Imagine, for a second, if Kansas University football coach Turner Gill had stayed at Buffalo for the 2010 season instead of coming to Kansas.
The Bulls went 2-10 last year, and, although some of that may have been because the team was adjusting to new leadership, it’s possible the Bulls played to the level of their talent.
Didn’t matter. Gill got out of town and took the BCS job and $2 million payday at KU.
If only Dan Beebe had done the same. Beebe, the Big 12 Conference commissioner from 2007 until Thursday night, left his post after coming to a mutual agreement with the league to step down after a second consecutive year of turbulent realignment talk threatened the future of the league. Both times, the Big 12 managed to survive. Beebe was only so lucky once.
Beebe is not solely to blame for the problems the Big 12 has faced during the past 24 months; longer, depending on how deep you want to get. During this crazy time, sources said Beebe put several plans on the table that, if approved, could have — and likely would have — kept the league from having to deal with any of this in the first place. But the plans were not accepted.
If anything, Beebe’s biggest fault here is that he was too loyal — to whom depends on whom you ask — and he stayed too long.
Last year, after saving the league from extinction the first time, Beebe should have walked away. He could’ve landed in another conference as its deputy commissioner and spent the next five to 10 years cruising.
He had his chance to walk again after negotiating the enormous television contract with FOX that, at the time, looked like it would strengthen the league and provide stability for years to come. That would’ve been the perfect time to make like George Costanza and leave on a high note. But Beebe stayed. And it bit him in the butt.
Now, he’s a man without a country, and his stock probably can’t get much lower.
Some want to peg Beebe as the problem. Others see him as a scapegoat. He’s both. And because of that, it’s the right thing for him to walk away. It’s quite clear that if Beebe had wanted to stay, he could’ve fought for himself the way he fought for the conference. But it wouldn’t have mattered. Unlike the Big 12, there was no saving Dan Beebe.
He should be commended for doing the right thing here and graciously stepping away without making an already-ugly situation even messier. Of course the sparkly sight of the $4 million left on his contract probably made that a little easier.
Here’s the bottom line: Under his watch, Beebe saw proud conference members Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M; turn their backs on the Big 12. They left on their own, all for greener pastures, and there wasn’t a thing Beebe could do that could change their minds.
It’s hard to imagine that being OK in any business, let alone the very public world of college athletics.
So the Big 12 moves on without Beebe, and Beebe moves. If this league is ever going to be taken seriously again, this had to happen. If it didn’t, Beebe would’ve been the butt of all the jokes, and the Big 12 would’ve been a laughingstock. Maybe now, with the right replacement and a little bit of time, the league can get back to what it should be known for — incredible football and Kansas basketball.