<
>

Missouri not mending relationship with Big 12

5/13/2010

Missouri governor Jay Nixon didn't make any friends in Lubbock or Stillwater last December when he was asked about the possibility of joining the Big Ten.

"I'm not going to say anything bad about the Big 12, but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern, when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you begin looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at," Nixon said.

"If a significant conference with a long history of academic and athletic excellence talks about you joining them, you shouldn't just say, 'We're from the old Big 8 and I remember when ... If they want to talk, we should talk, and we should listen."

At the very least, Nixon is consistent. He spoke about the possibility again yesterday, repeating his sentiments.

"We should look at it if it's offered," he told reporters Wednesday.

Missouri has plenty of reasons to accept the offer, and has done little to suggest it would turn down a move to the Big Ten. Missouri received $8.4 million from the Big 12 in 2007. Under the Big Ten's revenue sharing plan, each of the conference's programs receive an estimate of $22 million annually.

Add Missouri's lingering frustrations from being passed over for a BCS bowl in favor of Kansas in 2007 and being selected to the Texas Bowl in 2009, behind Iowa State and Texas A&M, whose conference records were under .500 and Missouri was 4-4, and there's not much to suggest the Tigers would be fighting to stay in the Big 12.

Missouri also won the Big 12 North in 2008 but was passed over for the Holiday Bowl in favor of Oklahoma State, who finished fourth in the South, even though the two teams had the same record in conference play.

Missouri would owe the Big 12 80 percent of its conference revenue (that $8.4 million, or something near it over the next two seasons we talked about earlier) if it announces its plans to leave by June 30. After that, it owes 90 percent through the end of the year, after which it would get no conference revenue.

Had Missouri announced its intentions to leave by June 2009 (admittedly an impossible proposition), it could have left without penalty. But the Big Ten must make sure that its new members, with TV markets ripe for Big Ten Network consumption and programs that will earn spots in big-money bowls, will bring in enough revenue to offset any money lost by splitting conference revenue into 12, 14 or 16 pieces instead of the 11 it has now.

The Big 12 spring meetings in Kansas City in early June could be quite contentious, and commissioner Dan Beebe spoke about his plans for the meetings to a Kansas City radio station on Wednesday.

"We need to come to terms with and we need to have a frank conversation in Kansas City," Beebe told the station. "We need to talk about where we're going and who's on the plane when it takes off. I will be very direct and talk about that with our membership. We've got a lot of good things in store for us if we stick together. It would be a shame, given that all boats have risen with this tide created by the Big 12, that they think they can have a better future somewhere else. ... I truly believe that."

That sounds like Beebe has plans to ask Missouri athletic director Mike Alden and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne a simple question: "In or out?"

But based on university president Brady Deaton's comments to the AP earlier this week, they don't know the answer to that, and Nebraska doesn't either. The lack of a formal invitation from the Big Ten is only part of the reason.

"You've got every major conference looking at how they should reposition or if they should reposition," Deaton said, adding that he would always do what's best for the university. "I don't think all the benefits and costs are known."

Unless an official invitation has been extended, it's doubtful either will provide a definitive answer.