At the Big 12 spring meetings two weeks ago, commissioner Dan Beebe shared his thoughts on college football's possible expansion after reports surfaced that teams from his conference would be jumping to the Pac-10 to form the first "super-conference".
"You look at all scenarios. You throw them up on the wall and you think about what's going to work and what's not going to work," Beebe said. "My current feeling is, unless I'm convinced differently, that that's going to be a very difficult world to exist in for those that are going to operate in it."
Among his concerns was that the unbearably high pressure to win conference titles would be almost never be released with enough frequency in that scenario. Tavel concerns, lack of matchups with certain teams in the league, as well as the overall costs brought that idea into question.
According to a report by colleague Andy Katz, Beebe wasn't alone in his beliefs. And numerous "influential people" helped protect the Big 12 and stave off -- for now, at least -- the creation of the first super-conference in college sports.
...the aggressiveness of the Pac-10 caused various factions of the collegiate sports world to coalesce. They then worked to slow and try to stop the pace of moves that would have left a number of schools searching for a new conference home.
The source said the people involved were business executives, conference commissioners, athletic directors, network executives with ties throughout college athletics, administrators at many levels throughout the NCAA membership and a "fair number of them without a dog in the hunt."
According to the source, this collection of interested and influential people made phone calls, visited in person and held conference calls with the Big 12 schools that were being pursued, including Texas, as well as Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. The influential group also helped broker the new television deal between Texas (and the other schools considering leaving the conference) and Beebe, who represented the remaining Big 12 schools.
To say they didn't have a dog in the hunt is perhaps misleading. They were the dog. They were just a few blocks over from trouble brewing, and by helping the Big 12, they helped themselves. Eventually.
Beebe will get plenty of credit for patching this together. He should. Convincing Texas didn't sound like a simple or easy job. But there's plenty of credit to be spread around before we start tacking a cape on the back of Beebe's blazer.
Texas A&M's flirtations with the SEC may have slowed negotiations enough to give Texas enough time to reconsider a deal with the Pac-10 that sounded like a formality. The group we'll call the "Friends in High Places" obviously helped, too.
The motivator: Fear of the unknown and a desire to maintain some semblance of the status quo.
We'll never know if the creation of the Pac-16 would have ushered in the "Era of the Super-Conference." My bet would have been yes.
But we do know plenty of people opposed it enough to do something about it and keep the Big 12 standing.
(P.S. Nebraska's off the hook.)