Deaton: Big 12 future rests with Sooners

COLUMBIA (AP) — The head of the Big 12 board of directors says the future of the embattled league largely rests with Oklahoma.

Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, president of the Big 12 board, told the Associated Press he and other university leaders “are working every day to hold the Big 12 together” but the next move is largely dependent on the Sooners.

Oklahoma president David Boren said earlier this month the school was in contact with multiple conferences and expected to decide soon whether to remain in the Big 12. Oklahoma regents are scheduled to meet Monday and conference affiliation — including the legal ramifications of a switch — is on the agenda.

One possible destination: the Pac-12, which lured Colorado away over the summer and unsuccessfully courted other Big 12 schools a year ago. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said his conference isn’t actively pursuing expansion, but also won’t sit by if the conference landscape is altered again.

Neither will Missouri, which had hoped last year to join the Big Ten before that league added Nebraska.

While Deaton professed conference unity, he also noted “every member of the board’s primary commitment is to their own institution.”

Without prompting, he suggested Missouri would have no trouble finding a BCS conference home should the Big 12 disintegrate. He declined to discuss possible destinations, nor reveal schools under consideration to join the Big 12 should the remaining members choose to fight for survival.

Texas A&M has announced it intends to leave by next July and the Southeastern Conference has voted to accept the Aggies if there are no legal entanglements in the way.

Several Big 12 schools have not waived that right, a potential hurdle in Texas A&M’s departure. Deaton said that decision would be up to Missouri’s governing board, but the curators “have certainly not” made that decision, nor talked about it.

“I’m very proud of the University of Missouri and its brand, the high esteem by which we’re held in the nation,” he said. “Our (Association of American Universities) status is very important, our athletic competitiveness is very important. That combination gives us a sense of comfort.”

“There’s real virtue in patience these days,” he added. “It’s changing all the time ... Our position is we’re waiting to see what the rest of the conference does, particularly Oklahoma.”

On Thursday, Deaton and Missouri athletic director Mike Alden met with a 20-member campus athletics oversight committee whose members include faculty, staff, students and alumni. The meeting was closed to reporters.

“Alden just said it’s up in the air,” according to a participant in the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was supposed to be private. “That we’re waiting on Oklahoma. There weren’t even any questions. I was kind of surprised.”

Even with Texas A&M’s looming departure, it was Boren’s comments that have shaken the Big 12.

Oklahoma was offered chances to join both the Pac-10 and the SEC last year but decided to stay in the Big 12 despite the losses of Nebraska and Colorado. Boren said he tried to prevent Texas A&M from leaving and “there’s nothing that says the conference will collapse at nine” -- but he also said he would feel better about the league if it had 12 members.

“I do not know with certainty or perhaps even can’t hazard a totally intelligent guess as to what our final decision will be,” Boren said then. “But we are carefully looking over all of the options. There is no school in the Big 12 more active than we are right now.”

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