The departure of Kirk Schulz from Kansas State to Washington State meant the Big 12 needed to fill the role a chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors.
Somehow, Oklahoma’s David Boren, the longest tenured Big 12 president, had avoided the duty. Until now.
And what timing. Boren would become the spokesman for the conference at the precise moment there was something to say on expansion, a topic that he has largely driven with his public comments.
But Thursday, as the Big 12 wrapped up a second day of spring meetings, Boren played the role of statesman, hitting his comments in the center of the fairway.
No “psychological disadvantage” or any of his greatest hits. He even played nice with the University of Texas.
“Yes, there is a rivalry, but I really value our friendship and relationship,” Boren said of the Longhorns.
Boren’s thoughts on possible Big 12 growth were just as diplomatic.
“I have no theological positions on expansion or anything else,” Boren said.
It’s a different tune for Boren who has been advocating expansion in order to have a conference championship game in football and a possible Big 12 network. Boren said the three were linked.
But on Thursday, Bowen chose his words carefully.
“We’re going to be very careful,” Boren said. “Where does the data take and what strategy makes the most sense for keeping this conference strong? We’re not in a weak position. We’re in a strong position.”
On Wednesday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the league would come to some kind of decision on expansion by the end of summer, and Boren’s comments Thursday indicated the schools would take the information provided to them and consider the league’s course over the next few months.
That includes expansion. Boren said many schools that wish to be expansion candidates have contacted him, and some have made public their desire to join the Big 12. Among the most mentioned possibilities: Cincinnati, Memphis, Central Florida, Houston, Brigham Young and Colorado State.
A day earlier, Texas athletic director Mike Perrin said he prefers the current structure, 10 teams with round-robin scheduling in football and double round robin in basketball.
“I’m trying to keep an open mind, and I think that’s in the spirit of the conference membership,” Boren said.
As for his own stance, Boren was asked if he’s softened his view on expansion.
“I’d have to say there have been a lot of developments in the marketplace that are clearer to us than six months ago,” Boren said.
Unlike realignment five years ago, when the Big 12 lost Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M, and picked up TCU and West Virginia, the conference isn’t making moves to survive the next season.
“We are in a position of strength,” Boren said. “And when you are in a position of strength it is the time to make some decisions.
“But also, it is the time that you can afford to be very careful about your decisions. We’re not in any kind of crisis in which we have to decide something very, very quickly.”