There's infighting at Oklahoma over potential Big 12 expansion
The Oklahoma board of regents disagrees with the school president's stance on Big 12 expansion, and it could be a major issue for the Sooners.
The most strident and powerful voice in favor of Big 12 expansion has a significant opponent at his own school.
Max Weitzenhoffer, the Oklahoma board of regents chairman, told CBS Sports he will try to convince influential OU president David Boren to ditch Big 12 expansion.
"I can tell you I'm not alone," Weitzenhoffer said.
The seven-member board, which serves as the school's governing body, will meet Thursday. At that time, Weitzenhoffer said, he will seek clarification on the board's input regarding the school's vote on expansion.
At least one other regents member, Oklahoma City Thunder chairman Clay Bennett, is against expansion, Weitzenhoffer said.
"One-hundred percent [with] what we've been talking about," Weitzenhoffer said of Bennett's position. "We just want to let him [Boren] know, we don't like it.
"If it goes forward, it may get to the point where we may not be able to stop it."
It seems clear the regents have the final say in the expansion discussion at Oklahoma despite Boren's powerful influence.
"The simple reality is that the board is the boss of the University of Oklahoma," said Gerald Gurney, an OU assistant professor and former senior associate athletic director for academics. "It is the official governing body of the University of Oklahoma."
The 76-year old Weitzenhoffer reacted after the Big 12 seemingly moved ahead in expansion consideration last week. During spring meetings in Phoenix, coaches and athletic directors were shown analytics showing the league has a 62 percent chance of getting in the College Football Playoff in any given year.
That percentage goes up 10-15 percent -- approaching 75 percent overall -- if the league expands by two to 12 teams and plays a league championship game, according to Chicago-based Navigate Research.
What is not known is how those numbers compare to other Power Five conferences.
"They're [Big 12] at a disadvantage," said a person who witnessed the Big 12 presentation by Navigate in Phoenix. "It's clear."
The Big 12 CEOs -- presidents and chancellors -- report to their various governing boards. But those CEOs will cast institutions' final votes on expansion, according to the conference.
Boren has been the conference's most outspoken advocate of Big 12 expansion. The conference's presidents will gather May 31 to June 3 at the Big 12 meetings, where the issue will be discussed further.
"I don't know what we have to gain," Weitzenhoffer said.
He added he is "very close friends" with Boren but added, "We're not on the same page. They keep talking about more money, but it's really not that much more money."
It is known that any expansion candidates will be paid "pro rata" -- the same annually as current Big 12 members, about $23 million per year. What is not known is what additional money -- if any -- rightsholders ESPN and Fox would be willing to pay the Big 12 for expansion.
"We will have a lot of input [on Oklahoma's view of expansion]," Weitzenhoffer said of the regents. "The problems is, the reason I got so bent out of shape on this is we're coming to that crunch time and they're all trying to decide what to do.
"We think all these Big 12 presidents can do this thing without going through boards of regents. We're not sure about Texas. The fact is we just want to make sure he [Boren] understands where we are. I don't want to speak for all of us.
"We're going to force the president to tell us where we stand."
Boren, the 75-year-old former Oklahoma governor, recently ascended to chairman of the Big 12 CEOs. He continues to be a member of the league's composition committee along with West Virginia's Gordon Gee and Baylor's Kenneth Starr.
"I'm not convinced that Texas is," he said. "I don't know what the situation is in Texas. I don't think they want it. They're very coy about it. I've talked to the [Texas] regents office a couple of times. I can't really get anything out of them."
The only way expansion makes sense, Weitzenhoffer said, is snagging teams from a Power Five conference. With the exception of the SEC, those conferences are bound together at the moment each by a grant of rights. If any school leaves, its television rights are retained by the existing conference.
Thus -- short of a bitter, protracted court challenge -- no Power Five schools are likely to leave until the middle of the next decade.
"I don't think anybody can [be shaken loose]," Weitzenhoffer said, adding, "We've been fiddling with Notre Dame for years ... but they're not going to be leaving."
Weitzenhoffer is a noted Broadway and London theater producer whose plays include Dracula, Harold and Maude and Pump Boys and Dinettes. He was inducted in the Oklahoma hall of fame in 1994. His name adorns Oklahoma's School of Musical Theater.
The Big 12's dysfunction is no secret. An Oklahoma source told CBS Sports that the school "was "within 30 minutes" of leaving for the Pac-10 in 2010. That's a reference to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's reported interest in raiding of six Big 12 teams in June of that year to form a Pac-16.
Weitzenhoffer explained why the Big 12 stands to gain little in expanding to schools most commonly mentioned -- Boise State, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Memphis and South Florida, among others.
"Those are the ones I keep hearing," Weitzenhoffer said. "They have no seating capacities in their stadiums. They really don't build them up. They really don't have any TV. I really don't know what we have to gain by that."
"The problem with Cincinnati is ... then they start getting all this money," Weitzenhoffer said. "Then what do we do? We build up somebody we don't want to build up."
At least six of those expansion candidates have capacities at or below the Big 12's two smallest stadiums -- TCU and Baylor (approximately 45,000). Only UConn ($72 million) would be close to the lowest-revenue athletic departments in the Big 12 (Baylor and TCU, each at approximately $71 million).
Weitzenhoffer added he is an old-school football fan, preferring the old bowl system ruled by the human polls.
"Based on what happened to us in the Orange Bowl, even if we won that [playoff] game, we would not be able to field a team that week," Weitzenhoffer said.
"Our quarterback [Baker Mayfield] -- I was on the sidelines -- was totally out of it. Our running backs were finished. I just think a playoff also added another element of risk."
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