Kevin Haskin: Without Boren, someone, good or bad, must step up for Big 12

OU president, longtime politician, at least made conference examine its viability

Soon, David Boren will pipe down.

 

Presumably.

The self-appointed Big 12 mouthpiece is retiring as the president of the University of Oklahoma.

For as much as Boren proposed, bantered and waffled — much like the conference he sometimes supported and sometimes sabotaged — he was a university administrator who at least stepped forward and made us think about the viability of the Big 12.

He could do so from his position leading a university with an athletic program as prominent as any in the Big 12. Especially with Oklahoma dominating in football, a key sport the Big 12’s other power broker, Texas, has struggled to play this decade.

Sometimes, administrators throughout the league wished Boren would keep his comments to himself and not project potential weaknesses. Yet the longtime politician could at least get the league to consider action.

He pushed the Big 12 to consider expansion. Then, after slim pickins’ were rounded up, the Big 12 opted to keep its membership at 10 and Boren reasoned that was best. The decision left league members with larger chunks of the revenue pie to split, but less security for members potentially vulnerable to another round of conference realignment.

That’s not so much a concern for Oklahoma, nor Texas.

Established conferences will make runs at those schools, and each will listen, if/when the next round of media rights negotiations leads to upheaval.

Exploration into expansion proved a worthless exercise for the Big 12. It wasted time and money spent by many schools desperately hoping to push through the Power-5 ceiling. Time and money spent by the Big 12 on research provided no additional gains in credibility or marketability for the conference.

Boren also rabble-roused about the need for a conference network and a football championship game.

The title game was indeed restored, though it makes little competitive sense for a league already staging a full round-robin.

The start time designated for the contest, 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 2, reflects the Big 12’s stature. It’s not a good thing when television executives ask, “How do you like your eggs?’’

Makes Boren look a bit prophetic since he once termed the Big 12 as “psychologically disadvantaged.’’

Take note of that again and realize that some OU fans, and even some regents of that school, desire a move to another conference. Something with more stability. Something that provides more assurances of gaining a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Careful what you wish for, however.

Since leaving the Big 12, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri have not exactly punctuated the data points considered by the CFP committee.

The new OU president, in concert with administrators at Texas and those within the Big 12 office, should at the very least place calls to a couple of the universities that left the league.

The conference, and what’s left of the Big Eight/Southwest footprint, could be worth saving, and nurturing, and growing, if competitive opportunities are stressed.

I know. Fat chance. For former members, revenues are too sound, footing is too solid, pride is too stubborn to ever leave their current leagues and reconcile with the Big 12.

Still, it’s a phone call.

Just make sure to contact Nebraska … oh, and Texas A&M … oh, and Missouri … after all decisions have been made regarding current football coaches and/or directors of athletics. The firing of AD Shawn Eichorst was a move Nebraska made Thursday.

Around these parts, Kansas is often mentioned as a Big Ten target and could avoid a discouraging football examination because of its basketball appeal.

Kansas State must keep football churning and exude positivity by pointing to things like facilities and the outpouring of fans who just cheered the Wildcats in Nashville.

No need to fret over the future just yet. Unless the Big 12 simply muddles along, and accepts that a breakup is coming on, or before, media rights deals with ESPN and Fox expire in the 2023-24 school year.

Without Boren to hold a microphone up for the storm clouds to rattle, the spokesman for the conference is just who you would typically identify, the commissioner. That’s Bob Bowlsby.

Yet school administrators, as Boren proved, and before him, DeLoss Dodds, carry the greatest influence. Especially in their positions at Oklahoma and Texas. Good or bad, right or wrong, they influenced decisions.

And the conference, somehow, remains in operation.

With another critical period approaching, the next to step up and speak for the Big 12 could carry the most weight of all.

Good or bad, right or wrong.

Contact Kevin Haskin at kevin.haskin@cjonline.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.

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