Pressure mounts on Big 12 to salve wounds
Hoping to heal their fractured conference, Big 12 leaders scheduled a private summit Thursday to start patching up hurt feelings and stabilize the league.
Officials at Oklahoma and Missouri scheduled news conferences for Thursday evening, about 90 minutes after a teleconference among school presidents and chancellors.
The moves came amid reports that Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe is on his way out after more than a year of chaos that included the departures of Nebraska and Colorado and the pending loss of Texas A&M.
Former Big Eight Commissioner Chuck Neinas told The Associated Press he has been contacted by members of the Big 12 about replacing Beebe on an interim basis and that he is interested in the job. He said the agenda for the leadership meeting included a decision on "whether they're going to retain an interim commissioner."
Beebe has not commented on the speculation and has not responded to interview requests.
The Big 12 barely held together in 2010 when Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) announced they were leaving. Reduced to a 10-team league, the Big 12 presidents agreed to stick together but faced another major rupture last month when Texas A&M announced plans to join the Southeastern Conference by next July, citing concerns about revenue and national attention.
The move sent the Big 12 into turmoil again.
The Big 12 appeared doomed as recently as Monday when Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were flirting with the Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
That all came to an abrupt halt Tuesday when the Pac-12 announced it would not expand, leaving the Big 12 members stuck with each other with a host of issues to address — starting with money.
The Big 12 splits the revenue from its $1.2 billion Fox Sports contract evenly, but only half of the money from its top-tier deal with ABC goes into equal shares. The rest is weighted toward the programs that play on the network more frequently.
Oklahoma officials this week made it clear that equal revenue sharing should be a priority.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said the Longhorns have proposed equal sharing from the Big 12's network TV appearances, a plan that has yet to be voted on by the Big 12 presidents. He said the school's Longhorn Network — a 20-year, $300 million venture with ESPN that drew the ire of Nebraska and Texas A&M — is not negotiable.
The 54-year-old Beebe, now in his fifth year as head of the Big 12, became an easy target for schools upset about instability in the league.
Critic portrayed him as constantly being outmaneuvered by other league commissioners who were picking off his teams one by one and as someone beholden to Texas, the Big 12's biggest and wealthiest member.
Last fall, Beebe was granted a three-year extension on his contract through 2015. When the extension was announced, 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, a former NCAA enforcement director, was commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference for 13 years before joining the Big 12 in 2003 as associate commissioner and chief operating officer. Beebe was named Big 12 commissioner in 2007.
Beebe was publicly credited in April with playing a key role in negotiating the Big 12's television deal with Fox Sports that pays the league about $90 million a year. In his tenure, the Big 12 has won 12 national championships in various sports and a record $145 million was sent to its membership in 2010-11 under the revenue-sharing model he helped arrange.