative, as an agenda for us at all. So to the extent, if there were any conversations going on, you can be sure they're not ones we initiated.''
Scott added that he had to listen to pitches from interested schools to evaluate what might be in the best interest of the Pac-12 members.
University of Oklahoma president David Boren said Friday that multiple conferences have shown interest in the Sooners recently and he expects to decide whether to leave the Big 12 or not within the next three weeks, if not sooner.
Then on Saturday, Oklahoma State billionaire booster Boone Pickens said he doesn't think the Big 12 will last much longer and believes the Cowboys eventually will end up in the Pac-12 Conference.
Scott refused to comment ''on any particular conversations'' or specific schools.
Before Texas and Oklahoma decided last summer to remain in the Big 12, there had been interest from the then-Pac-10 about them moving West. That included Oklahoma State and Texas Tech as potentially part of a 16-team league.
Colorado did leave the Big 12 to become part of the expanded Pac-10, and Utah joined from the Mountain West after Scott's very public expansion push. Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten.
''For me, expansion was always very much a strategic issue leading up to the fact that we were in TV negotiations,'' Scott said. ''I felt at the time that we needed to get to 12 (members), to have a football championship game, to be of equivalent size to some of our peer conferences, both in terms of the markets that we're in and the content that we've got. We achieved that from my perspective. ... So we haven't felt one iota of need since we expanded.''
Still, what happened last year provides reason to believe something could still happen with more teams heading West.
''I'm just saying, this year is very different,'' Scott said. ''All I know is we've been thrilled with 12 (members) and it's worked out great for us, and we haven't been planning for anything different.''
Texas A&M announced this week that it is leaving the 10-team Big 12 and applying for membership in another conference, likely the Southeastern Conference as early as next week.
Part of the reason Texas remained in the Big 12 was the opportunity for its own television network. Texas and ESPN recently launched the Longhorn Network, a $300 million, 20-year deal.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds reiterated Saturday before the Longhorns' opener against Rice that they love the Big 12 and want to stay in the league. He said Texas will be watching to see what happens over the next few days if Oklahoma decides to leave, but that Texas will be fine no matter what happens to the Big 12.
While the Longhorn Network stands as a potential obstacle should Texas decide it wants to be part of a move to the Pac-12, there could be the possibility of that contract somehow becoming part of the Pac-12 television deal that consists of six regional networks.
Kansas State athletic director John Currie said his school remains committed to the Big 12, whether that means in its current configuration or through future expansion. He said the primary goal is to achieve stability.
For the Big 12, that has become a tedious challenge.
''We thought we had nine schools that were committed, strongly committed, to the conference,'' Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, expressing disappointment that Oklahoma is talking about leaving the Big 12.
Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said Oklahoma's interest in switching conferences only reinforces the notion of instability in the Big 12, but that he remains focused on keeping the conference intact.
Scott said further consolidation and more stability, in whatever form, would be healthy for college football.
''I think people ultimately will want to gravitate toward conferences with stability, associating with them,'' Scott said. ''And I consider our conference one of those.''
New Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton, who was also at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night, said he has concerns about conferences growing too large. The former University of Arizona president said, however, that college football is strong enough to survive however it is configured.
''At this point, I'm not a fan of the megaconference,'' Shelton said. ''Not because I think it's the death of college football, but I think it just on the whole brings more problems that have to be sorted out from benefits.''