Texas Athletic Director Mike Perrin shakes hands after the Big 12 conference meeting Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Mike Perrin steps up, shows some Texas clout at Big 12 meetings

Posted June 1st, 2016

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IRVING — Texas likes the status quo.

A lot.

Athletic director Mike Perrin may not have signaled the death knell for Big 12 expansion, but he did it no favors on Wednesday, and a pool of up to 25 schools that have been flooding league commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s inbox may now need life support. If the new AD’s very blunt comments were any indication, the Cincinnatis and BYUs and Houstons of the world just might need to start knocking on some other conference’s doors.

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When he glowingly mentioned how strong the Big 12 was in so many areas like competition, television rights, ability to reach the playoffs and other areas, Perrin inadvertently called it the Big Ten. Called on his mistake, Perrin chuckled and said, “Texas has not moved.”

And he didn’t sound like he wanted Texas to move to another league or grow the Big 12 anytime soon. “It would be prudent to stay where we are,” he said. “Philosophically, I’m not for expansion for just expansion’s sake.”

As for Texas’ beloved Longhorn Network, Perrin said he was emphatically in favor of keeping the only single-school network in the country other than BYU’s, probably into perpetuity. But at least through a contract running through 2031. “I would not disturb it at this time,” he said.

Speaking in the strongest terms possible for the first time on a variety of subjects since he took the job last September, Perrin made it abundantly clear where the Longhorns stand on all matters Big 12 moving forward. He made plain-spoken, bold remarks that would have made DeLoss Dodds proud.

Certainly, Perrin came out of his shell and was forceful, authoritative and sure of himself. He grew a pair of skills and was confident and straightforward. It was good to see for a Longhorns leader, who had been seen as overmatched in his position even though he agreed this semester to serve as AD another two years. That image could be changing. This was Texas with its usual clout.

Perrin even sounded decisive about his upcoming search for a successor to baseball coach Augie Garrido. He’s got no set timetable and said he’s received input from others about possible replacements, but made it seem as if he will push for “someone with extensive college coaching experience.” As smart and capable as former Longhorns like Spike Owen and Keith Moreland are, Perrin said he thinks the complicated world of Division I coaching requires a skill set that would be difficult for candidates who haven’t coached at the college level.

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Wednesday’s session with the media at these Big 12 meetings in Irving was a big moment for Perrin, a trial lawyer by trade with a love for all things Longhorn, but no athletic administrative experience before President Gregory L. Fenves hired him last fall to replace the polarizing Steve Patterson. It might even be a launching pad for a new, more secure Perrin, who hasn’t been very accessible despite a warm, likable personality.

And it perhaps was a telling moment for a league that is facing critical choices about its future despite a stellar year that included national contenders in football, men’s and women’s basketball, track, baseball, volleyball, swimming, golf, and softball because Texas and Oklahoma hold huge power on the league’s future.

Perrin doesn’t sense the urgency for expansion for the Big 12, which rightfully loves its round-robin format for all the major sports. He’s curious about the ongoing value of media contracts for the future.

In a nutshell, Perrin said, “The whole Big 12 situation is really good.”

Does he think his athletic director colleagues agree?

“I do,” he said.

If that’s true, the discussions the athletic directors and presidents have about expansion, a championship game and a league network could be moot. Bowlsby said the ADs didn’t discuss a single school in their 90-minute discussion about the aforementioned elements Wednesday and said he will push the Big 12 members to arrive at their decisions for the future by late summer.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said he’d reserve specific comments on these topics until Thursday. He’s been pro-Big 12 more than school president David Boren, but said he remains “open-minded.”

Moreso than Perrin, who emerged as a more decisive leader. He sounded pretty closed-minded on these pressing topics, but Texas will be open to him as a stronger voice for the future.

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