Dan Beebe, take a bow. You earned it.
Tagged toes pointing to the ceiling, the Big 12 was on its way to the burial grounds until Beebe resuscitated it by doing what conference commissioners are supposed to do. He squeezed every last penny of television money available and told the remaining 10 members what that meant for them. He determined what each and every institution needed to hear to stay put. He convinced them why it all made sense to survive as a 10-member conference for now.
The man’s a smart guy with a firm handshake and a down-to-earth vibe that makes him a guy with whom you want to keep doing business. And he displayed thick-enough skin to keep forging ahead when things looked dire, as the vultures from the Pac-10 circled above.
For Kansas University, it’s not quite time to erect a statue of Beebe to put next to the one of Phog outside Allen Fieldhouse, but a nice ovation, maybe even a “Thank you Beebe (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap)” is in order when he next shows his face at a KU football or basketball game.
Don’t fall into the temptation of thinking the conference is diminished because Nebraska departed for the Big Ten. Sure, the football games against the Cornhuskers, especially those in Lincoln, where the atmosphere is among the nation’s best, will be missed. But now, with all nine conference foes on the schedule, either Texas or Oklahoma will play in Memorial Stadium every year.
With 10 teams instead of 12, less is more. Kansas will have a slightly tougher schedule in football and a markedly more difficult one in basketball, and when it comes to schedules, unlike golf courses, tougher always means better.
The subtraction of Colorado and Nebraska greatly improves the basketball league. For KU, the automatic four victories against the Buffaloes and ’Huskers will be replaced by extra games against Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M; and Texas Tech.
Another way of looking at it: Kansas played eight conference games against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Under the new schedule, they would have played 12 Big 12 games against tourney teams.
Staying in the conference allows new football coach Turner Gill to keep Texas as the school’s No. 1 recruiting base. Most boys grow up wanting to play for the Longhorns. Those deemed not good enough to wear the burnt orange immediately want to do the next best thing, which, of course, is to try to beat the ’Horns, make them regret the snub.
The next order of business for Beebe will be to get the NCAA to change the rule that requires a conference to have 12 teams in order to play a football conference championship game. Considering the Big 12 was raided, he ought to be able to play up the sympathy angle on that one.
If he succeeds in doing so, the Big 12 then has the power in terms of expansion plans. It can remain highly selective: Aim for adding Arkansas and Notre Dame. That would renew the Arkansas-Texas rivalry and give the conference two huge TV draws in ND and UT. Failing that, think bitter rivals Pittsburgh and West Virginia from the Big East, a move that would enrich the football conference and bring Bob Huggins back to Big 12 basketball arenas.