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CNHI News Service State Sports

September 3, 2011

Oklahoma explores options to Big 12, President David Boren says

NORMAN, Okla. —

University of Oklahoma President David Boren said Friday that he is “heavily involved” in discussions about the Big 12 Conference’s future and possible realignment, though he does not know where those talks will lead.

Boren told reporters Friday, following a beam-raising and naming ceremony for a student housing center under construction, that he has traveled often and had many discussions with other presidents about the Big 12 Conference, and that athletics director Joe Castiglione also is involved.

Speculation on what will become of the Big 12 Conference and its member schools has ramped up with Texas A&M’s stated intention to leave the conference next summer. Boren acknowledged traveling to Columbia, Mo., and to College Station, Texas, and that OU has received interest from other conferences and universities, though he didn’t specify which ones.

But he said he didn’t know as of Friday where those or any other discussions will lead.

“I don’t know how long it will be before clarity comes to us. ... I don’t really think this is something that’s going to linger on beyond two or three weeks. It’s been consuming my life the last few days (but) it’s a fascinating challenge. We’re just in search of what’s best for the university,” he said.

Boren said he was “extremely disappointed” when Nebraska and Colorado opted to leave last summer for the Big Ten and then-Pac-10 Conference, respectively, and with the recent Texas A&M decision to leave for the Southeastern Conference because he had hoped for greater conference stability.

Boren “would feel better” about the Big 12 Conference’s long-term viability if it goes back to 12 teams, though that doesn’t have to happen right away, if at all.

“At this point in time, I’m being very honest with you, I do not know with certainty or perhaps can’t hazard a totally intelligent guess as to what our final decision will be,” Boren said. “There is no school in the Big 12 more active than we are right now.”

Regardless of where OU ends up, Boren said he’s looking for conference stability and for strong athletic and academic partnerships among member universities. He also said great partners continue to exist within the Big 12 Conference.

The OU president said the university will fare well because of its unity between regents, administrators and the athletic department — and because OU is an influential Big 12 member that is taking charge in determining its athletic future.

“I’ll put it this way: I don’t think there’s any chance OU is going to end up being a wallflower when this is all over,” Boren said.

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