As Big 12 expansion talk heats up, so do Texas politics.
On Thursday morning, Texas governor Greg Abbott Tweeted this about Houston’s candidacy.
“Big 12 expansion is a non-starter unless it includes University of Houston.”
10:40 AM – 21 Jul 2016
By mid-afternoon Thursday, university of Texas president Greg Fenves tweeted out his thoughts about the Cougars’ viability in the Big 12.
“As we look at opportunities for Big 12 expansion, I support considering @UHouston for the conference. UH is a huge asset for Texas.”
3:19 PM – 21 Jul 2016
Earlier in the day, ESPN reported that in an anonymous straw poll with Big 12 head coaches, Houston and BYU each received the most votes (five) while Memphis and Cincinnati were next (four each).
University of Oklahoma president David Boren, however, who also serves as chairman of the Big 12’s Board of Directors, maintained his policy of not commenting on specific candidates.
“As Chairman of the Big 12 Conference,” Boren told The Franchise in an email, “it is not appropriate for me to comment on the prospects of any individual university.”
Boren and commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced Tuesday at the conclusion of Big 12 Media Days that the league’s presidents and chancellors had authorized Bowlsby to begin researching, interviewing, investigating and vetting the 25 or so schools who have inquired about inclusion for Big 12 membership.
In June at the league’s annual spring business meetings, expansion sounded like a dead topic when Boren said Big 12 fans “want to see our team play against great teams. They don’t want to see them play mediocre teams.
“The data for expansion is going to require some further thought. There’s no doubt that expansion gives some marginal gain. But how much marginal gain? We have to refine that a little further financially. It does give some marginal gain. But you have weight that against reputational impacts.”
But expansion from 10 members to 12 or 14 is now on a fast track. Bowlsby said new members could be in place for the 2017 season (he backed off that timeline a bit on Wednesday) — that’s also the year the league has targeted for reimplementation of a conference championship game in football — and said there could be news as early as the Big 12’s next board of directors meeting in October, “but it’s also possible that we could have a special meeting sometime between now and then.”
Some will see Boren’s latest comment as proper decorum befitting a chairman of a board of directors.
But some may see it as telling the Texas president to keep his votes to himself, rather than opening the door for every Big 12 president to offer public endorsements for one candidate or another.
A show of solidarity, even in silence, is vital for a league that actually has become quite infamous for its lack thereof.