Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Missouri gov.: Addition by subtraction
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The historic rivalry with neighboring
Kansas remains intact. Conference TV revenue is expected to soar.
And the imminent departure of Nebraska and Colorado means a tougher
basketball league, top to bottom.
The Big 12's survival after its dance with dissolution would
appear to be cause for celebration at Missouri, which was in danger
of being an unwanted spectator in the high-stakes game of
conference musical chairs.
But with Missouri's hopes to join the Big Ten seemingly foiled,
the celebration in Columbia is both muted and tinged with a case of
"I think a lot of people were nervous about this process,"
said Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, an avid Tigers fan. "We're in the
process of landing in a very comfortable place in which we have
traditional rivalries, a lot more money and opportunity for a
national stage for our student-athletes."
Still, Nixon couldn't resist taking a shot at the two schools
scheduled to leave the conference for the Big Ten (Nebraska) and
Pac-10 (Colorado) during the next two years.
He called those schools the league's "two weakest basketball
programs" while noting that the remaining Big 12 schools could
have a better shot of making the NCAA basketball tournament. Nixon
said poor win-loss records and weaker schedules by Nebraska and
Colorado were dragging down the rankings of other Big 12 schools.
Nixon has been among the most vocal advocates for a Missouri
move to the Big Ten, citing what he called its stronger academic
profile while singling out several Big 12 schools by name.
Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman cited those comments (along
with more diplomatic statements from school administrators that
tacitly acknowledged interest in the Big Ten) as among the factors
that left the Big 12 on the brink of collapse.
Public criticism toward Missouri continued to flow on Tuesday,
even as school officials released their latest statement of support
for the conference, with chancellor Brady Deaton calling the Big 12
"rich with tradition and even greater promise" and comprised of
"outstanding institutions, both academically and athletically."
Deaton elaborated on that commitment at a news conference later
in the day, saying Missouri is committed to the Big 12 "for the
"We're in this for the long haul," he said. "We're not
anticipating any discussions with other conferences."
Oklahoma State alumnus and billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens
-- who is also a generous Texas donor -- said that he'd "rather have
Missouri if they want to be in the conference."
But, he added, if school leaders "are going to complain all the
time, they should go someplace else."
Deaton and Missouri athletics director Mike Alden have regularly
raised concerns about a conference revenue-sharing formula that
rewards more money to schools based on national TV appearances.
Losing two teams means fewer mouths to feed when it comes to
splitting Big 12 television revenue, which for Missouri meant
$12.25 million in 2008-09.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said that the conference has not
reached a new TV deal but indicated that preliminary negotiations
with both Fox Sports Network and ESPN could mean sizable increases for all
Big 12 schools.
Beebe also said that Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and
Iowa State agreed to abandon their stake in any buyout penalties
paid by the two departing schools as incentive to keep Texas and
four other Big 12 South schools from bolting for the Pac-10.
Both Alden and Deaton disputed that account, saying Missouri has
not agreed to give up its share of the buyout penalties.
"There are no concessions," Alden said.
A 10-team Big 12 likely means football games every year against
national powers Texas and Oklahoma rather than in alternate years.
Barring any changes, it also means an end to the Big 12 football
championship game, since NCAA rules require a minimum of 12 teams
for such postseason contests.
Columbia pet store owner Chuck Everitt, a former president of
the Tiger Quarterback Club, cares little about the financial
ramifications of remaining in the Big 12.
He's just eager for Missouri sports to stick to generating
headlines on the football field and basketball court, and he's thankful
that an athletics rivalry with Kansas that dates to the 19th
century and has roots in the Civil War will continue.
Everitt even shared a bit of grudging respect toward the hated
Jayhawks, comparing the potential loss of Missouri's foil to a
death in the family or a traumatic divorce.
"It would have been like losing your best friend or your
wife," he said.