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September 2, 2011

OU President could take Sooners out of the Big 12

University of Oklahoma President David Boren said his university is looking at all available options following the withdrawal of Texas A&M from the Big 12 Conference.

Boren met with reporters on Friday evening, following a ground breaking ceremony for Oklahoma's brand new Sooner Center, a $75 million dormitory which will house athletes as well as general students.

"Obviously as you track my plane flying here and there, you know I'm disappointed Texas A&M left," said Boren who had just visited College Station in an effort to convince the Aggies to remain in the Big 12 Conference.

"I was personally involved in trying to see if there was some way that would not happen. It is a disappointment that those schools have left and we face the challenge that we do today."

Oklahoma has remained loyal to the Big 12 Conference throughout the turmoil of Nebraska bolting to the Big Ten Conference and Colorado leaving for the Pac-12 last summer.

But the losses are mounting on OU's president and forcing him to rethink his position on whether the Sooners belong in the Big 12 Conference.

"I guess I'm just disappointed that the original Big 12 is not still the same Big 12," Boren said. "I was extremely disappointed when Nebraska departed, I was disappointed when Colorado departed."

But the question now becomes: Will Oklahoma be the next to leave?

Oklahoma was noticeably quiet following A&M's announcement that they were leaving the conference. Boren confirmed on Friday afternoon, the lack of statements were intentional.

"We have been relatively and unusually quiet in terms of public pronoucents, that's to keep open and study the best options for us and not lock ourselves into a course of action until we know what's best for the university," said Boren.

"We're at the sensitive point of discussions among schools that I think too much said in public, reduces the chance of success, of our goals, or that enhances it. I really can't say much more than that."

Earlier this week, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops admitted he would like to see the Big 12 Conference get back to being a 12-team league. On Friday, Boren said that is now his preference as well.

"If we could eventually get back to twelve, I would feel better about it," he admitted. "I think if we could eventually, that doesn't mean in one year, maybe it's going to take two or three years."

But that's assuming the Big 12 Conference ends up being the best available option for Oklahoma.

Could Boren be tired of the challenges facing his university in the Big 12? For the first time, it appears the door is open for others to swoop in and pick up the Sooners.

"We have interest from other conferences and other universities," said Boren. "It's really a tribute to the strength of our program at the University of Oklahoma that there is so much interest in us. We have to carefully evaluate the various comments that are being made to us and various possibilities being shown to us before we decide what's best for the university to do."

Whatever Boren's decision is, don't expect Oklahoma to remain in a weakened Big 12 Conference.

"I think we remain a very influential member of the conference. I'll just put it that way," said Boren. "Influential not only in this conference, but influential across the country. It's a tribute to the strength of this program.

"I'll put it this way, I don't think there's any chance OU's going to end up being a wallflower when this is all over."

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