On the first day of the Big 12 Conference’s spring meetings, commissioner Dan Beebe sat at the podium, spoke confidently and seemed to glow with optimism for his conference.
For much of the 12 days that followed, Beebe looked the part of an injured boxer, retreating to his corner whenever possible and simply trying to stay upright as his legs below him staggered and his vision faded.
Tuesday, at an 11 a.m. news conference called to discuss the survival of the Big 12, Beebe returned to his previous form.
“This conference is well-positioned to continue as one of the most successful in the country,” an upbeat Beebe said in an opening statement. “I am honored and privileged to lead this conference into a tremendously bright future.”
The vague portion of Beebe’s reason to smile was confirmed Monday, when it was learned that the University of Texas, along with four other Big 12 South schools, would remain with the conference instead of exploring an expansion into the Pac-10. Tuesday, he got into the specifics, which included brief but strong comments on future television dollars that have been pledged to the conference by major networks. Though many were reporting that the TV deals were done, Beebe made sure to point out that all of the numbers were based on projections and discussions. Those discussions, he said, left him very comfortable with the idea that future deals would be lucrative.
Evidently, the “verification” was enough to convince Texas.
“The Big 12 (television) package is going to be every bit as good as any other conference,” Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said Tuesday morning. “We are in good shape on the television side.”
Some schools more so than others.
When listening closely to Beebe’s 40-minute news conference, one could extrapolate that there would be three tiers of beneficiaries from any new TV deals. The top tier includes Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. The bottom tier, Beebe hinted, includes Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri. The middle tier, though not singled out, includes Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, the two remaining schools coveted by the Pac-10.
Although some time will pass before those tiers reap the benefits of where they fall in line, Beebe said all 10 schools were fine with that model.
“It’s been well written about that there were five institutions that weren’t being pursued as dramatically as Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma,” Beebe said. “And those five institutions were looking at a possibly very difficult future. They came together and looked at the media evaluations we had going forward and those didn’t look very good without Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. So those (five) wanted to ensure that those institutions stayed with them and were willing to, if necessary, use some of the distribution that they might get from the parting members (Colorado and Nebraska) to make sure that Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma were induced to stay with them and stay in the conference.”
The penalty payouts from the Buffs and Cornhuskers could reach as much as $20 million. Texas’ president told the Austin American Statesman he “opposes” taking KU’s and the other schools’ share of the penalty fees.
Revenue figures aside, the deal appears to be a good thing for everyone. The rich get richer and the rest survive and are in position to thrive.
As Jill Docking, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, said, “This outcome is a win-win for our universities, their students and alumni, and the state.”
Beebe’s impassioned pleas to all 12 schools spoke very little about money and more about tradition, history and, in his mind, what’s right.
“One of the misnomers is this is all about money,” Beebe said. “A strong, strong consideration by the institutions to remain is the allegiance of these schools, the fact that college athletics is very much a regionally supported endeavor, and that it would be a great travesty for this part of this country if it’s major institutions located with conferences that aren’t in this region.”
As many have reported, several others, outside of the conference, agreed.
“A lot of people thought it wouldn’t be good for college athletics if the Big 12 no longer existed,” Beebe said.
Toss KU athletic director Lew Perkins and chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little into that camp. Tuesday, in the first comments from the university not made by men’s basketball coach Bill Self since the Big 12 confirmed its fate on Monday, Perkins and Gray-Little provided the following statement:
“The University of Kansas is excited about the bright future of the Big 12 Conference and its ability to provide long-term strength and vitality for the league and its members. The conference going forward offers schedule and travel choices that exhibit a concern for the student-athlete, as well as maintaining the rivalries that mean so much to our fans. This outcome is a result of the hard work and collaboration of many people, including presidents, chancellors and athletics directors, as well as Commissioner Dan Beebe and leaders inside and outside Kansas. It was particularly gratifying to work with our friends at Kansas State, because while we may compete on the field, we both understand the importance of working together to advance the best the interests of the State of Kansas.”