The President Who Politicked Oklahoma Back to the Top

“David Boren is a 3-D chess player in a world of checkers players,” Tom Cole, a Republican congressman whose district includes Oklahoma’s campus in Norman, said.

Boren’s apparently counterproductive statements had their motives, he said: to try to sway a fellow Big 12 member, Texas, from committing to its own sports network in partnership with ESPN, which — as Boren predicted — has hindered the Big 12 in a variety of ways; to urge conference members to consider expanding the league at a time Boren thought that wise; and to reject that expansion when many thought it was a fait accompli.

Known for that C-suite skill of running a great meeting, Boren has unabashedly exploited his political savvy as well as his institution’s strength. He gained a special opportunity to flex these muscles last year when he served as chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors as the conference prepared to consider adding a football championship game, which it did, and when it discussed expanding beyond its 10-institution membership, which it did not.

That first championship game will be played Saturday at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., between No. 10…

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