Did the Big 12 Save Itself Thursday? Depends on Whom You Ask…

Posted by rtmsf on September 23rd, 2011

There’s reason to believe that the Big 12 will survive for at least another year with the news Thursday that two of the conditions most desired by several of its remaining member institutions will come to fruition.  Well, they hope, at least.  The first condition, reportedly required by Oklahoma (but presumably other schools as well), was that Commissioner Dan Beebe be ousted from his position as a result of what is widely viewed as executive incompetence in the face of serious and repeated threats to the existence of the league.  His mutually agreed-upon ‘resignation’ was accepted by the remaining schools Thursday night.

The conference’s board of directors conducted a wide-ranging teleconference Thursday on the future of the league as Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe negotiated a “mutual agreement” with the league to leave his job immediately. Beebe will be replaced on an interim basis by former Big Eight commissioner Chuck Neinas, 79, one of the most widely respected insiders in college football.

Facing the destruction of his conference for the second time in 16 months, Beebe was the easy scapegoat here, but the bitter irony he must taste in retirement is that some of the very measures he attempted to institute — namely, better revenue sharing and stronger disincentives to leave — are now getting pushed by several remaining schools as absolute necessities to safeguard the future of the league.  One of those remedial measures (and the second condition) involves locking schools into a long-term commitment to the conference by collectively agreeing to give up their ‘first-tier’ and ‘second-tier’ rights to televised broadcasts of their games for the next six years, otherwise known as a “grant of rights.”  From the NYT:

The agreement means that if a Big 12 member jumps to another league in the next six years, the conference would be able to maintain the television rights to that member’s most lucrative games. […] Similar agreements are the foundations of the Big Ten and Pacific-12 and could ensure a long life for the oft-troubled Big 12 because a six-year agreement would put the conference through the expiration of its ESPN contract, which ends in five years. Any future television deal would be expected to include a grant of rights through the length of that new contract.

Of course, it wouldn’t really be a Big 12 story unless there were different accounts of the same story coming from different schools.  Not long after Oklahoma president David Boren said that an “agreement” on a grant of rights was in place among the committed members (excepting Texas A&M), Missouri president Brady Deaton (also the chair of the Big 12’s Board of Directors) stated through a spokesperson that there had been no such meeting of the minds yet.  The official Big 12 position to reconcile these two statements was that various league presidents still need to receive approval through their boards — undoubtedly a true statement — but what is also true is that Missouri, still hoping to catch the sparkling eye of the SEC, may not be prepared to give up any realistic chance of moving to a more prestigious conference for that long.  The Columbia branch of the Big 12 circus apparently still needs some convincing.

Despite any non-binding agreement that may have come out of Thursday night’s meeting about a grant to rights, the ginormous elephant in the room for the Big 12 is still Texas’ $300M, ESPN-backed Longhorn Network.  Such an agreement would not likely impact any of the third-tier games that were going to be available to the LHN anyway, but the other eight remaining Big 12 schools would still be at a major disadvantage because of the additional $20 million per year that Texas will receive from it.  So long as this significant revenue disparity is in place, UT will remain the first among equals and engender a continuing environment of distrust, squabbling, back-stabbing and shameless self-interest in the Big 12 Conference.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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