Once the dust settled last week and the wild rumor mill came to a screeching halt, the Big 12 Conference found itself still standing ” a couple of teams lighter, but with an upgraded TV deal in the works and a new lease on life.
The announcement ended weeks of rumors that forecast the almost-certain demise of the Big 12 and had both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State destined to become part of a realigned Pac-10 Conference. In the end, however, Colorado was the only Big 12 school that went west, while Nebraska also departed for the Big Ten Conference.
While losing two Big 12 rivals potentially weakens the conference ” at least for the moment ” the news of its survival was well-received by local sports enthusiasts and anyone who has a stake in its success. That includes the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, which has forged a staunch partnership with the conference the past few years.
“We were prepared, no matter what the final outcome proved to be, to move forward and to continue to pursue additional NCAA events at all levels,” said Tim Brassfield, executive director of the All Sports Association. “But at the same time, we are extremely excited it worked out the way it did.”
Oklahoma City is undoubtedly a big winner in the decision, especially considering the revenue generated by the Big 12 Baseball Championship and other major events that have come to town, like the Big 12 basketball tournaments (2007 and 2009) and various NCAA regionals in recent years.
A year ago, the Big 12 men’s and women’s hoops tourneys combined to bring an estimated $35-$40 million into Oklahoma City’s economy during its week-long run downtown. The Big 12 baseball tournament reportedly generates between $6-$10 million annually.
“Losing the affiliation we have established with the Big 12 Conference would have definitely affected us. Let’s not forget our co-hosts for the NCAA regionals on the women’s side and the NCAA regionals on the men’s side ” we work together on those with the Big 12,” said Brassfield. “The main reason we do is to allow both OU and OSU to potentially play here during the postseason.”
The All Sports Association would most certainly have pursued hosting the Pac-10 basketball and baseball tournaments, had realignment taken place. But with so many unknown factors involved in that deal, there were no guarantees OKC would have even been considered as a potential host site.
“Right now, Oklahoma City is the center footprint of the Big 12 Conference, and that is always advantageous from a geographical standpoint,” said Brassfield.
Being centrally located in the conference and having first-rate facilities make OKC an ideal host site for Big 12 events, and Mayor Mick Cornett was more than happy to see the conference move forward together.
“Whatever is in the best interest of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is in the best interest of Oklahoma City. We feel it is important that it worked out the way it did,” Cornett said.
Things definitely worked out from a tradition standpoint, as realignment could have meant the end of key rivalries like Bedlam and OU-Texas had the schools somehow ended up in different conferences.
While Texas seemed to get most of the credit for “keeping the Big 12 together,” OU and OSU officials joined forces to help make sure the conference had a bright future.
“It was especially good to see Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas stay together. Obviously, those are two of the most important games OU plays every season, and it would have been unfortunate to see those potentially go away,” said Steve Owens, Heisman Trophy winner and former OU director of athletics.
“I like the fact OU and OSU worked hand-in-hand on this thing because when it comes down to it, we’re Oklahoma football teams. That says a lot about our state and both universities. We realize how important both of these schools are, and it turned out pretty good for us.” “Jay C. Upchurch