Cunningham: Tulsa Would Be 'Very Competitive' In Big 12

Thursday, September 22nd 2011, 10:10 pm
By: News On 6

Bobby Lewis,

TULSA, Oklahoma – The landscape of college football is changing faster than rush hour traffic lights. One minute, the Pac-12 is allegedly getting friendly with other teams. The next, the league hits the brakes on continuing with any expansion possibilities.

The Big 12 was flapping in the wind during a lot of the realignment rumors. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were both expected to move west with two other Big 12 schools to form the Pac-16. The conference seas certainly got rockier after the Pac-12 slammed the door shut in the Sooners and Cowboys' faces.

Unsteady feelings are on campus at the University of Tulsa as well.

Conference USA could be in for a shake up as well. East Carolina has applied to join the Big East. There are talks from Big 12 officials, like OSU's Burns Hargis, to try to expand the league in the future by extending invites to Houston, SMU and TCU.

The Golden Hurricane is wondering what it has to do to get on that V.I.P. list.

"We could play them every year if we were in the Big 12," Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham said with a grin when asked about his team's non-conference matchups this season with in-state foes Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

"We have a highly competitive athletic program. We're approximate to many of the teams in the Big 12," he went on to say. "We'd be very competitive with many of the schools in the Big 12."

While Sooners and Cowboys fans will point to their recent wins over TU as chief reason to keep the Golden Hurricane out of the Big 12, the decisions to add or subtract teams is based on more than just on-field achievements. Tulsa has those, with 37 football wins in the past four seasons, but also thinks it has more to offer than just football.

Cunningham thinks variety is a way to keep a conference strong. The fact that Tulsa is a small, private institution would have a balancing effect on the larger, public universities that have started pecking away at each other in the nation's bigger conferences.

Including graduate students, Tulsa currently has 4,194 total students enrolled at the university. Oklahoma (29,721) and Oklahoma State (35,000) are at least seven times larger than that.

"We're a small, private, which can be a challenge, but I think that's probably what makes a great league," said Cunningham. "Some privates mixed in with the publics, I think, is actually good for the institutions as well as competitive equity."

Conference USA covers a wide range of enrollment figures from Tulsa to Central Florida (56,235).