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John E. Hoover: While Houston gains very public momentum, Boren keeps his cool on Big 12 expansion

John E. Hoover: While Houston gains very public momentum, Boren keeps his cool on Big 12 expansion
OU president David Boren talks about the new Big 12 championship game, a league-wide network, conference expansion and other topics during a news conference at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, Texas, on Friday. Boren and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby wrapped up the league's annual spring business meetings by reporting a record revenue distribution of $30.4 million per school. (Photo: John E. Hoover)

OU president David Boren talks about the new Big 12 championship game, a league-wide network, conference expansion and other topics during a news conference at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, Texas, in June. As support for Houston as a new Big 12 member school heated up Thursday, Boren kept his cool. (Photo: John E. Hoover)

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.

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Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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