Kansas City, Mo. The answers were sparse and the soundbites few and far between, but the prevailing message from the third day of the Big 12’s spring meetings at the InterContinental Hotel on the Plaza indicated that the conference was anything but united regarding its outlook for the future.
“There was a lot of passion in that room about the Big 12,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said Thursday. “I can promise you that.”
Perhaps, but Castiglione’s comments did not necessarily mean all of the energy was warm and fuzzy. After Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe presented a strong display of confidence about the conference’s future Tuesday, things shifted a bit Thursday when a Rivals.com report emerged that indicated that the Pac-10 was set to invite six Big 12 teams — Texas, Texas A&M;, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado — to join the conference.
In an interview with the Boulder Daily Camera, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn's words seemed to indicate the report might be based in truth.
“The longer that we were together in Kansas City, it appeared that that rumor or speculation did have some validity to it,” Bohn told the Daily Camera.
Thursday’s agenda, which included athletic directors, university presidents and high-ranking officials from all Big 12 institutions, was bland enough at the beginning of the day and heated up considerably when the report broke around 2 p.m.
“We wouldn’t normally be having some of the conversations we did today if there weren’t the issues that brought all of you together,” Castiglione told the media in reference to the rumors involving the Pac-10.
There also might not have been as much angst. Although many who emerged from the second-floor meeting room did so with grace, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe appeared flustered.
Thursday’s meetings were supposed to conclude at 5 p.m. but lasted until 6 p.m. At that point, Beebe, who was scheduled to speak to reporters after the meetings, canceled the news conference, made a brief comment in the hallway and then hurried onto the elevator.
“No comments until (today),” Beebe said. “Same comments as before. That’s all you’re going to get out of me. I was an investigator; I know how to answer all the questions. Thanks.”
With that, Day 3 was over. Although he left with a smile on his face, Beebe’s actions and abrupt tone told a different story than the chest-pounding, Big-12-loving sentiment he had been preaching all week.
Two of Kansas University’s most visible administrators were not present Thursday. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has been in London all week, and athletic director Lew Perkins missed the meetings Wednesday and Thursday because of a prior commitment. KU associate athletics director Jim Marchiony said Perkins stayed in close touch with Beebe and others at the InterContinental throughout both days.
One bit of news involving the Pac-10 that Castiglione was willing to comment on was the possibility of a future television partnership between the Pac-10 and the Big 12, something those rooting for the survival of the Big 12 see as a positive step toward saving the league that’s set to enter its 15th year of existence this fall. Tuesday, Beebe said the idea of a television merger was something he began exploring as far back as three years ago. Many in attendance Thursday seemed intrigued by the possibility.
“It could be exciting,” Castiglione said. “I think there’s some potential value there. We had one meeting with some of the members of the Pac-10. It wasn’t a scheduled meeting. We brainstormed some of the possibilities that may exist. Since then, both our commissioner and (Pac-10 commissioner) Larry Scott have had conversations. It leads one to believe there are some real viable opportunities for both leagues.”
Asked if he had engaged in discussions with anyone from the Pac-10 about the possibility of Oklahoma heading west, Castiglione spoke directly.
“Not yet,” he said. “And hopefully I don’t have to. At the end of the day, (the talks) have been about the (Big 12) conference itself: its health, its history and its future.”
The Pac-10 meetings are scheduled for this weekend in San Francisco. The Big 12 meetings will conclude this morning with what promises to be a spirited final day.