AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Big 12 is alive and kicking.
The University of Texas on Monday said it was staying in the Big
12, followed moments later by pledges from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
and Texas A&M to remain in a league that had seemed to be falling
apart last week when Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-10)
decided to leave over the next two years.
The Texas announcement came shortly after Pac-10 commissioner
Larry Scott confirmed to The Associated Press in an e-mail that
Texas had declined an invitation to become the 12th member of his
conference. Scott said Texas president William Powers Jr. told him
"the 10 remaining schools in the Big 12 Conference intend to stay
Powers wouldn't give any details about why the school decided to
stay put when asked by the AP. The school has scheduled a news
conference for Tuesday morning.
A person with direct knowledge of discussions among the Big 12's
remaining members said Texas is clear to set up its own TV network
and keep all proceeds in exchange for remaining in the Big 12. The
person, speaking on condition of anonymity because nothing has been
finalized, said details were still being worked out.
The fate of the conference born in 1996 when the Big 8 merged
with four members of the Southwest Conference has been at risk for
days, and Texas emerged as the key to the Big 12's survival. The
Pac-10 courted Texas and other Big 12 South Division schools, while
Texas A&M reportedly expressed interest in going to the
Southeastern Conference barring a better offer.
"Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will
continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future,"
school president R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement.
Officials at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma issued similar
statements, with OSU president Burns Hargis singling out Big 12
commissioner Dan Beebe for his "bold moves and intense efforts."
Beebe did not return messages seeking comment Monday.
The news that the Big 12 survived spread quickly.
"That's great news," said Scott Drew, whose Baylor men's
basketball team advanced to the South regional final in the NCAA
tournament a few months ago. "Obviously, we're very excited and
pleased about the 10 schools staying together. It will be great to
continue the rivalries and traditions."
Texas A&M had represented another wild card, with school
officials meeting with Pac-10 and SEC officials in recent days. If
the Aggies are serious about leaving for the SEC, no matter what
Texas and the others decide, would that prompt the Longhorns,
Sooners and the rest to decide the Big 12 is not worth saving with
only nine members?
Texas A&M regent Gene Stallings said Monday he wants the Big 12
to survive and would vote to keep the Aggies in the league if they
don't get a much better offer. Stallings told The Associated Press
that keeping the Big 12 together "would tickle me to death."
Stallings coached Alabama to a football national championship in
1992. He has said that if Texas A&M does move, he'd rather see the
Aggies go to the SEC than the Pac-10, but his comments Monday
suggested that would be a last resort.
"I know how hard all the Big 12 coaches have worked to make our
conference the No. 1 conference in the country," Baylor's Drew
said. "When you achieve that status, you obviously don't want to
see it disappear. The rivalries and traditions and fans support are
what help make the Big 12 the best conference in the country."
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York, AP Sports
Writers Doug Tucker in Kansas City, Mo., and Stephen Hawkins in
Dallas also contributed to this report.