Friday, December 18, 2009
Beebe comments on expansion talk
By Tim Griffin ESPN.com
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe expects his conference to be untouched when the Big Ten selects its potential candidates for expansion.
Beebe said that the Big 12's history and tradition that predates the conference's formation will be a key part in what he thinks will keep his conference together.
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When asked if he expects his conference to remain intact with its 12 current members, Beebe was adamant.
"Yeah, I do," Beebe said. "There are a lot of reasons for collegiate conferences to remain together.
"It's based on regional proximity and the development of rivalries. It's not just in one sport and not another. All of those factors make conferences strong and healthy. And the fact we are significant player in winning national championship should help."
The Big 12 began in 1996 from the marriage of the Big Eight Conference and four Texas-based members from the old Southwest Conference.
Missouri, Iowa State and Nebraska have been mentioned as potential targets if the Big Ten should expand to the west. The Big Ten issued a statement earlier this week that it will consider expansion over the next 18 months by up to five teams, according to published reports.
"It's always somewhat unsettling when this kind of talk goes on, but it's something that's existed for a long time," Beebe said. "I'm not surprised by the Big Ten looking at a number of options after some of their [football] coaches talked about not being relevant late in the season. I think it's only natural that they look at that."
Missouri has been the Big 12 school that is most vocal and open about a potential move to the Big Ten. School officials released a statement saying that Missouri would open to discuss a possible move even before the Big Ten released its expansion statement.
And Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told KMBC-TV in Kansas City that switching the Tigers to the Big Ten should be carefully examined.
"I want to look at what options the Big Ten may have to offer," Nixon told KMBC.
Nixon is particularly impressed with the array of academic institutions that make up the Big Ten.
"This is not something that should be kept on the sports page and treated with the back of the hand," Nixon said. "We have an obligation to make our schools as excellent as they can be."
Some of Missouri's interest in the Big Ten has been triggered by the Big Ten's revenue-sharing model and the way the conference places its teams in bowl games.
While most of the Big 12's television money and NCAA tournament revenues are divvied up in an equal matter, an appearance fee enables some schools like Texas and Oklahoma to make more than $2 million a year more than other Big 12 schools that aren't featured on television as often in football or make as many appearances in NCAA tournaments.
Missouri fans are also angry that the Tigers were jumped by 6-6 Iowa State and 6-6 Texas A&M for positions in the Big 12's bowl rotation despite an 8-4 record this season. Missouri is headed for the Texas Bowl -- their fourth appearance in a Texas-based bowl in the last four seasons. Iowa State will play in the Insight Bowl and Texas A&M will play in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
Beebe said he is continuing to push ahead on the conference's next television deal that he hopes will be settled before the spring of 2011.
"That's something that has been a primary focus for us is whether we create a network," Beebe said. "That would go a long way to solidifying our situation."
And the recent talk about Big Ten expansion has provided a ready platform for supporters to vent about revenue sharing and a shared notion of revenue sharing like those in place in the Big Ten and the Southeastern conferences.
"Certainly, it's not a secret there are some institutions that would like us to have the Big Ten or SEC kind of revenue sharing," Beebe said. "Others feel that the model we put together was carefully developed before it was approved. There were a lot of give and takes that people agreed upon when the league was formed."
But Beebe added that concern about the Big 12's revenue-sharing issue is overblown.
"There's a lot more of an expression of concern outside our meetings than there is inside of it," Beebe said. "I can't deny there isn't some dynamics around that issue. But I think it's just a function of a new conference that is still growing."
Tim Griffin covers college sports for ESPN.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org