We're just days removed from the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship game, and the idea of conference realignment has been embedded into the brains of Big Ten and Oklahoma fans nationwide.
It's been a busy past week in the offseason of college football, especially in the Big 12 as representatives from FBS conference voted last week for the Big 12 to possibly hold a conference championship game without having to divide divisions or expand to 12 teams. This sounds feasible with the backlash dating back to the inaugural season for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee slighting the Big 12 due to the lack of a conference championship.
Oklahoma Sooner president David Boren is a major advocate for conference expansion in the Big 12. In an interview with tulsaworld.com, Boren not only cited lack of 12 teams, no conference championship game and no conference network as the reasons he feels the conference could reach "little brother" status, but also adds some interesting sentiments about the Big 10.
Q: I understand the Big Ten Conference essentially has a standing invitation to OU. Can you say if that's true or not?
A: "Well, I wouldn't comment on that. I don't think it would be appropriate to comment. I would say that there are no official outstanding invitations from anyone right now, but there are always, always informal conversations that we get approached (with) from time to time, and I think the strength of our program, we're always considered a Top 10 program in the country. So we're always attractive to the conferences. We have comprehensive strength. We're talking about football, we're talking about basketball, we're talking about gymnastics, other things. We have a very strong, comprehensive program. Our brand, I noticed in one of the magazines recently, they measured the worth of the top brands in the country, as they saw it, athletically, and we were in the top six, ranked in that fashion. So I think there are always opportunities for Oklahoma.
"But I think our first choice will always be to remain in the Big 12 â if we can make the Big 12 into or strengthen the Big 12 in a meaningful way. We should continue. That's what we've got to do. But yes, there have beenâand particularly back during the period of time in which, as you recall, all that discussion about the Pacific, the Pac Conference and so on. Yes, there certainly was a lot of chatter and interest in us from other conferences. But our goal is not to move on to another conference. Our goal is to stay in the Big 12. So we're concentrating all of our efforts right now not on even thinking about going anywhere else. We're concentrating all of our efforts on strengthening the Big 12. And hopefully we'll be successful.
"Let me say, there are three or four other schools in particular that are really â and presidents of other institutions; I won't name them, I don't think that would be appropriate â they feel as strongly as I do about getting something like this done. So it's not just Oklahoma that's pushing this effort for a comprehensive program. We have some very strong allies and I'm just optimistic. We have a good commissioner to help implement anything we decide to do. He is very savvy about finances, about television and networks, about how the College Football Playoff works and how it functions.
"I think we're, you know, it's just the right time to do it. It's the right time to make the move. So I hope they won't just take this one and say, ‘Oh well, we've got permission to do a playoff (championship).' We can do a lot more than that. It doesn't make sense to do that in isolation."
According to FoxSports.com, the Sooners finished 2014 as the eighth most valuable athletic program with $48 million. The revenue is evident, but how would the Sooners blend with their prospective football and basketball brethren?
In what is already one of the top tier college basketball programs, the possible addition of Oklahoma would add a multitude of compelling storylines. Head coach Lon Kruger has quietly turned the Sooners into a nationally recognized program with arguably the best player in guard Buddy Hield. In four years with Oklahoma, Kruger has garnered a 82-49 (.614) record and has been a fixture in the NCAA tournament since his arrival to Norman. The possible addition to the Big Ten would make for an even deeper conference and an additional team to tussle with the Big Ten's elite.
This is perhaps the most intriguing facet of the possible realignment of the Big Ten conference. Much has been discussed about the loaded Big Ten East division in comparison with the Big Ten West. If Oklahoma were to join, it would almost assuredly be assigned to the West with yearly battles against Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa. With Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State's Urban Meyer, and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio in the fold mixed with the cross-division match-ups, the possibilities are seemingly endless with Oklahoma facing Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State annually would make for appointment television.
There isn't enough merit behind these talks, as no formal invitation has been extended, but the comments made by Boren can't go unnoticed. Boren wants a conference championship game, he would have one in the Big Ten. No conference network? No problem! The Big Ten Network has earned each individual university a generous amount of money throughout the years. Geographically, the realignment idea isn't farfetched - Oklahoma has already scheduled two dates to a football series with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Oklahoma may not be moving anytime soon, but in the crazy, topsy-turvy world of collegiate athletics, nothing should be dismissed without thoughtful consideration.