With the Big 12's future looking tenuous, barring a change of plans by Oklahoma administrators enamored with the Pac-12, Texas officials have begun studying options for a new conference home.
A Texas source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday that school officials are "looking at all options," with no clear-cut favorite. But the possibility of competing as an independent "would be way down on the list."
Texas sources said a move to an expanded Atlantic Coast Conference, where Texas could keep its 20-year, $300 million contract with ESPN for the Longhorn Network, is being discussed. So, too, is the possibility of joining an expanded Pac-12 by tweaking the Longhorn Network to become one of the league's regional networks.
A move to the Big Ten, which does not currently allow single-school or regional networks, is not considered viable unless the Big Ten alters existing rules to accommodate the LHN.
Texas officials, who have been public in their support of remaining part of the Big 12, began actively contemplating other options after a Sunday meeting with Oklahoma administrators led them to believe the Sooners would soon be leaving the league. The OU board of regents has a Monday meeting and multiple Big 12 sources have indicated they expect the school to take action in regard to conference realignment at that time.
Oklahoma State officials have expressed plans to remain aligned with OU in whatever league the Sooners select.
A Big 12 source said Tuesday that the league could survive the loss of Texas A&M, which accepted a conditional invitation last week from the Southeastern Conference, and expand from a nine-team nucleus. But departures by Oklahoma and OSU would make the league's future unsustainable.
During a Tuesday news conference, Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops said he has "been kept abreast of everything that's going to happen" on the realignment front but deferred questions on that topic to Oklahoma President David Boren. Boren announced plans to explore other conference options on Sept. 2 and all signs point to a goal of the Pac-12, where OU could be joined by OSU, Texas and Texas Tech.
Texas' ACC option also could include Texas Tech as a travel partner, as well as the possibility of a scheduling format based on four-team pods -- rather than divisions -- within a 16-team conference. A Big 12 source said Tuesday that Tech would "try to stay aligned with Texas," if possible, going forward. But Tech could be left scrambling if Texas opts to declare its independence to preserve the full value of its LHN contract.
With so much uncertainty swirling, a Big 12 official said: "I don't know if each passing day brings us closer to staying together or further apart. That's the great unknown."
A formal declaration of Oklahoma's intentions, which could occur Monday, appears to be the next step needed to clear things up.
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Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760