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Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Bowlsby, Beebe team up to talk Big 12

By David Ubben



We haven't heard much from ex-Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe lately, who now does some consulting and is working with the new Big East. He joined his permanent replacement, former Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby at a panel in front of 200 students at the University of Texas on Wednesday, and both had a few interesting nuggets to share.

Poor Bowlsby was forced to reiterate his stance that the Big 12 was staying at 10 teams, but by far the most interesting thing of the day was Beebe talking about feeling validated once the Big 12 executed the grant of rights. I've long contended that Beebe was the most unfairly maligned persona throughout the realignment saga, and the grant of rights is one of the big reasons why.

Beebe had long campaigned for the grant of rights to secure the Big 12's future, but the league's members could never agree to make it happen. It took Nebraska and Colorado leaving before they seemed to listen to the idea of a grant of rights, which wasn't officially executed until two more teams, Texas A&M and Missouri, left the conference.

"I feel like the conference was driving over a cliff, and they turned the bus around and ran me over," Beebe said.

Ouch. Beebe's biggest negative was either an ignorance of public opinion or a refusal to acknowledge reality when speaking publicly. I felt embarrassed for him when he told me in August 2011 that he disagreed with an A&M official that told me about "60 percent" of the A&M fan base would support a move to the SEC. Truth be told, the A&M official's estimate was probably quite conservative. Still, the biggest problems that led to the Big 12's forced metamorphosis predated Beebe, and he worked to change them. Expanding wasn't the answer until the league was trimmed to just eight teams. The perception that the Big 12 was "reactive, not proactive" is overly simplistic and not really true. Beebe worked hard to keep the league together behind the scenes.

Bowlsby was also asked about paying student-athletes a "cost of attendance" stipend, and he's in favor, but only if it's for all athletes. I'd agree with that sentiment, but I also believe football and basketball players should be paid. In that same breath, I also recognize that there's no simple or realistic way to make that happen and keep the situation relatively fair in both sports, so you won't see me campaigning for it.

Really interesting stuff, but for folks hoping the Big 12 reaches out and poaches a few more Big East members or some programs from the ACC in the future, Bowlsby doesn't sound very interested.

"Engulf and devour doesn’t work,” he said, adding that it was a "zero-sum game."

I do think once the playoff arrives, the Big 12 will seriously reassess where it sits in the expansion discussion, but don't expect any real talk about expansion until then, and only if the Big 12 somehow finds itself at a competitive disadvantage with 10 teams in the post-playoff college football world.