Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Source: Board to talk Big 12's future
By Andy Katz
The Big 12 board of directors are planning to meet in the coming days and will address the leadership status of commissioner Dan Beebe and a way to get the remaining members to make a long-term commitment to the conference, a source told ESPN.com.
The source said no decision has been made on Beebe's status at this point. Another source, however, described Beebe's status as tenuous at best.
The Kansas City star reported Wednesday night that Beebe is working on an agreement to leave his position. The Star cited two sources with knowledge of Beebe's decision.
A presidential teleconference will take place Thursday to discuss how to secure longer-term stabilization in the conference, sources told ESPN's Joe Schad.
"The Big 12 is moving toward stabilization," one Big 12 athletic director told ESPN Wednesday afternoon.
The teleconference and the board's planned meeting comes after the Pac-12 decided against expansion Tuesday night. The source said the school presidents will discuss the parameters going forward that would create long-term stability, not just a short-term solution after a second straight season of enduring potential upheaval.
Before the Pac-12's announcement, The Oklahoman reported that the University of Oklahoma would only commit to staying in the Big 12 if the conference added regulations on ESPN's Longhorn Network and ousted Beebe as commissioner.
According to the Big 12 bylaws, a simple majority vote among the member schools is needed to oust the commissioner.
Beebe received an extension through June 2015 from the Big 12 in November 2010. University of Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, chairman of the league's board of directors, said Beebe had been "an outstanding leader" during challenging times.
Beebe received a raise from $661,000 to $997,000 in 2009 before the Big 12's first near-breakup, when Colorado joined the Pac-12 and Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten.
Revenue sharing will be a primary topic of conversation, something that according to a Pac-12 source was a deal-breaker in adding Texas because the university has the Longhorn Network, run by ESPN, and enjoys a different revenue-sharing plan in the Big 12. The Pac-12 wasn't going to adjust the equal revenue-sharing plan with its current 12 members.
Texas president William Powers told reporters in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday that staying in the Big 12 was the top priority and was open to a new revenue-sharing plan. Powers said that reworking media contracts was a way to create stability.
"There are methods of doing that, including the way media deals are structured and we'll be working with our partners in the Big 12 and our media partners to structure something that has stability," Powers said.
The Big 12 agreed to a 13-year television deal with Fox Sports in April worth more than $1 billion.
But Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds says Texas doesn't want to share the money from its Longhorn Network, a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN.
"That's never been in play, that's not in play," Dodds said.
Dodds said Big 12 athletic directors months ago approved Texas' offer to equally share other media revenue around the league. He says the plan has not been voted on by league presidents.
"Those were Texas proposals," Dodds said.
Dodds also told reporters he wasn't confident that Texas and Texas A&M, which likely is departing the Big 12, would be able to continue their rivalry if the Aggies depart for the SEC.
Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne earlier this month said the Big 12's revenue-sharing plan lends itself to instability as the Huskers opened their first season in the Big Ten. Each Big Ten school received $22.6 million this year -- about twice as much as Nebraska could have expected if it had stayed in the Big 12.
Powers said all issues are subject to discussion when talking with other Big 12 schools in the next few days.
"A lot of these issues that you hear (about) whether its revenue sharing or whatever, we've been working on long before," he said. "We will continue to work on those. I'm not going to prejudge on how those will come out. There are not any preconditions for the conference coming back together.
"We want a stable, workable conference going forward," Powers said.
Oklahoma State's governing board Wednesday granted university president Burns Hargis the power to move the school's teams to a different conference.
Hargis said the move was important even after the Pac-12 was taken off the table as a potential destination because "there are a lot of moving parts here and we may have to make decisions fast." He says it's important to have the power in hand rather than waiting 48 hours to hold a regents meeting.
Hargis says his "first priority" is to stabilize the Big 12 and remain in that conference, but he rejected the notion that Oklahoma State's current home is its only option.
"Certainly the position of Oklahoma State and I think most of the schools, if not all, is that we want to add a 10th team," said Hargis, a member of the league's expansion committee. He listed TCU, Houston, SMU, BYU, Utah and Air Force among the potential expansion targets before saying "we've talked about a lot of ideas."
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement that he supported his school's decision to stay in the Big 12. Sooners football coach Bob Stoops also expressed his desire to stay in the conference.
"I'm very pleased that we're staying in the Big 12 Conference and appreciate the opportunity to work very closely with president (David) Boren throughout the decision-making process," Stoops said.
Expansion also will be on the table for the presidents, the source said, with the three likely candidates -- BYU (independent in football/West Coast Conference in other sports) and Big East schools Louisville and West Virginia. Those were three of the five schools that the Big 12 athletic directors were charged to call when Texas A&M announced it was leaving.
Pittsburgh and Arkansas were the other two, but the Panthers are joining the ACC and Arkansas isn't leaving the SEC.
But the source said the league wouldn't rule out current Big East member Rutgers, either. The Scarlet Knights may not have a natural home if the ACC decides not to expand beyond 14. Multiple sources said the ACC would want Notre Dame and then Connecticut if it were to expand beyond 14. The Fighting Irish have maintained that they want their independence in football and at this juncture, they don't have to join a conference.
Dodds said he likes the 10-team model the league currently has. He acknowledged the league is considering BYU as the 10th member.
While some league members might want to push the number back up to 12, Dodds said he considers a 10-team league "perfect."
"I've heard conversations (about adding more teams), but I haven't heard anyone get up on the table and say we've got to do 12," Dodds said.
Dodds said Texas and Oklahoma have a good working relationship and will work out any differences to help stabilize the Big 12.
"It's not going to be a street fight," Dodds said.
Dodds blamed the near-breakup of the Big 12 on university governing boards -- not Texas', he said -- that wrested control of conference decisions from athletic directors.
"People on boards get involved and when they get involved collegiality sometimes stops," Dodds said. "We've got to empower people on the athletics side to put this together and keep it together."
The source also said the presidents may at least inquire to see if Texas A&M would be willing to stay under new conditions. That would seem like a reach, based on the Aggies' public desire to join the SEC and the SEC's vote to accept the Aggies as a 13th member.
Something similar is occurring in the Mountain West, where the league is seeing if TCU would be willing to stay if the Big East doesn't remain together as a football conference.
The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday reaffirmed support for Kansas and Kansas State to remain members of the Big 12 Conference.
Regent chairman Ed McKechnie said after the nine-member board met in executive session that he was pleased with the work by the two universities' leaders to stay engaged in saving the conference. He was pleased with progress that was being made to stabilize the conference, including offers to restructure revenues.
"We want the Big 12 to survive," McKechnie said. "Our priority is to have Kansas and Kansas State be together in the Big 12. It appears that we are making great progress toward that."
McKechnie said he thought the situation would be resolved in "seven to 10 days, but that's conjecture."
Officials at Kansas and Kansas State declined to comment after the meeting and deferred all questions after the meeting to the regents. McKechnie said the regents haven't given the universities permission to seek alliance with other conferences should the Big 12 cease to exist, but said that he hoped those decisions could be avoided.
"I think the Big 12 is the best place for KU and K-State to be, and I hope that we are on the cusp of that happening," he said.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was optimistic that the Big 12 would remain intact, stabilize and add members. He said the level of competition in basketball and football is as good as anywhere in the country.
"It makes sense for the conference to stay together," Brownback said. "It's not a financial issue, as far as the conference flying apart, because people can get money other places. It makes geographic sense."
Brownback said the regents and the state's two Big 12 schools had handled the situation as best they could, given the uncertainty of circumstances.
"I think the only issue has been a matter of confidence that the league's going to stay together," Brownback said.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.