12 September 2009: Oklahoma president David Boren before the University of Oklahoma Sooners 64-0 win over the Idaho State University Bengals at the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, OK.
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Barnhouse: Three voices in the Big 12 need to learn two words: No comment

J.P. Wilson/Icon Sportswire

Your Veteran Scribe, as a tax-paying, AARP-qualified citizen of these United State of America, feels qualified to exercise his right to free speech with the following opinion.

No other conference can match the Big 12 when it comes to powerful and rich old guys who feel compelled to exercise their First Amendment rights – even if their opinions prove to be a hindrance and detrimental to the conference and its member schools.

The Big 12’s Talkative Trio: David Boren, T. Boone Pickens and Red McCombs.

Boren, Oklahoma’s president and the chair of the Big 12 board of directors, is a former governor of the state and U.S. Senator who served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – yeah, he was command and control of the CIA.

He has spent the last 18 months waffling on the Big 12 expansion issue. And don’t forget that Boren’s ham-handed comments and actions in September of 2011 convinced Missouri to take the money and run to the SEC.

As the Big 12 nears its Oct. 17 Decision Day regarding the expansion issue, observers in the Big 12 and around the country are baffled by Boren’s contradictory comments. When Boren speaks, his words give the distinct impression that the conference is rudderless.

Pickens and McCombs are the opposite of Donald Trump – they really are billionaires. But when it comes to the football coaches at their schools, they’re similar to The Donald when it comes to making outrageous statements.

As you’ve probably heard, Charlie Strong’s tenure as Texas coach is again twisting in the wind. McCombs is a major UT donor – the business school has his name on it. McCombs believes he’s earned the right to comment when “no comment” should be his go-to answer.

“We know we have issues, and the whole world knows we have issues, so it does hurt” McCombs told the San Antonio Express-News this week in reference to the Longhorns’ 2-2 start and defensive issues. “Don’t tell me you can’t fire someone in the middle of the season … It’s not my call. But if they decide it’s over, it doesn’t do anybody any good to drag it out.”

McCombs pointed out that the Minnesota Vikings and San Antonio Spurs fired coaches mid-season during his time as owner of those pro franchises. But that’s pro sports and The University of Texas has prided itself on not getting dirty wrestling with the hogs of college sports. UT has never fired a coach in mid-season (offensive and defensive coordinators – different story).

Before Strong was hired, some of the Texas power brokers tried for the walk-off grand slam of hiring Nick Saban away from Alabama. Instead of saying “no comment” or “let’s wait and see,” McCombs immediately hung a loss on Strong before he had even coached a game.

“I don’t have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach,” McCombs said shortly after Strong was hired. “I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator. But I don’t believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin. I don’t think it adds up.”

Think about that. Read it again. A rich white man saying that an accomplished black coach – who is on the record saying he has been passed over for jobs at Southern schools because he has a white wife – is only qualified to be a position coach or a coordinator.

McCombs had pushed for Texas to hire former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden.

“I think it is a kick in the face,” McCombs said at the time. “We have boosters that have a lot of knowledge about the game. … I don’t see how they can miss (hiring a coach). They can get anyone they want. They can close their eyes and go ‘Eeny-meeny-miny-moe’ and end up with someone good.”

The first time Strong walked into his office in Austin he knew that one of the program’s biggest boosters wasn’t a fan. Good luck with the rebuilding job, coach.

January 26, 2013: T. Boone Pickens cheers for Oklahoma State during the NCAA basketball game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater Ok. Oklahoma State won 80-66

T. Boone Pickens (William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)

Strong and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy can trade stories of dealing with kiss-my-ring boosters. Pickens has donated over $500 million to his alma mater. The football stadium, once a rusty erector set, is now a jewel and it bears Pickens’ name.

Gundy is also an Oklahoma State alum, the team’s quarterback when Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy with the greatest season in college football history. Gundy, the most successful coach in school history, is closing in on 100 victories and came within moments and a few BCS decimal points of playing for the national championship in 2011.

Last week Pickens appeared on a podcast in Austin and turned a nifty double play. He not only took a shot at OU’s Boren – “I’ve known David forever. He likes to talk. He gets a little bit confused sometimes.” He fired a shot across the bow of the U.S.S. Gundy.

“I don’t have any conversations with Gundy,” Pickens said. “(Is there a rift?) I don’t know, but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things. I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”

Nasty notes? What is this, junior high?

Most of us dislike distractions when we’re working. Coaches despise distractions. Those sorts of comments from the school’s uber booster are a distraction in Stillwater. McCombs tried to walk back his comments by issuing a statement before Saturday’s Texas game but the bell had been rung.

Following Oklahoma State’s 49-31 domination of the Longhorns, Gundy was asked to address Pickens, the statement and their relationship. He didn’t go off on an “I’m a man” rant but he appears to be fed up with billionaire backseat drivers.

“If you really care about OSU, then I want you do things to help OSU,” Gundy said. “I don’t care who it is. That’s the way I see it. You know what I’m saying? If you’re doing something that’s hurting us in the big picture, well then I don’t like that. Because that means it makes it worse on these guys who bust their ass.

“I hate that (Pickens) feels the way he does. I mean, I don’t know what to do. I just have to do my job. And you know what? At some point, if somebody feels it ain’t good enough, then hell, somebody else can come in here and try it. I mean, I’m good.”

Maybe Texas will grab the gold ring and find its Royal. Maybe if Gundy gets fed up and takes another job, Oklahoma State will hire a better coach. But the meddling money men with the big mouths make the process of winning football games harder than it already is.

Barnhouse: Three voices in the Big 12 need to learn two words: No comment
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