Discord in the Big 12 Conference is certainly nothing new. It’s been there since Day 1.
Just ask Tom Osborne.
But discord at the University of Oklahoma hasn’t been on the front porch since David Boren became OU’s president in 1994.
Actually, OU leadership, particularly in the highest athletic circles, has been very much in lockstep since Boren hired Joe Castiglione and Castiglione hired Bob Stoops.
That’s why today’s column by CBS Sports writer Dennis Dodd was so unexpected.
Max Weitzenhoffer, a member of OU’s board of regents, telling Dodd that Boren and some of the regents were not on the same page? That he disagreed with Boren’s position that the Big 12 needs to expand from its current membership of 10 schools to 12?
That’s not the OU way.
You can occasionally find a regent who is willing to talk off the record or provide some deep-cover background, but going on the record and criticizing the president is strictly forbidden. University leadership, deep-pocketed boosters and especially other regents frown on such activity.
The first reaction here this morning was that Weitzenhoffer probably shouldn’t be going against the grain like that.
Boren’s moves are always carefully calculated, and he has put OU in a position of power — socially, politically, economically, and certainly athletically — that the school has never known.
Boren knows what he’s doing. If he wants to use his and his school’s clout to spearhead Big 12 expansion, then the OU regents need to trust that Boren is once again making the right move, that his forcing the expansion issue surely will fortify the school’s position.
That could mean as the new landlord in the Big 12, an era in which OU, not Texas with its current vacuum of power, wields the true influence and shapes conference policy for the next generation. New leadership in Austin means an opportunity in Norman.
Or, it could mean OU has tired of the league’s reactive mentality that has continued to diminish its authority among other conferences and the Sooners leave the Big 12 altogether to share in the riches of the Big Ten Conference or the Southeastern Conference or maybe even the Pac-12 Conference.
Whatever the result, the OU regents should trust Boren. He is the Big 12’s only person to preside over every year of the league’s existence, and he and Castiglione and Stoops are the nation’s longest-tenured president-AD-head football coach triumvirate.
He’s never steered the school wrong.
Which brings us to this evening’s developments, an amendment of sorts from Weitzenhoffer in the form of a statement from the university, issued simultaneously with a statement from Boren.
“I first want to make it clear that I have complete confidence in the leadership of the University of Oklahoma,” Weitzenhoffer said. “President Boren has proven to be a visionary and effective leader of the university. I am confident that our President will lead the university in the right direction on matters related to the Big 12 Conference. He has and continues to have my full support.”
Boren’s statement was a little less apologetic.
“I remain firmly committed to my belief that we should all work together to make the Big 12 Conference even stronger through holistic reform that allows for expansion and the creation of a Big 12 network.”
That’s it. That’s all Boren had to say.
In essence, “This is what I believe, and I’m sticking to it.”
For those scoring at home, that’s Boren 1, Weitzenhoffer nil.
Really, for what it’s worth, Weitzenhoffer lost all credibility on talking about what’s best for OU and the Big 12 when, at the end of Dodd’s piece, he described himself as an old-school fan who longs for the days of traditional bowl tie-ins and human polls.
Sorry, but those days are long, long gone.
Just ask Tom Osborne.
Boren made it clear to me in a conversation this past January that he thinks this stance is the best path for the University of Oklahoma moving forward.
Now it seems he’s also made it clear to the chairman of the OU board of regents.