Big 12 officials want conference to remain in tact

Published 1:44 am Wednesday, June 2, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With speculation swirling about Missouri and Nebraska being targets for possible Big Ten expansion, commissioner Dan Beebe opened the Big 12’s spring meetings Tuesday with a plea for staying together.

At the same time, Beebe agreed there was little chance the Big 12’s future would be decided before the meetings adjourn on Friday afternoon. No decision by Missouri, Nebraska or anybody else about leaving the conference is expected for several months.

“I want to talk frankly about whether there’s a date certain that our institutions can commit to the conference so that we know who’s on board as we go forward,” Beebe told a news conference.

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He said he hopes to get long-term commitments from his members before the meetings close Friday.

“I don’t know if that’s realistic,” he said.

Beebe and others such as Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins will be urging that the conference remain intact.

“We have described the fact that we have a great conference that has provided a lot of benefit to all our institutions,” said Beebe. “I think we have a tremendous group of institutions that have benefited greatly (from the Big 12).”

The Big Ten, enriched by its own cable network, has indicated it is looking into adding teams and said in December it would take 12-18 months for the conference to decide what it is going to do.

Last year, Big 12 schools divided between $7 million and $12 million depending on how many appearances they made on regional and national TV. That means Texas usually pockets the biggest share, with the likes of Missouri lagging behind.

Meanwhile, Big Ten schools share equally and came away with more than $20 million each.

Adding to the Big 12’s distress are reports that Colorado could be looking at the Pac-10 and Texas might be checking out other options.

“I would be negligent if I wasn’t looking at what possibilities there are for any scenario that might exist,” Beebe said. “We’re not doing anything outward, but inwardly we’re doing a lot of research in case there might be any change in the whole landscape. We’re not just sitting there and waiting for the best possible outcome for us. We’re looking at all possible outcomes.”

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne and Missouri’s Mike Alden both said only that the first day went well.

“We had a very productive meeting,” said Osborne.

Texas, the richest and most powerful Big 12 member, remains the lynchpin of the entire league. The other 10 schools could probably work something out if Nebraska and Missouri left. But if the Longhorns pull up stakes, it could prove devastating to the league.

“You’ve known me for very long, I am not hanging back,” Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said. “I’m not waiting to see what other people are going to do. I’m going to know what our options are, so that’s not going to change. My hope is that the Big 12 survives and you and I retire knowing it’s a great conference. It’s been very viable, and if it stays in place, it will continue to be very viable.”

Dodds noted that Texas was not the one that started realignment talk.

“If we need to finish it, we’ll finish it,” he said. “We’re going to be a player in whatever happens.”

The population and potential television audience in the state of Texas was what prompted the old Big Eight schools in the more sparsely populated Midwest to join Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor and form the Big 12 14 years ago.

“We’re watching what’s happening with the Big Ten, probably to a lesser degree to the Southeastern Conference,” Dodds said. “If the landscape is going to change, we’re going to be a part of it and be a viable part of it. Texas will come out of it in good shape.”

Beebe will need to know what schools make up the Big 12 when he opens negotiations next April on a new television agreement with Fox. He’s hopeful he’ll be able to greatly increase the league’s revenue. The ACC has been reported in trade journals to have agreed to a 12-year, $1.86 billion deal with ESPN that would just about double its schools’ television revenue.

“The media deal with the ACC was very encouraging,” Beebe said. “I don’t think (television money) is the only factor in anybody’s interest in conference membership. There are others. But that’s one of the major ones, and I think we have a great future.”