ARDMORE, Okla. — The president of the University of Oklahoma said Wednesday that his school and Texas A&M both received invitations to join the Southeastern Conference during the last round of conference realignment.
Although Oklahoma ended up remaining in the Big 12, university president David Boren said the Sooners had offers from both the SEC and the Pac-10. Boren spoke with reporters after a regents meeting for almost 40 minutes about the conference realignment process.
"I'll put it this way — we were well positioned for whatever worked out," Boren said.
SEC spokesman Craig Pinkerton said he was "not in a position to comment" on what Boren said. Boren declined to say who in the SEC issued the invitation, only that that person had the authority to do so.
Boren said the Pac-10 offer was for five Big 12 schools (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech) to join as a group. Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott visited the schools earlier this month to extend the invitations.
"The invitation was really to the group," Boren said. "It had to be, because you couldn't have our teams all flying to the Pacific coast every week to play games. There had to be an eastern division of schools."
Boren said the SEC extended offers only to Oklahoma and Texas A&M, both of which opted to stay in a slimmed-down Big 12 after Colorado left for the Pac-10 and Nebraska left for the Big Ten. Because the SEC offer didn't include two of the Sooners' key rivals, Oklahoma State and Texas, Boren said he didn't consider it a good option.
"There was a time when A&M thought they were going to the SEC and they very much wanted us to go with them," Boren said. "Oklahoma, in the whole thing, we were positioned in a way where virtually we could not have lost."
Last Friday, Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis confirmed that his school "never had an offer" from the SEC, "so it was never anything to consider." Both he and Boren expressed a strong interest in sticking together through any future conference realignment.
"Had the Pac-10 thing fallen apart, had the Big 12 minus two not been put back together, we would have probably ended up having much more serious conversations with the SEC, and (asked) would they take OSU and Texas, for example," Boren said. "It never got to that."
Boren characterized the Pac-10 offer as one that obviously had been researched and planned, while the SEC's offer was "more of a reaction to the situation. When they saw that the Big 12 might be no more, that all the schools might go somewhere else, they then started thinking about 'Who would we want?'"
Scott said the Pac-10 offer went nowhere because Texas decided against it. Boren said it "basically fell apart because of the difference of opinion in Texas" regarding Texas A&M's interest in the SEC.
"One school doesn't like the other one to tell them what to do," Boren said, referring to Texas and Texas A&M.
Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin was out of his office Wednesday. In a June 14 letter posted on the school's website, he said that by remaining a member of the Big 12, "We were able to more than double our financial return to the levels being offered by other conferences."
Loftin added that another consideration in staying in the conference was maintaining Texas A&M's "strong foothold" in the state and preserving longtime rivalries.
Big 12 athletic directors met this week in Irving, Texas, to discuss the conference's future. Commissioner Dan Beebe said the Big 12 has "no interest in expansion" and that it was "not a consideration" at the meeting.
"There is a great deal of excitement about the future of the conference," Beebe said in a statement. "Our member institutions look forward to the continuation of excellent competition and providing outstanding experiences for our student-athletes. The 10-school model is one that is extremely attractive and provides the opportunity for continued long-term success."