COLUMBIA — As the rumors of conference realignment continue to fly, the Big 12’s football coaches are playing mostly coy, though the mood during Monday’s teleconference seemed to be one of begrudging acceptance that realignment was an issue that wasn’t going away.
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, whose school has been thrust into the forefront of the realignment talks after remarks from President David L. Boren on Friday, elected not to comment on the Sooners’ future specifically but did hint at the inevitability of the era of the 16-team super conference.
“It seems that that’s the direction the world's going. If it is, so be it,” Stoops said. “As long as we get to play, I’ll go play wherever they tell me to go play.”
With the Longhorns also part of the Pac-12-maybe-16 discussion, Texas coach Mack Brown’s comments were straightforward and reflected the type of attitude that most associate with Texas.
“There’s going to be something really good for Texas at the end of this,” Brown said. “I’m really in one of those positions where our school will be OK regardless of what happens, and that’s not the case for everybody. … We’ll end up where we want to end up and that’s OK.”
Brown also didn't want to speculate on specifics, citing the uncertainty of what happened with the first round of conference realignment last summer.
"I did not think it would come up again. I thought it was over for at least 10 years," Brown said. "We were in the Pac-10 at that time. We were gone and we were done. Then the next day we were here, so it was all over the place. It seems like there are about five different scenarios out there that everybody thinks are guaranteed to be the case."
The latest reports have Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech headed west to turn the Pac-12 into the Pac-16, and Boren’s comments Friday only fueled speculation to that effect.
Monday’s big splash came when the New York Post reported that if those four schools depart, the Big East would invite Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State. The Big East would then have 12 football teams and 20 basketball teams.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who has been among the most outspoken of the Big 12 coaches regarding realignment issues, declined to clarify a comment he made during an interview with Yahoo! Sports radio host Tim Brando on Friday.
“You don’t hear anything about any other league in the country having these kind of problems. You know, we all know where it starts,” Pinkel said to Brando on Friday.
Internet speculation was rampant about whether Pinkel was referring to Texas or Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.
Pinkel did say that it was easier to deal with the realignment issues during the season because he had football to focus on instead.
“I’ve been dealing with this for a year and a half now,” Pinkel said. “I’ve got absolutely no control over it.”
Recommended realignment reading:
Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star writes that the Big 12 has become an relatively unfriendly place.
Pete Thamel of the New York Times breaks the Pac-16 scenario down in detail.
Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune says the Big Ten is content to stand pat.