NCF Nation: Chuck Neinas

IRVING, Texas -- Bob Bowlsby spent 66 nights in a hotel when he was on the committee that puts together the NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket.

Now that college football is a season away from entering the playoff era, the Big 12 commissioner knows firsthand the exhausting task that awaits whoever ends up serving on the selection committee for the first four-team playoff in 2014. Bowlsby echoed comments earlier Wednesday by College Football Playoff executive chairman Bill Hancock that current commissioners, coaches and media would be excluded from possible duties, but a few current athletic directors were among the 15 names Bowlsby submitted for inclusion on the committee.

All 10 conferences were asked to submit 15 suggestions, but Bowlsby narrowed his list of 40 to candidates with the most "extensive football background" and "impeccable integrity."

"It sounds like a lot of the same people are going to be on everybody's list," Bowlsby said. The commissioners won't be submitting a candidate to represent their respective conferences on the committee, instead agreeing that the committee should be comprised of "the people of highest ability and highest integrity."

Bowlsby declined to name any of his specific candidates, and chose his words carefully so as not to out anyone who's up for discussion. He said it was "reasonable" to expect that committee members be paid a stipend, and as Bowlsby knows from his time on the basketball committee, it will be well-earned.

"It’s going to take somebody with significant work ethic," he said, noting that the job would include film study and travel.

Heavy criticism is the surest element to come with the job, but Bowlsby says he's not convinced that will scare away qualified candidates and make piecing together the committee an even more difficult task.

"There will be people who relish service, take it seriously and serve with great effectiveness," he said.

Term limits -- perhaps two three-year terms or one four-year term -- are still being discussed, but don't expect any clarity for about 90 days, Bowlsby said.

Hancock will pare down the list of about 100 candidates to a committee of 12 to 20 selectors. Bowlsby didn't share the 15 names he submitted for consideration with the league's athletic directors, according to Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt. As far as Big 12 names go, former league interim commissioner Chuck Neinas was the only obvious one who would likely receive consideration.

"Chuck Neinas is the best of the best, and whatever he would be willing to do, I don't think you could find a finer man out there than Chuck," Hocutt said.

The Big 12 footprint might also have a chance to host the meetings during which the committee will discuss and, eventually, select playoff teams. Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday that Hancock said the College Football Playoff, based in Irving, Texas, may convene the final of four or five annual meetings -- or all of the meetings -- in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
It looks like we are getting closer and closer to having a four-team playoff in college football.

A little less than a week after conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick met in a playoff war room in Chicago, ACC commissioner John Swofford told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach on Monday that "considerable progress" has been made concerning a playoff ahead of their meeting in Chicago on Wednesday.

Swofford said he hopes the commissioners will be able to present a four-team playoff model, to be implemented beginning with the 2014 season, to the BCS presidential oversight committee in Washington, D.C., next week.

What still needs to be ironed out are when and where the two semifinal games and the national championship game will be played, how the four teams will be selected, what will happen to the current BCS bowl games and how the conferences will divide as much as $400-500 million in annual TV revenue.

[+] EnlargeMike Slive
Darrell Walker/Icon SMICommissioner Mike Slive won't likely get quite everything the SEC wants in the playoff debate.
But what most people are really interested in is how the teams will be selected. SEC commissioner Mike Slive has made it perfectly clear that he wants the top four teams selected, regardless of if they win their conference or not. He knows that plays to the SEC's strength because there could be the occasional scenario, as in 2011, where the SEC could send two teams to the playoff, increasing the conference's chances of competing for and winning a national championship. And if you take conference championship prerequisites out of it, the SEC might even be in contention to get three teams in (very, very unlikely, but the league did have the top three spots in the BCS heading into the final weekend of the 2011 regular season).

The problem that Slive has run into is that other big conference commissioners are leaning toward prefering giving special treatment to teams that win their conferences. And other commissioners certainly don't want to see three SEC teams in the playoff.

So that means that compromise is going to have to be made. Someone will have to bend, even if the SEC has been very consistent about its feelings toward selecting the four teams.

"This league (the SEC) is all about competition and it just makes sense to me to let the four best teams compete and see who's going to be the national champion if we're going to have the playoffs," Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin told ESPN.com at the 2012 SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla. "It's hard for me to fathom a scenario that the fans across the country would really buy into that doesn't feature the four best teams."

As we get closer to finding out what will be made of all this playoff talk, it sounds like Slive and his SEC comrades won't get their way. That doesn't mean the SEC will be at a total loss. A hybrid scenario of some sort should still consistently have the SEC champ in it and that "wild-card" spot could go to the next-highest SEC member if it's ranked high enough. An SEC team ranked No. 2 or No. 3 has a better shot at making the playoff than a conference champ ranked fifth or sixth. But what Slive is worried about is a fourth-ranked SEC team getting passed by a fifth-ranked conference champ.

Slive's push for the "best four" model is all well and good, but other commissioners don't think it's easy to determine definitively a No. 4 from a No. 5. That's where winning your conference comes into play. In a hybrid, it's much easier to determine if a No. 2 or No. 3 should go over a 4 or 5, so that's where the SEC -- or any other conference -- would come up short. Slive understands that 2011 will only happen so often, so he wants to make sure that an SEC team sitting around fourth or fifth in the rankings has a shot to play for a national title.

Thus strength of schedule now comes into play, forcing SEC teams to step out of their comfort zone in scheduling. Now, maybe that No. 4 SEC team has a better case because it played two tougher out-of-conference games. But tougher schedules mean you decrease your chances of running the table, and Slive knows that.

We still have a way to go, but it seems like the cards are stacked against the SEC and compromise might be the best option.
The Big 12's second day of spring meetings came and went on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo., with no real news after the conference reaffirmed its commitment to 10 members on Wednesday.

Until the new configuration of the BCS is settled (i.e., what form will a four-team playoff take?), the Big 12 won't be taking much action, if any. Outgoing commissioner Chuck Neinas confirmed at least that much. Neinas also said he might stay on through July to relieve new commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who has other obligations on the United States Olympics Committee's board of directors. Bowlsby would still come aboard June 15, but there would be a period of overlapping commissioners.

"It was great to see Bob and Chuck together today at the head table, talking about things," Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis told reporters Thursday. "I think the transition will be smooth."

The league's presidents were in attendance Thursday and reaffirmed the athletic directors' stance on expansion.

[+] EnlargeDeloss Dodds
Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesTexas athletic director DeLoss Dodds lit into the SEC and Big East during the Big 12 meetings.
"We're all very satisfied with 10 teams," Hargis said. "We're not shutting the door to any opportunity that might arrive. We're not in the market, we're not receiving applications. Our expansion committee is inactive."

To my knowledge, that's the first public confirmation that the expansion committee is indeed inactive. Interesting stuff. If Notre Dame becomes a possibility, it's clear the Big 12 would listen, and I'd assume that Florida State would engender a similar reaction, to a lesser extent. For now, though, the Big 12 maintains it's sitting at 10, even if no one (yours truly included) really believes it.

With Florida State officials expressing conflicting messages about the school's future conference affiliation, and the future of the Big East very much in flux, how could you?

A few other quick notes:

  • Texas AD DeLoss Dodds came out firing on Thursday, tossing barbs just about everyone's way. The SEC has Texas in its footprint? "They have a sliver of the east side," he told reporters. On the Big East? "I don't know if they qualify as a BCS [conference]. They've lost a lot of strength."
  • Neinas, on the league extending its six-year grant of media rights agreement, which is in progress, but not a done deal? "I don’t believe the membership feels it’s a gun-at-the-head arrangement. It’s just a step forward moving together."
  • The league membership also didn't sound very fired up about re-instituting a championship game in the new iteration of the BCS. Reports John Hoover of the Tulsa World: “We have come to really appreciate the position we’re in right now by not having a championship game,” said Iowa State’s Jamie Pollard, chairman of the Big 12 athletic directors. Said Dodds: "If this all happens the way we’re visualizing today, I think there are some football coaches out there that will say, ‘Well, what are we doing? We’re 12-0, we’ve got to go into play a team that’s 9-3, we’ve got a shot at getting beat.' Or, 'We win the game, it’s a struggle, we get two kids hurt’ -- I mean, those kinds of things are gonna be the reality of it."

Dodds might not have been making many friends Thursday, but he did make some among the league's coaches with that comment for sure.

Friday is the final day of meetings, but it's been a quiet week compared to the past two years at Big 12 spring meetings. For now, it's mostly just been the league's members drawing battle lines on where they stand in relation to the playoff and expansion.
The Big 12's spring meetings kicked off with the league's athletic directors meeting in Kansas City on Wednesday, and made it clear beforehand that expansion would be only informally discussed.

Still, the questions had to be asked, and they were answered. For now, the league is happy with 10 members, echoing its stance for the past few weeks.

Will anyone believe them? (Does it matter?)

"We could expand to some number. You name the number -- 12, 14, 16," Texas AD DeLoss Dodds told CBSSports.com. "We could expand, but the question is, do we need to expand?"

Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas, in fact, made it simple.

"The Big 12, athletic directors reaffirmed their commitment to 10 members," he said.

For now, anyway. Florida State is still only flirting, but if the Seminoles make up their mind, the safe bet is that stance will change very quickly.

Until then ... here we are.

Playoffs were a hot topic, but the league's athletic directors reiterated what we essentially already knew: The Big 12 is in favor of a four-team playoff.

"We're in favor of taking the four highest-ranked teams," said Neinas, who has begun to transfer power to new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. "We think it should be some type of selection committee operation, and how you rate a conference champion, strength of schedule must be included."

I love the selection committee idea personally, an idea reiterated by chairman of the league's athletic directors, Iowa State's Jamie Pollard.

The BCS has its flaws. That's obvious. The biggest flaw in piecing together a selection committee? How do you do it? How do you find panel members without bias? Is that possible? Do you copycat the NCAA's formula for the basketball tournament?

All difficult questions with answers to come.

"There needs to be a human element to kind of handle the unknowns. You can't always say computers get it right or opinion polls will get it perfect," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. "You still need someone with good, rational thinking to deal with unforeseen circumstances that may come up.

"Who knows what form that takes, but some form of human element that gets college football to the point of determining the best teams."

Chalk me up on board with that.
The Big 12 is closing in on its permanent replacement for former commissioner Dan Beebe.

The conference has offered its commissioner's job to Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby, multiple conference and industry sources told ESPN.com Wednesday night. Bowlsby is expected to accept the offer, sources said.
Bowlsby was in Phoenix the past few days as the Big 12 and Pac 12 meetings overlapped. Bowlsby has a strong relationship with Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott. Bowlsby was on the search committee that discovered Scott, with the aid of search firm executive Jed Hughes who has handled both searches for the Big 12 and Pac 12 commissioner's jobs. Hughes was at a different firm for the Pac 12 search firm than he is for the Big 12 search.

Bowlsby has been highly respected by his Pac 12 colleagues, and sources said he had a strong endorsement from Scott.

The Big 12 fired Dan Beebe as its commissioner last fall and replaced him with temporary replacement Chuck Neinas. He helped guide the Big 12 through the loss of Missouri and Texas A&M, as well as inviting TCU and West Virginia to join and give the league 10 members.

Bowlsby was Iowa's athletic director from 1991-2006 before taking over at Stanford.

For more on the story from Andy Katz, go here.
1. Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas remains impressed with the tenor of the meeting in South Florida last week about the postseason. “Those were as intense, focused and serious meetings as I’ve ever been a part of,” Neinas said, “with a healthy respect for those who disagreed.” Neinas wants the BCS to increase emphasis on schedule strength and continue to ignore margin of victory. “Oregon winning by four touchdowns may be the same as Wisconsin or Nebraska winning by two,” Neinas said. “We shouldn’t take style of play into account.”

2. The announcement that the BCS decided on a four-team playoff is the easiest part of the decision. Over the next seven weeks, the leagues must decide when and where they will play the semifinal games -- Bowls? No bowls? -- and how to select the four participating teams. It will test the goodwill that came out of the meetings last week. It will test the schools’ allegiance to the bowls. College football always tries to strike a balance between tradition and revenue. This time, finding that balance couldn’t be more important.

3. The SEC edged the Big Ten in the final count of the 2012 NFL draft, 42-41. However, the SEC won in the first round, 9-4, and the first two rounds, 14-11. That gives both sides the requisite fodder to settle barroom discussions from now until the 2013 draft. Illinois had four players drafted in the first two rounds. And recruiting was a big reason that the Illini plucked Ron Zook out of the fired coaches support group. Zook coached at Illinois as he coached at Florida: great talent failed to translate into enough victories.
Next Monday, start the countdown.

Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas will have two months left as the boss of a league that's seen plenty of tumultuous times over the past two years.

"We were kind of saved by the bell by Chuck Neinas. He kept it going in terms of getting us on the right track and getting everybody involved, all the teams in the conference," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said during the Big 12 coaches teleconference this week. "We had lost two teams each of the last two years, which has been devastating to this league, but with Chuck’s leadership, it’s come on pretty good."

[+] EnlargeChuck Neinas
AP Photo/Alonzo J. AdamsChuck Neinas' stint as Big 12 interim commissioner is up June 30.
TCU and West Virginia replaced Texas A&M and Missouri to bring the Big 12 back to 10 members, but now it's Neinas who must be replaced.

He agreed to stay on in an interim role through June 30, but his replacement could be named before then. What do the league's coaches want to see?

"The answer is very obvious. You’d like to have a good person. You’d like to have a very honest, forthright person, with a balance in how he operates the conference itself, with the idea that everybody is treated equally and what he would do would be in the very, very best interest of the 10-12 teams that would make up the conference itself," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "Somebody that’s highly respected across the country and well-known across the country as well, has a reputation that would be very, very prominent as it relates to conference commissioners across the country."

For Tuberville, the new guy needs experience.

"Hopefully we get a strong-personality guy that can work with everybody, put their touch on it, somebody with experience, somebody that has maybe been a commissioner or a deputy commissioner for one of the other leagues," Tuberville said. "I think experience is going to be key for us, somebody that’s been there, done that, seen all the problems. It’s no different than coaching a football team in that experience usually pays off for you."

He added: "We’ve obviously had some setbacks the past few years, if we can get somebody who understands our league, maybe somebody from another conference looking from the outside in, understanding what’s going on and bringing their philosophy in would really help us."

For Texas coach Mack Brown, it's simple: He wants someone who can maintain stability, and unity is the first way to help establish it.

"We’ve been through so much turmoil over the past two years in the Big 12. I think what I would like to see is stability. I’d like to see someone come with confidence and new ideas and making sure that it sounds like our league is really stable at 10. I know some are looking at the possibility of 12," he said. "I’d like to see somebody who can really lead the group and get everybody on the same page, because it’s a wonderful conference. I love the additions that we’ve made, and I think it can be again, one of the top conferences in the country because the teams are all winning. But you gotta have a boss."
CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd has a question regarding a potential four-team playoff: Where does Notre Dame fit in? College football's postseason, Dodd notes, has a history of accommodating the Irish.

That special access is up for discussion as the commissioners decide what the landscape will be in 2014. They must know that Notre Dame football is mediocre, has been for a while. Strip away the label and the Irish are Northern Illinois -- which is an insult to Northern Illinois. In the last decade, the Huskies are better than the Irish by seven wins.

What to do with the 800-pound leprechaun in the room is one of the most interesting -- and possibly contentious -- issues to be settled before 2014.

"There will be an opportunity for them, I'm sure," said Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, one of those in the room making the decision. "I don't know what the guidelines will be."

There is a way Notre Dame could be allowed special access into the new postseason. The question is, should it? With the apparent end of automatic qualifiers, what is the line between the haves and have-nots? Will there be one at all? Notre Dame is the only single entity in the room deciding the future of college football. But the other partners control the football future of Notre Dame.

Where the Irish fit into potential BCS changes remain to be seen, and Dodd presents an interesting but often unasked question: What if the only schools eligible for an eventual four-team playoff were conference winners — then what would happen to a school that does not belong to a conference?
During the commissioners' BCS meetings last month, Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas took a backseat on public comments regarding a playoff.

His thoughts on possible change to college football's postseason weren't as sought after as peers like Larry Scott in the Pac-12, Jim Delany in the Big Ten or Mike Slive in the SEC.

That was, in part, because Neinas plans to leave his post by July 1 and hand his brief title of commissioner over to a successor.

Neinas, though, opened up about his thoughts in a recent interview with The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel.

Eight and 16-team models seem to be losing steam, while the four-team model with three additional games is picking up traction. Neinas joined that chorus.
"I like the idea, if you're going to take four, take four champions,” Neinas told the paper. "They're not hard to identify.

"The selection process is one that would concern me. The easiest is taking four conference champions."

It's still very, very early in the process, but I'd bet we see a four-team playoff eventually. What that looks like, how teams are selected and where games are played could get messy, though.

Neinas said he doesn't see a downside to a four-team playoff, but the payoff?
"Looking at it very broadly, we've agreed, we've got to do something to maintain public interest," Neinas said. "We want a vibrant postseason. We have to explore ideas that will make it better. There's obviously strong support of a four-team arrangement."

Hoo boy. I'm going to have to sit down. I'm a bit lightheaded. Be still, my beating heart.

I'm not as anti-BCS as some, though I certainly prefer a playoff. I sleep at night by telling myself it's better than the old system, and until this offseason, I'd sort of given up on the idea of a playoff becoming a reality.

A four-team playoff would be a beautiful sight. We may see one soon, and the Big 12 isn't standing in the way.

In some ways, I like the idea of blocking out teams that don't win their conference title. They had their shot. Win, and they would be in, Tramel writes.

But would the playoff be about the four best teams? If so, you'd probably have to eliminate the conference champion requirement.

We saw it this year, though. The Alabama-LSU title rematch rendered the "Game of the Century" meaningless. A four-team playoff would intensify those games and turn conference title games into mammoth showdowns with national titles on the line in almost every major conference. The same would be true of late-season games in leagues like the Big 12, which lacks a conference title game.

Thinking about it gets me pretty excited. It has that effect, it would seem, on those with the power to change.

Stay tuned.

Q&A: Big 12's Chuck Neinas on expansion

February, 23, 2012
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Tuesday and Wednesday, Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas was one of 11 FBS conference commissioners (in addition to Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick) who met in Dallas to discuss the future of college football's postseason and possible changes to the BCS format.

He'll be leaving his interim post to his successor by July 1, but after the meetings concluded, he took a few minutes to speak with ESPN.com on the league's rocky recent past and possible future expansion.

David Ubben: The West Virginia situation is finally settled. How would you describe the process of the last few months, trying to watch that get settled while you handled your business and waited on West Virginia to handle its own?

Chuck Neinas: We were never in doubt that West Virginia was coming. It was only a matter of how they wish to extricate themselves from the Big East. There were a couple of paths they could have followed and they selected the one that they did, but there was never a question in our mind that West Virginia was going to be with us.

DU: Never a question they'd be in the league for 2012?

CN: 2012.

DU: What gave you so much confidence that you were going to have them for 2012?

CN: We had obviously explored it in great detail with the administration at West Virginia University and they kept giving us assurances, "We'll be there.'

DU: How would you describe the league's current attitude toward expansion in the future?

CN: Good question. I'd say that No. 1, the board of directors charged our expansion committee to continue to monitor the landscape of college athletics. We've just gone through a rather interesting year, and so we now have 10 good, solid members. We're very stable for a lot of reasons, and you can't ignore the fact that every one of the 10 signed a grant of rights, which means that the conference now has their television rights, so that puts us in a very secure position going forward.

DU: That was officially executed, correct?

CN: Oh, yes.

DU: When were the official documents actually signed?

CN: It was done. I can't remember -- I can't give you the date, but of course West Virginia was the last one to sign it over, but they're all in. So, right now, there's a feeling that 10 provides the opportunity for everybody to play each other in football and a double round-robin in basketball and that's appealing to a lot of our members. That's not to say there won't be further review of expansion, and that could well happen, but not on my watch down the road.

DU: Down the last road, you secured the first-tier money without a championship game, but that's up for renegotiation in 2014. Could you see that being a catalyst for future expansion?

CN: No -- well, it could be. But I don't think that's necessarily what would drive expansion.

DU: So, how would you describe the mood of the league as it moves forward without Missouri and Texas A&M?

CN: Positive. Very positive.

Big 12 preparing a league-wide facelift

February, 23, 2012
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DALLAS -- The Big 12 will unveil an all-new promotional campaign at the Big 12 basketball tournament in Kansas City from March 7-10, commissioner Chuck Neinas told ESPN.com at Wednesday's conference commissioners' meeting.

"We’re in the process of retaining a public relations firm and we’re going to have a major campaign promoting the new Big 12," Neinas said. "We feel that competitively, we take a backseat to no one."

Neinas
The new campaign would likely revolve around that concept.

"Our record shows that," he said. "You name the sport and we’re there. Football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, you name it."

At Big 12 Football Media Days in August, the Big 12 unveiled a branding intitiative focused on the league's new 10-team format and a new slogan: "How We Play," focused on the round-robin, nine-game "One True Champion" scheduling of the slimmed down league.

However, just months after emphasizing that initiative, Texas A&M and Missouri left the league. The $1 million investment with GSD&M, an Austin, Texas,-based marketing firm, was rendered useless.

"I don’t know that they spent it all," Neinas said of the past initiative. "The presidents and chancellors have put aside a substantial budget to help our campaign."

Neinas declined to discuss the specifics of how much money would be set aside.

No firm for the campaign has been selected yet, but Neinas said to expect some commemoration in July when TCU and West Virginia officially become the ninth and 10th members of the new Big 12.

The Big 12 plans to have TCU and West Virginia included in the new promotional campaign, however.

"The image has suffered obviously, because of institutions leaving the conference, so we’re going to celebrate the addition of the two new members on July 1st," Neinas said.

Neinas wants to celebrate the success of the Big 12, which recently executed the six-year grant of rights to make it official: The Big 12's 10 current members are in place through the league's next TV negotiations for the first-tier media rights.

A newfound stability and on-field success would be the focus of the new push to promote the Big 12.

"If you look at the preseason prognosticators, you’ll see six of the 10 members of the Big 12 are in the top 25," Neinas said. "I think that’s an indication as to how we’re viewed competitively and we just have to let the nation know that we’re in a good, stable position and everyone is working together to move forward."
DALLAS -- Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas will leave his post by July 1, he told ESPN.com on Wednesday at the college football commissioners' meetings.

"I’ve agreed to remain on until the end of June," Neinas said, "so I’m fully confident they’ll have a new commissioner to be on board the first of July, and probably earlier."

He'll help find his replacement, too.

Neinas helped numerous Big 12 programs hire coaches in various sports with his search firm, Neinas Sports Services. The Big 12's search committee to find his replacement offered Neinas a spot to serve as an advisor for the group, which is led by Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis. Neinas accepted the offer.

"They are in the process of retaining a search firm," Neinas said.

More on this story here.

West Virginia and TCU will officially join the Big 12 on July 1.

Big East, WVU parting was inevitable

February, 14, 2012
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When West Virginia defiantly announced in October that it would leave for the Big 12 as soon as possible, did anybody really think the Big East would be able to stop it?

We are talking about the Big East, after all, a league that never seems to win. A league that seems to get taken advantage of at almost every turn. There is a reason the Big East has the reputation of being a league that gets kicked around. West Virginia just did it again.

The Big East should have had the advantage in this fight, what with the conference bylaws that specifically state any departing school must wait 27 months before leaving. Allowing TCU out of the league without a wait had something to do with West Virginia pushing forward. But there are clear rules that every member of the Big East agreed to follow, rules that did not apply to TCU as an incoming member.

[+] EnlargeOliver Luck
AP Photo/David SmithWest Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is looking forward to the school's move to the Big 12.
Pitt and Syracuse had no problem agreeing to abide by the rules when they announced they were leaving for the ACC back in September. West Virginia had problems, because it was inconvenient. And the way the school went on the offensive from the outset essentially sealed the eventual settlement that was announced Tuesday.

West Virginia filed its lawsuit first, claiming the Big East had failed in its responsibilities to remain a viable conference. It wasn't too long before the Mountaineers accepted Big 12 membership when athletic director Oliver Luck made this comment during a television interview Oct. 1:
“Let’s be honest, the reason TCU wants to be in this league so badly is that they think it’s an easier path to the national championship than it is going through Norman, Okla., or Austin, Texas, or Stillwater, Okla., and playing some of their regional schools out there. So we’ve got some quality schools that are very interested in getting involved, including both Air Force and Navy. It’s no secret there. I think both of those institutions are academically excellent, very important nationally and also, I think we all can agree, they play some pretty good football.

“In fact, I would trade Air Force or Navy for Syracuse every day of the week in terms of the quality of the football program. No disrespect, but that’s just an observation I think most would agree with who understand football.”

TCU officially left the Big East on Oct. 10 for the Big 12. West Virginia bolted Oct. 28. You cannot mean to tell me the departure of TCU was the tipping point for West Virginia. TCU had never played a down of football in the Big East.

The argument was a convenient one to make in court. But it also was the first one to be filed, clearly giving West Virginia the upper hand. Its arguments, whether they were thin or not, hit first. The Big East filed its own suit in Rhode Island shortly thereafter, arguing about its specific bylaws that should be followed.

Bylaws, shmy-laws, right? The Big 12 then went on the offensive in the form of interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who said, "The Big East gets on planes and flies all over the country inviting other schools. But they raise hell when West Virginia wants to come to the Big 12?"

Luck made it clear in several more interviews that he didn't care what the Big East did and his school was outta here. Then West Virginia went ahead and canceled its nonconference game against Florida State to make way for nine Big 12 games.

The Big East's response -- nada. The league remained mum on the subject, as West Virginia and the Big 12 talked freely. Commissioner John Marinatto declined to answer questions because of the litigation. Athletic directors refused to comment publicly, for fear of speaking out of turn. Privately, some are upset about the way the entire situation has been handled, firmly believing West Virginia had taken advantage of the Big East once again.

It is obvious that West Virginia did not want to be in the Big East a second longer. But this was not about the Big East holding onto West Virginia because of some vendetta against the school. It was about holding a team to bylaws it drafted and agreed to, in large part to fill out its schedule and not have gaping holes everywhere.

Yes, there was a domino effect when Missouri did to the Big 12 what West Virginia just did to the Big East. But in the conference pecking order, you kinda figured the Big 12 would win this fight.

Big 12 boss blasts Mizzou, Big East

January, 26, 2012
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Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told the Charleston Gazette that he's been assured West Virginia will be able to enter the Big 12 for the 2012 season, and he'll be releasing the league's schedule with West Virginia included by Feb. 1.

That date, by the way, is in six days.

Neinas left commenting on the Big East lawsuit, which seeks to force the Mountaineers to adhere to the 27-month notice required to leave the Big East, to West Virginia, but told the paper he received "continual assurances" that West Virginia would be able to get out in time.

The two sides were set to undergo non-binding mediation, and the hope was that a settlement could be reached.

"We have a schedule with West Virginia. We have a contractual commitment with our television partners that we must release a schedule by Feb. 1 and we will do that," Neinas told the paper. "Aside from our television partners, our schools are anxious to release their schedules and we'll meet the required deadline."

Neinas also had an interesting remark on Mizzou's exit, calling the school's move to the SEC "selfish."
"The one thing that gets lost is we're in this predicament because the SEC invited Missouri," Neinas said. "But the SEC was willing to play with 13 [rather than 14] next season. We made an offer to Missouri that was financially beneficial to stay for another year. Missouri made the decision not to accept.

"We had a teleconference call with those in the SEC, Big East, ACC, Mountain West and Conference USA. We all agreed we could save money and avoid litigation if all held serve for 2012-13. All agreed. But Missouri made a very selfish decision. It's been very disruptive. Missouri gave us notice in November [of 2011] and it's pretty difficult to move forward then."

Very interesting. And new information for sure. Back when Mizzou was mulling its move, Neinas repeatedly said he thought the Tigers would stay. They didn't.

Neinas wasn't done, and called out the Big East for being hypocritical.

"The Big East gets on planes and flies all over the country inviting other schools," Neinas said. "But they raise hell when West Virginia wants to come to the Big 12?"

Valid points there, I'd say, but it's a bit different when one AQ conference takes teams from another AQ conference, something the Big East hasn't done.

Neinas noted that AQ designation for leagues is likely to disappear, but the Big East doesn't look like it wants to gamble on that happening. The league added Houston, SMU, Boise State and San Diego State in recent months, stretching the meaning of "Big East."

Neinas said the Big 12 would consider helping West Virginia with any additional penalties it might have to pay, but the decision would be up to the board of directors.

The new commish is certainly speaking his mind, and I'd say he's right on both accounts, but despite claims of selfishness and hypocrisy, Mizzou and the Big East would certainly defend that by arguing they were looking out for their best interests.

So is the Big 12.

That's a recipe for things to get messy.

And, they have.

Plenty more in the story in the Gazette, including Neinas' thoughts on Big 12 expansion. Check it out.

The Big 12's top 10 moments of 2011

January, 12, 2012
1/12/12
11:00
AM ET
As quickly as it arrived, the Big 12 season is gone.

Alas, here's a look at the 10 moments we'll remember most from the 2011 season. These aren't necessarily the best or worst moments, but simply that: memorable. When we look back on 2011, this is what will stick out.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackRobert Griffin III, Baylor's first Heisman winner, had a season for the record books.
1. Heisman moment? Take your pick. There were plenty of them in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III's run to an "unbelievably believable" Heisman win. What about his only reception of the season (that resulted in him getting the wind knocked out of him) on a dramatic final drive to beat TCU in the opener? What about a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter of an overtime win over Kansas? The best on-field moment was probably his 39-yard TD pass to Terrance Williams in the final seconds to beat Oklahoma for the first time and thrust himself back into the Heisman race, despite three losses. And after beating Texas: "I think Baylor just won its first Heisman tonight," he said. Yep. It did.

2. Iowa State storms the field ... and bowl season. Oklahoma State looked headed for a showdown with Oklahoma to play for a national title, but Iowa State had other things in mind. Jared Barnett topped 375 yards passing and 75 yards rushing in just his third start to give the Cyclones a win over a top six team for the first time in 58 tries. It set off a party on the field at Jack Trice Stadium and put ISU into its second bowl in three years.

3. Texas A&M and Missouri say adios, muchachos. The Aggies had enough of Texas and wanted some of Alabama. Missouri had enough drama and wanted some stability. Texas A&M made it official in late September and Mizzou followed in early November. Texas A&M called it a "100-year decision."

4. The Big 12 says hello to two new friends. With Texas A&M and Missouri gone, expansion was the obvious necessary step. The Big 12 took it by welcoming Southwest Conference expatriate TCU home into the Big 12 on Oct. 11. And 17 days later, West Virginia followed, announcing its plans to help expand the Big 12's footprint wayyy, wayyy east.

5. The Aggies sound like a broken record. Shattered record, maybe. Texas A&M started as a Big 12 title contender with a top-10 ranking. It led 12 games by double digits. It lost six games. How'd it happen? Nobody knew, and as a result, coach Mike Sherman was fired. Over and over, it was the same story. The 20-3 and 35-17 halftime leads over Oklahoma State and Arkansas evaporated. The Aggies blew big leads over Missouri, Kansas State and Texas, too.

6. Oklahoma State finds new life ... twice. Most were resigned to Alabama and LSU meeting again for the title, but OSU made it interesting with a satisfying 44-10 embarrassment of Oklahoma, putting late pressure on voters and finishing behind Alabama by the slimmest margin in BCS history. And once OSU was in its bowl game, Stanford's Jordan Williamson yanked a 35-yard kick to send the game into overtime, where the Cowboys capitalized in a 41-38 win.

7. Texas grabs Lone Star Showdown bragging rights for...ever? The Longhorns were the underdogs in a veritable powder keg that was Kyle Field on Thanksgiving night. Then Colt, er, Case McCoy got loose for a 25-yard scramble that set up Justin Tucker's game-winning 40-yard field goal that gave Texas bragging rights in the now-defunct rivalry for as long as it would like. The Longhorns say they have no plans to continue the rivalry after the Aggies leave for the SEC.

8. The Little Apple hosts a classic. You never know when the longest game in Big 12 history is going to show up. Kansas State and Texas A&M played it. The Aggies led by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, but Collin Klein rallied the Wildcats and got the 53-50 win on — what else — a QB sneak for a game-winning touchdown.

[+] EnlargeDan Beebe
AP Photo/Cody DutyThe Big 12 saw a lot of transition over the course of 2011, including commissioner Dan Beebe's ouster.
9. Texas Tech ends Oklahoma's epic streak. The night began with ominous thunderstorms that delayed the game, but the Sooners struggled against Texas Tech's slip screens, and let Alex Torres go wild for three touchdown catches. The four-touchdown underdogs walked into Owen Field and became the second Big 12 team to ever beat Bob Stoops on his home field, and first since 2001. The Red Raiders also became the first team since 2005 to win there, ending the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak. The problem: Tech didn't win another game the rest of the season, and finished with the first losing season since 1992.

10. Dan Beebe gets the ax. The damage was done. Beebe was seen as someone who ceded to Texas at all costs, even if he did it as a last option to keep the Big 12 together in the summer of 2010. That hurt the league, and Oklahoma called for Beebe to be removed. He was, and replaced by interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who had helped many of the league's ADs hire coaches. A permanent replacement still hasn't been named.

Honorable mention: OSU FB Kye Staley and Texas TE Blaine Irby score touchdowns in emotional returns from catastrophic knee injuries, K-State runs out of time in a near upset over Oklahoma State (and an earthquake followed), Kansas State becomes the first team to intercept RG3 and stays undefeated in an "upset" of Baylor, RG3 has his version of the "Immaculate Reception"; Missouri QB James Franklin goes beast mode on a 20-yard touchdown run in a win over Texas A&M; Missouri coach Gary Pinkel "ices" his own kicker in a loss to Arizona State; Kansas reaches a new low and trails Oklahoma State 56-7 at halftime; Ryan Broyles' career meets an unfair end with a torn ACL.

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