One voice needed for Big 12's next step

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
2:15
PM ET
The Big 12 tried to put on its Sunday best at its Thursday night Big 12 revival.

After it ended with everyone confused, it's clear that not much has changed.

There’s still fighting -- this time Missouri and Oklahoma sending mixed messages -- and Texas is sitting satisfied.

Thursday night, OU and Mizzou held simultaneous press conferences.

Oklahoma president David Boren said all remaining schools -- except for Texas A&M -- "agreed" to give a six-year grant of their first- and second-tier television rights to the Big 12. That means that all revenue from the top television games -- shown currently on networks owned by ABC/ESPN and Fox -- would continue to go to the Big 12 even if a school bolts to another league.

Signing over those rights would mean that Oklahoma, or any other school, would not be paid directly for media revenue, regardless of which conference it was in. The money would be paid to the Big 12. If a school left, the Big 12 would collect revenue from the new conference.

Money would then redistributed through the rest of the conference.

In short, the agreement would make Big 12 teams very attractive to the Big 12 -- and no one else.

[+] EnlargeDan Beebe
AP Photo/Cody DutyThe loss of Colorado, Nebraska and likely Texas A&M resulted in a loss in confidence with commissioner Dan Beebe.
Except that it hasn't happened yet.

While Boren trumpeted it as an agreement, Missouri said no such thing. A source later confirmed that "there was no agreement, only an agreement to work toward that as a potential outcome."

On Missouri's conference call, there were literally two voices speaking, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton first before wires were crossed and Boren blared above the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Boren and Deaton spoke simultaneously, drowning out their conflicting messages by coming together ... and forming unintelligible noise.

Boren said when he arrived to the podium at Norman that the league's conference call had ended just minutes earlier.

It was probably worth the extra time to get their stories straight before causing yet another black eye for the Big 12, which is trying to rebound from its second major crisis in 18 months.

Contrast that with the Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC. When was the last time Ohio State's decision-makers, Gene Smith or E. Gordon Gee, talked about anything publicly regarding conference alignment?

Each conference has a singular voice, a leader, a representative of the conference. Whatever the conference does, commissioners Jim Delany, Mike Slive and Larry Scott are the ones voicing it. They lead their conferences.

Dan Beebe never proved to be the leader the conference needed.

He was a good man in an unfortunate situation -- a near untenable one, really, considering what he had to deal with -- but a change was necessary.

Beebe ceded to Texas' desire to create its own network last summer. The Big 12 would have died without it, but ironically, it sparked Texas A&M's decision to apply to the SEC.

The departures of Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M, however, resulted in Beebe being seen as an ineffective leader, both inside and outside the conference.

[+] EnlargeTexas Longhorns flag
Harry How/Getty ImagesInterim commissioner Chuck Neinas will have to battle the perception that Texas runs the Big 12.
The Big 12 will have a new commissioner, and interim commissioner Chuck Neinas will have to battle the perception that Texas runs the league if the Big 12 wants to convince anyone it has any stability.

He'll also need to serve as the Big 12's voice if he wants to get anything done and move forward from Thursday's debacle.

The next step is painfully obvious. The Big 12 must have equal revenue sharing if it's going to move forward and not be seen as (or be) dysfunctional, which Thursday night's debacle proved.

Every other league shares its revenue equally. The past 18 months have provided a long enough case study to show that doing otherwise does not work.

Oklahoma made it clear that it's willing to sacrifice its bigger share to fight that battle.

"Would equal distribution mean a financial contribution for the good of the conference? Yes. Would we be willing to do so? Yes," Boren said.

On Wednesday, Dodds told reporters that Texas is committed to equal revenue sharing for Tier 1 and Tier 2 media rights.

But for now, forget revenue sharing, expansion, media rights or anything else on the horizon for the Big 12.

The conference won't move forward until it can settle its biggest and most difficult opponent: Itself.

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