Big 12 has 'never been stronger,' Sooners president David Boren says

IRVING, Texas -- Big 12 presidents aren't rushing into a decision about expansion, saying they view expansion as an option but not an urgent action to sustain the league's long-term future.

Oklahoma president David Boren, who last June called the Big 12 "psychologically disadvantaged" at 10 members, spoke Thursday of a league that has "never been stronger" and can afford to take its time with several major items, including expansion.

"We're going to be very careful," Boren said. "That's an obligation that the conference has, and it's an obligation I have as an individual president. Where does the data take us and what strategy makes the best sense? We're not in a weak position; we're in a strong position.

"We'll evaluate all of that and also look at who the possible partners are."

Boren, the new chair of the Big 12 board, described this week's meetings as primarily data-gathering sessions. Some key league figures have voiced positions on expansion, such as Texas athletic director Mike Perrin, who said Wednesday he saw no value in adding members, but Boren indicated the presidents are still absorbing information. 

"I have no [philosophical] positions on expansion or anything else," Boren said.

The presidents are hearing from two consultants, Navigate Research and Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, that the Big 12 hired to assess expanded league models. The Big 12 is also considering forming its own television network and adding a conference championship game. Boren said it would be "wrong" for league presidents to view expansion as the only method for solidifying the conference's future.

League commissioner Bob Bowlsby has stated several times that complete inaction will leave the Big 12 far behind other Power 5 conferences, namely the SEC and Big Ten, in future revenue projections. The league will release its most recent revenue totals Friday.

"Everyone doesn't have to be exactly penny-for-penny the same, but we do want to find strategies that will help us in terms of the financial situation going forward," Boren said. "We are not as disadvantaged as some might think."

The Big 12 has received overtures from several prospective members from Group of 5 leagues, including Cincinnati, BYU, Memphis and Connecticut. Asked if current Power 5 members have expressed interest in joining the Big 12, Boren said, "We have to be realistic about who is all available.

"I haven't gotten any mink coats or anything like that, but I've certainly gotten a lot of detailed data and other things, invitations to take visits."

The presidents will conclude their meetings Friday. The league expects them to form individual positions during the next few months and then possibly reconvene for decisions on expansion and other major items. "I would not want this group to be reporting four or five months down the road that this decision was made very carelessly," Boren said. "We're not in any kind of crisis that we have to decide something very, very quickly."

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