Written commitments wise for some, binding for others

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
9:00
AM ET
As it stands, the Big 12 -- somewhat unbelievably, in my opinion -- is bonded together by the word of a few men with decision-making power. I thought I misheard Texas president Bill Powers when he explained that a few "unequivocal commitments" in the form of press releases were enough to make him feel comfortable with the arrangement moving on.

"That is enough for me," Powers said. "We have those, and that's all that we need to trust these very trustworthy partners."

But on Monday, in a document sent to the Des Moines Register from Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy, Geoffroy says he supported an agreement that would keep the conference together until at least June 30, 2020.

He doesn't explicitly say it would be in writing, but that's the assumption. And if not, he should. So should the other four members of the Forgotten Five -- or three, at least.

“We have longstanding competitive relationships with the other members, and we look forward to that continuing,” Geoffroy said.

That's obvious for the Cyclones, who would almost surely be banished to irrelevancy -- and less money -- if the Big 12 ceased to exist.

But back to Powers' original comment. For Texas, there's no real risk in not having a legal leash around the necks of its conference companions. If the money promised in the future isn't there like everyone's been told it will be, and conference members start looking elsewhere, Texas will land somewhere comfy and it'll have its pick. This time around, Texas weighed its options and chose the Big 12. If the instability within the conference resurfaces in the coming years, thanks to unfulfilled financial promises or a tardy invitation from the Big Ten to Missouri, it might not make the same choice again.

Without a binding legal document, Texas can wait for another team to leave the conference and take the blame for blowing up the new Big 12. That's not to suggest Texas wants that to happen; it made it obvious it's a big fan of the current arrangement, especially minus the championship game.

There's no risk in that, and it's no surprise Powers could say he was comfortable with a public handshake rather than a contract.

But Geoffroy's comments -- smart ones, I might add -- show not everyone feels that way. His school has a lot to lose by waking up some sad January morning after the Big Ten completes its expansion research and learning secondhand of Missouri's plans to move to the Big Ten. That scenario is unlikely, but it's not off the table and wouldn't be a shock. Geoffroy would like some sort of power in preventing it. The same should be true of Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor.

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