Big East Commissioner John Marinatto Resigns After Trying Time of Realignment

Posted by EJacoby on May 7th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Since the Big East Conference was founded in 1979, there have been only three commissioners of a league that has featured stability and prosperity throughout its existence. But the landscape of college sports continues to change and the Big East is no exception. On Monday, Commissioner John Marinatto announced his resignation from the position, leaving a vacancy atop the country’s most dominant basketball conference. The status of the Big East as the nation’s premier basketball league may soon be in question now that Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia are on their way out, which was likely a strong factor that came into play with this story. Marinatto was unable to follow in the footsteps of Dave Gavitt and Mike Tranghese, the first two Big East commissioners who each served for at least 11 years. Marinatto only lasted from July 2009 to May 2012 and simply became a victim of the greater effects of conference realignment.

John Marinatto is Out as Big East Commissioner (AP Photo/J. Giblin)

Marinatto was unable to please the Big East Board of Directors despite successfully expanding the league to 18 schools for the 2013-14 season, which includes new teams Memphis, Temple, SMU, Central Florida, Boise State, San Diego State, and Houston. However, of the 18-team league, only 13 will be playing Big East football in 2013, the sport that brings in the most money and affects the majority of decisions regarding realignment. In addition, the upcoming 18-team league does not include recently departed longtime members Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two of the top basketball programs in the entire country. The conference also lost longtime powerhouse West Virginia and new addition TCU to the Big 12, two huge football losses. “Our recent expansion efforts have stabilized the Conference for the long term,” said Marinatto in his statement, but reports suggest that he was asked to resign from the position, so not everyone was pleased by these efforts. “I felt this was the right time to step aside and to let someone else lead us through the next chapter of our evolution,” Marinatto added.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Eleven

Posted by cwilliams on January 26th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

Despite being self-proclaimed “experts” in the field of college basketball, me and my fellow hoops writers are often wrong. And that’s part of it — first, we predict that Texas A&M will be a threat to win the Big 12; then, we say Missouri’s hopeless without Laurence Bowers; and then, we are proven wrong. That’s part of the job. But whenever predictions pan out correctly, most pundits can’t help but pat themselves on the back. We at RTC Big 12 predicted that, despite the injuries, academic ineligibilities, and the effect of conference realignment, the Big 12 would be one of the best conferences in college basketball. With Missouri at #2 in the nation, Kansas at #6, and Baylor at #8, plus the impressive seasons so far by Iowa State and Kansas State, it appears as if we were spot on with that one.

Nice to Meet You, Mr. Nash. (


  • That’s Just Nash-ty: Nash has been under a microscope all season, and for good reason. Touted as one of the nation’s most talented freshmen, Le’Bryan was expected to not only compete for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, but Big 12 Player of the Year too. So, naturally, he’s been a slight disappointment this season. Until last night. Oklahoma State hosted the #2 Missouri Tigers, hot off a huge road win at Baylor, and Le’Bryan went off, dropping 27 on the stunned Tigers.
  • Border War Hype:  No matter what the records of Kansas and Missouri are, the Border War will always be surrounded by a great deal of hype in the Midwest. But this season, the teams have skyrocketed the polls, now sitting at #2 and #6, respectively. The jawing between the fanbases has reached new highs, which is saying something because these guys already despise each other. Next Saturday, with ESPN’s College Gameday in town, Missouri will host Kansas, in what many are touting to be the Big 12 game of the season.
  • Taylor Made: Perhaps Tyshawn Taylor noted the public’s criticism. Or maybe he ignored it and knew his game would naturally come back. Either way, Taylor has been playing some stellar basketball as of late. His turnovers are down, his points are up, and he’s playing like the floor general Kansas needs. When Thomas Robinson and Taylor are in sync, I’m not sure anyone can stop them.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 17th, 2011

  1. Most signings across the Big 12 this week have been only formalities, but in Kansas’ case, the program picked up a new commitment in forward Landen Lucas. According to Self, Lucas might be the next Darnell Jackson. If you’ll remember, Jackson started for KU’s 2008 National Championship squad and even led that extremely talented team in rebounding. If Lucas ever grows into the kind of player Jackson was his senior season, then Jayhawk fans should be more than thrilled.
  2. For the first time in 35 games, Iowa State’s Scott Christopherson failed to make a three-point basket in a five-point loss to Drake earlier this week. That streak was a school record, and without Christopherson’s contributions, ISU looked lost offensively. Most of his team struggled shooting the ball from the perimeter as well, and it appears the Cyclones with all their new players have a lot of work to do this winter. Of course, with four transfers playing big minutes, an acclimation period has to be expected.
  3.  The Associated Press reports the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee will keep a Big 12 flavor, as Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione will replace former league commissioner Dan Beebe on the panel. Castiglione, also a former AD at Missouri, will serve until the end of the 2012-13 season. He’ll now have the difficult task of helping select which at-large teams make the NCAA Tournament, so hopefully he’s ready to face the inevitable criticism.
  4. It’s hard to use just one word to describe Missouri’s Kim English. He’s known more for his Twitter and his post-game quotes than his game these days. After a productive freshman year in 2008-09, English then led the team in scoring as a sophomore before falling flat as a junior. Last season, he struggled in almost every facet of his game, which is why his pleasantly surprising start is good news for Tiger fans. We’ll hold off judgment until MU faces better competition, but English at least looks much more comfortable this season.
  5. Since many of us stayed up all night to watch basketball during ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon, the thought of next year’s event is a little unsettling. We’re tired and sleep-deprived, that’s all. But Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie has a plea: he wants to be part of the event in 2012. Gillispie even offered to play at 3 AM CST, which is normally the time slot reserved for Hawaii. If Gillispie wants to play at three o’clock in the morning, then more power to him. It might be a difficult sell for his college-aged players, though.
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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:

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Morning Five: 09.23.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 23rd, 2011

  1. As we’ve said before, one of the few positives that’s come out of the conference congealment/realignment mess is that some writers have simply had enough and are pulling out all the stops in their critiques, and the readers are benefitting from it. The latest example of this came yesterday from Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel, who explains why the current system blows, the new superconference system will be even worse, and that it’s not too late to save these conference and school administrators from themselves and try to save college athletics, certainly (our favorite section coming here), “…for the average fan, who just appreciated things like the Big East basketball tournament or Backyard Brawl or the myriad other traditions that seem a lot cooler than protecting the salary of the guy who runs the Great Idaho Potato Bowl.” Enjoy.
  2. So, in that vein…Dan Beebe is out as commissioner of the Big 12, and it looks like this conference — which looked extremely wobbly at best just a week ago — will now survive. You probably remember that it was Oklahoma that said it would only stay on board if Beebe was removed AND if Texas‘ brand new Longhorn Network would be restricted in what it could show, especially regarding high school games/athletes. As for the “victory” yesterday and the discussion among the member schools that lasted for just over an hour, OU president David Boren said, “We achieved substantial reforms. We feel extremely good.” We assume now that it’s only a matter of time until the remaining schools gang up on Texas and that TV network to try and hammer out a few more substantial reforms.
  3. It’s been just over 18 months since March 3, 2010, a night on which Maryland defeated Duke in a basketball game. It’s also the night that Maryland student John McKenna was beaten with riot batons by a couple of police officers during the celebratory mayhem that followed the game. McKenna and his family hired a private investigator who found a tape of the incident, showing that McKenna was not provoking the officers and was unarmed. The tape didn’t support the officers’ story that McKenna was belligerent to the policemen’s horses and it was the horses that caused McKenna’s injuries. A Prince George’s County, MD grand jury saw that tape recently. The officers are still innocent until proven guilty, but the grand jury indicted them earlier this week, charging them with first- and second-degree assault.
  4. On May 13, UNLV senior Chace Stanback was pulled over for suspicion of DUI and ended up testing positive for marijuana. The summary of his punishment is as follows: $585 in fines, 40 hours of community service, attendance at DUI school, and participation in a victim impact panel. Yesterday, the school also suspended Stanback for the Rebels’ season opener on November 11 against Grand Canyon as well as an exhibition ten days earlier. The 6’8” swingman will be UNLV’s leading returning scorer, averaging 13.0 PPG last season (2nd on team), and led the Rebs last year in rebounding (5.9 RPG) as well as efficiency rating (13.5).
  5. Speaking of November 11, that’s Veterans’ Day, and the night that Michigan State and North Carolina will face off in the first-ever NCAA game on an aircraft carrier, lovingly called the “Carrier Classic,” specifically aboard the USS Carl Vinson docked in San Diego. The combatants for the 2012 edition now look to be Arizona from the Pac-12 and Connecticut from the Big East ACC…well, whatever. We understand the reasons they’re doing this on the Vinson and why the ship has to be docked, but as we wrote in our original article on the carrier game, at some point in the future this has to be played on an active ship in the middle of missile drills. Talk about preparing a team to play on the road, man. The sight of a bird being launched in the middle of an 18-year old’s one-and-bonus will make a couple of snarky signs or synchronized cheers from some day-drinking poli-sci majors look pretty tame.
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Morning Five: 09.22.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 22nd, 2011

  1. A couple of top prospects made their college choices within the last couple of days and the rich keep getting richer. On Tuesday night, Kentucky opened its account within the 2012 class when 6’4”, 180-pound shooting guard Archie Goodwin tweeted his intent to be a Wildcat. It was Perry Ellis‘ turn on Wednesday, and the 6’8”, 220-pound forward chose Kansas, citing Bill Self’s knack for getting the most out of his Jayhawk bigs as motivation for heading to Lawrence. Goodwin is ranked 13th overall and Ellis is 37th in the ESNPU 100 class of 2012 rankings. Ellis was also the first ranked recruit to commit to Kansas from that class, but it goes without saying that neither program is finished mining its talent.
  2. Oklahoma took some heat for the ultimatum it gave to the Big 12 on Tuesday, claiming that it would stay in the conference if, among other demands, some restrictions were placed on exactly what Texas’ Longhorn Network could show, and if current Big 12 commish Dan Beebe was removed. Nobody (including us) bought it as a good-faith negotiating tactic, but it turns out that OU might be getting at least part of what it wants. Evidently Oklahoma isn’t the only school that would welcome Beebe’s ouster, and the most recent word is that the presidents of the conference’s member institutions are having a conference call (no pun intended) tomorrow that will determine the future of the Big 12, beginning with the removal of Beebe and the installment of former Big 8 commissioner Chuck Neinas as the new boss.
  3. Last week, when people who follow college sports weren’t talking about conference realignment, they were talking about the piece that appeared in The Atlantic by essayist and historian Taylor Branch entitled “The Shame Of College Sports.” The 14,573-word diatribe against the NCAA was lauded by almost everyone as a stinging polemic, to say the least, and an utter rout for Branch. CBS’ Seth Davis, however, took Branch and his essay to task yesterday, charging Branch with basing his whole article on a faulty premise and conveniently leaving out obvious counterpoints. We provided a CliffsNotes version of the Branch essay, and we highly recommend you check out Davis’ response, too, linked above.
  4. Rick Pitino had a chat with ESPN’s Andy Katz yesterday in which the Louisville coach predicted that the Big East would survive Realignment ’11, that the conference would add two service acadamies (football only) by the end of the week, it would still remain one of the strongest basketball conferences in the land, and that he is “happy with Big East basketball.” Pitino has a gift for spin that makes even the most skilled of lobbyists envious, but he’s probably right about the Big East staying strong. Obviously it won’t be what it once was if Syracuse and Pittsburgh follow through with their departures, but as far as basketball power, assuming Rutgers and Connecticut leave and Notre Dame and West Virginia stay, you’d have those two programs plus Louisville, Marquette, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Villanova, and St. John’s, all NCAA Tournament teams last year.
  5. We bet you can win a few bar bets — though your chances of success increase dramatically if you’re outside the state of Michigan — on one of the great riddles in college basketball: who was Michigan State’s only three-time basketball all-American? Hint: he was a point guard. Your sucker will probably pounce at the chance to answer “Magic Johnson!” and expect to relieve you of your cash, but he’d be wrong. Magic was a two-time AA as a Spartan (because he only played two years). It’s a Flintstone named Mateen Cleaves who holds that honor, and today he will be inducted into Michigan State University’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Despite feeling as humbled and honored as you’d expect, the 34-year old Cleaves told Eric Woodyard of the Flint Journal and, “It does make me feel old that I’m entering the hall of fame.” No comment.
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Texas A&M Keeping A Close Eye On Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on August 3rd, 2010

The higher-ups in College Station, Texas keep on checkin’ that mailbox.

A few days ago, the Texas A&M student-run Battalion newspaper reported that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, the man credited with saving that conference, didn’t exactly seem fired up to discuss the $20 million the Big 12 is supposed to pay A&M annually as part of a deal that kept the conference intact, noting that Beebe would “get around to talking to A&M about this ‘hidden’ money.”

As you recall, part of the deal that held the Big 12 together a couple of months ago was that the “big three” schools — namely Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma — would each receive a yearly $20 million payment as part of a new ABC/ESPN/Fox Sports television deal and from the exit costs incurred by Nebraska and Colorado when they decided to bolt for the Big Ten and Pac-10, respectively.  Those exit fees (if they actually exist) from those two schools totaled upwards of $20-40 million, and five of the remaining schools — Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State, as reported in a summary of this situation by the Houston Chronicle — agreed to forego their shares of this money and let the “big three” divide it up amongst themselves, as long as those three schools would stay in the conference and thereby keep it together.  Texas and Oklahoma said thanks-but-no-thanks to that cash.  Texas A&M accepted it.

Will Beebe and the Big 12 come through with the $20M? We're betting yes. (AP/Cody Duty)

Also according to that piece by Brent Zwerneman in the Chronicle, a Texas A&M official stated last Wednesday that A&M doesn’t really care how the conference comes up with the money — just that the Big 12 honor their end of the agreement, and that failure to do so would result in both legal action and a reopening of talks with the SEC.   Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin spoke at an A&M event in Houston on Saturday and minced no words on the issue, proclaiming, “I guarantee you we will be treated fairly.  Whatever it takes.”  Loftin’s words came two days after Mr. Beebe reaffirmed that Texas A&M would get their $20 million cut.

For several reasons, we’re pretty sure that the Big 12 will come through.  Not only would they never live down the embarrassment from reneging on the deal, but consider that the payments don’t even start until the 2012-13 academic year, giving them ample time — something they didn’t have as the conference was crumbling in June — to figure out how to divide up the cash from the TV deal and the exit fees.  And if the conference somehow doesn’t hold up their end, Texas A&M would certainly make good on that SEC threat, enticing rival Texas to do the same, and leaving Oklahoma no incentive to stay put.  The price of not coming up with the money would seem to be the very existence of the conference.

Keep in mind, though, that as of right now this whole agreement involving the $20-mil is oral.  Until one of two things shows up in College Station — the dough, or a written form of the agreement — A&M will continue to play that SEC card, and you can’t really blame them.

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Morning Five: 07.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

  1. We’re starting to become concerned about the fall that Bob Huggins endured on Friday that sent him to the hospital with four broken ribs.  Initially it was believed that he would released on Saturday, but as of late Sunday night, Huggins was still being held in a Las Vegas hospital for observation purposes.  Doctors were apparently concerned about bone fragments that could cause other problems, and anyone who has had such an injury says that there is a great deal of pain while breathing.  Regardless, we hope that Huggins can get out of the hospital soon and resume his normal activities of recruiting, coaching and scowling at people.
  2. This article at Fanhouse argues that USC basketball got off fairly easy in light of the OJ Mayo scandal and the subsequent penalties (or lack thereof) handed down by the NCAA.  Um, we guess?  What seems to be missing in this analysis is that the athletic department unsuccessfully threw Trojan basketball to the wolves in an effort to save the football program from harsher sanctions.  But at least they were proactive in getting in front of the problems and making the organization think that they were serious about self-policing in at least one sport.  If USC had been as cooperative with punishing themselves over Reggie Bush’s indiscretions as they were with OJ Mayo, the gridiron Trojans may not be facing a two-year ban from the postseason.
  3. The Pac-10 coaches are discussing how the league plans to handle dividing up the new twelve team conference and everyone seemingly agrees on one thing — they don’t want to lose out on the fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California.  And with good reason, as the ten teams last year had 33 players from SoCal on their rosters, nearly 25% of the entire league’s cache.
  4. This article on Dan Beebe, the “Savior of the Big 12,” paints a much different picture than the one that was being bandied about when it appeared the implosion of that league was imminent.  A good lesson learned here.
  5. Former Oklahoma all-american and jazz musician Wayman Tisdale, who passed away from cancer in 2009, will be honored in perpetuity as the namesake for an award handed out by the USBWA to the top freshman player in America.  Given that nowadays the top rookie is often the best collegiate player in America as well (John Wall, Kevin Durant), this is a great way to remember the gentle giant from Tulsa.
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Winners & Losers From Conference Realignment (so far)

Posted by rtmsf on June 18th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

With the news on Thursday that Utah has received and accepted the invitation to become the 12th member of the Pac-10, it looks like the college sports realignment apocalypse has been averted for the summer. There may be further movement on down the line, but all signs point to a relative period of calm after weeks of frantic scrambling from all corners of the country. While it was a pale substitute for actual on-court play, we did have plenty of intrigue and suspense, action and strategy, and winners and losers. Now it’s just a matter of sorting out who was what.

The Greatest and Still Champion


A Lot to Be Happy about in Austin These Days

Texas definitely fits in the “winner” category, but I think lumping them in with these other schmucks below would be selling them short. And I’m sure they would agree. The Longhorns played this about as well as could be played, and they got everything they wanted out of it. The Big 12 keeps their television deal with ESPN (which doesn’t expire until 2016), but only has to share the proceeds among ten schools rather than twelve. The conference received a promise from Fox for a new deal when their current deal expires, with exponential increases in revenue on tap. And, on top of all that, Texas retains the right to sell local television rights and is free to explore its plans for a Longhorn television network. Bonus: in the process of trying to keep the Longhorns in the Big 12, there are reports that the neediest institutions in the bunch agreed to a plan that sent all of the money that Colorado and Nebraska owe the conference in buyout fees (reported to be somewhere between $10 and $40 million, depending on the source) to Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. So, in the span of a week, without losing any of their traditional rivals in the Big 12 South, Texas goes from generating somewhere in the $12 million range in television revenues to earning an estimated $20-25 million annually. And, that’s not even the best of it. In the process, it became painfully obvious that Texas is the big dog in the conference and the other schools (aside from Texas A&M) are in some manner, just riding coattails. Schools like Oklahoma and Texas Tech made it clear that they were just going to do whatever Texas did, while others, like Missouri, Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor, had their futures twisting in the wind, reliant on Texas to save them. If the Longhorns had gone to the Pac-16, they would have just been one of the sixteen there. By staying at home, they are clearly the kings of their conference.

The Winners

Texas A&M

The Aggies showed themselves as the one school in the conference that had plans of their own regardless of Texas. While Oklahoma and others were happy to just do whatever Texas decided, A&M talked to the SEC, and by all reports, actually had an offer to join that conference. But, in the end when they could have run off and forced Texas’ move west, the Aggies agreed to stick around and share in the league’s windfall, excellent news for an athletic department that was $16 million in debt, and even better for a school whose once proud football program has fallen on hard times in the past decade.

Big 12 Basketball

Without a doubt, the Big 12 became a better basketball conference overnight. Over the last nine years, both Colorado and Nebraska have had an average finish of around ninth in the conference. Nebraska has never won an NCAA tournament game. Colorado has only had two NCAA tournament berths in the last 40 years. So as far as the basketball side of the equation goes, this is addition by subtraction at its finest. As the conference makes the transition to an 18-game schedule in which each team will play a full home-and-home round-robin, they will no longer have to worry about games against the Buffs or Huskers dragging down their RPI. Every night in the conference will be tough sledding, but every team in the conference will also have a better chance to build their resume for postseason play.

Watch Out, Big East and ACC...

Chip Brown and

Chip Brown has been the point-man on conference realignment for about two weeks now. He broke the original story about Texas dragging five other Big 12 schools to the Pac-10, and when Texas blinked in the 11th hour, it was Brown who had that story first as well, even in the face of ESPN reporting the opposite. In the process, Brown, a former writer for the Dallas Morning News, has seen his Twitter followers increase exponentially, and the profile of, a Longhorn Rivals site of which he is part owner, has jumped from something that was only known amongst the most attentive Longhorn fans to an important resource for those of us following this story.


The Utes received just $1.2 million in television revenue from their association with the Mountain West Conference. Presently Pac-10 schools earn somewhere in the $10-$12 million neighborhood from their television contracts, and with the Pac-10 set to negotiate a new television deal which will begin the 2011-12 season, the Utah athletic department stands to make a nice chunk of change for very little trouble.  While the basketball program is going through a rough patch presently, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Utes be right in the thick of things in the Pac-10 football chase immediately.

ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports

Both networks stepped in to help save the Big 12. ABC/ESPN agreed to keep their current contract with the Big 12, allowing the ten remaining members to split the revenues that had previously been divided amongst twelve. Fox Sports also agreed to large increases in their agreement with the Big 12 which expires next offseason. If Texas had bolted for the Pac-10 along with five other Big 12 members, both ESPN and Fox Sports would have had a major bidding war on its hands for the rights to the new Pac-16 conference television deal. The breakup of the Big 12 would likely have meant other moves by the Big Ten or SEC or ACC, moves that could have resulted in their contracts needing to be reworked. In the short term, both entities probably overpay for the Big 12 rights, but they saved themselves plenty of cash in the long term.

Big Ten

While it may have appeared to be the first rat on the way out before the ship went down, Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten makes a lot of sense, at least football-wise. Adding the Huskers gives the Big Ten four iconic football programs, the ability to hold a championship game and a fanbase that will eat up anything Huskers on the Big Ten Network. And, passing on Missouri is probably the right move as well. Picking up one Big 12 team brings the Big Ten to 12 schools, and allows them to take their time with any additional expansion they may be interested in, while getting the benefits of the 12th team. If the Big Ten chooses to pursue further expansion, it will be mostly focused on Big East teams, including the great white whale, Notre Dame.

The Losers


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Texas Standoff Ends With Survival of the Big 12, er, 10…

Posted by rtmsf on June 14th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and the Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

The Big 12 went all the way to the brink, peered over the other side into non-existence, and then veered away from the white light at the last minute. The patient is now resting comfortably in Austin, although it has lost a little weight.

After last week’s rumors that the University of Texas was all but signed up to head to the Pac-10, bringing Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and potentially Texas A&M or Kansas along for the ride, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe pulled off perhaps the biggest longshot in the college sports year, reportedly in conjunction with an influential group of concerned citizens both within and outside of the world of college athletics, pulling Texas back from the brink with promises of SEC-type money and an ability for the Longhorns to start their own television network, the revenues of which they’ll be able to keep all for themselves. And, just as a little bonus, the remaining ten Big 12 schools (yes, it appears that for the near future, the Big 12 will have ten schools and the Big Ten twelve) will get to split the nearly $20 million in buyout penalties that Colorado and Nebraska must pay for leaving the conference. Maybe Christian Laettner’s shot and Doug Flutie’s pass were more exciting to watch, but Beebe’s last chance attempt at holding the Big 12 together will have a much larger long-term impact on the college sports landscape.

The Most Powerful Athletic Program in College Sports


The biggest winner here is Texas, on several fronts. According to Beebe’s projections, the Big 12’s next television deal coupled with projected income from a Longhorn television network could provide the university with between $20-$25 million annually, a marked increase from the estimated $10-$11 million they are currently generating.  And, the Longhorns get to remain in a conference with its historic rivals, many of whom were either in the position a few days ago of  doing whatever Texas decided it was going to do, or being left behind if Texas did leave. While the Big 12 was already painted as Texas and the 11 dwarfs before the last week, that image has been cemented in everyone’s minds now. Clearly that will be just another useful recruiting tool for Texas athletics.

Texas A&M

The Aggies come across as the only school in the Big 12 whose leaders were able to think of themselves in a way other than their relationship to Texas. If Texas had made the decision to head west, A&M was already well on its way to paving its own road to the SEC. Whereas before this mess, most would have pointed at Oklahoma or maybe Nebraska as the strong number two program to the Longhorn Ace, Texas A&M went a long way this week toward establishing their own identity. And then, of course, at the last minute the Aggies blinked. Fortunately for them, big daddy Texas still had their backs.

The Little Twelve

So what happens to the conference as a whole? It gets significantly richer, while being in the excellent position of dividing up a bigger pie up into fewer pieces. Beebe’s number should certainly be retired, and any time that he shows up at a Big 12 sporting event for the rest of his lifetime, they should roll out the red carpet for him, sit him down at a nice courtside throne and pay off a few cheerleaders to fan him with feathers and feed him grapes. Iowa State in particular was certainly on the verge of relegation to a mid-major program with Baylor likely not far behind. Missouri’s administrators, who not long ago talked of their involvement in the Big 12 in the past tense, have been saved as well from peddling their wares on the street corner. Kansas and its pre-eminent basketball program has been spared the indignity of either playing out of region in the Big East or asking for shelter from the Mountain West. And all these longtime rivals (or at least most of them) get to continue beating each other up on the playing field. Without a doubt, the 2010-11 season has just taken on some added significance.

Beyond all that, there are the details. First, is this league still the Big 12? We’ve put up with the Big Eleven still calling themselves the Big Ten if only because they were sorta old and quaint, perhaps a little senile, and who could blame them if they couldn’t count anymore. Sure the Atlantic 10 has 14 members, but the Atlantic 14 sounds like a really bad sequel to Ocean’s Eleven. But we really can’t have the Big 12 operating with ten members (assuming they actually stay at ten – more on that in a second), still calling itself the Big 12, can we? The easy solution is to just have the Big Ten and Big 12 swap logos, but something tells me we’re stuck with these names.

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