The Big 12's dysfunctional family remains intact as a nine-member nucleus, league administrators confirmed Wednesday, although changes to leadership and league policies could be imminent.
Multiple sources have confirmed a teleconference today among Big 12 presidents to discuss and take action on league modifications, including the job status of commissioner Dan Beebe. Oklahoma officials said Tuesday they would remain in the league only if Beebe was removed from his post and additional changes were made to create more stability within the conference.
Several of Oklahoma's proposed reforms, including Beebe's ouster, seemed to be gaining momentum Wednesday despite a Tuesday night announcement by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott that his league would not be expanding. The Pac-12's decision removed Oklahoma's primary bargaining chip -- joining another conference -- from its leverage position with the Big 12.
But Texas administrators said Wednesday they favor working with Oklahoma to create stability within the league, including adoption of equal revenue-sharing from all league-wide television contracts, a move that could be approved today by Big 12 presidents. There is a limit to Texas' support, however.
Texas is not willing to share revenues from its 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network, said men's athletic director DeLoss Dodds, because all Big 12 schools have the opportunity to create similar networks and sell their third-tier TV rights to the highest bidder, as Texas has done. Modifications to the Longhorn Network, said Dodds, are not in play because network revenues are used to fund academic initiatives that are important to Texas President Bill Powers.
Otherwise, Dodds indicated Texas' willingness to work with Oklahoma on measures to make the Big 12 a more stable conference after the league lost two members last summer (Nebraska, Colorado) and Texas A&M accepted a conditional bid on Sept.6 to join the Southeastern Conference, pending a waiver of legal claims by Baylor and other Big 12 schools associated with the move.
Dodds said he was relieved that the Big 12's latest crisis appears over and he looks forward to resuming work with fellow members of the league's expansion committee to seek a replacement for A&M. Dodds confirmed early discussions with Brigham Young, an independent in football, and said most administrators prefer 10 teams to minimize scheduling challenges and create easier access to the BCS National Championship Game for the league's football champion.
In a statement, Oklahoma President David Boren said conference stability "has been our first goal" throughout discussions of realignment and that the Sooners "look forward to achieving that goal through continued membership in the Big 12."
After a Monday regents meeting gave him the authority to take action in regard to conference realignment for OU, Boren made it clear that he had issues with the status quo in the Big 12, citing a lack of trust and leadership within the league. In his statement, Boren said OU decided not to apply for Pac-12 membership after realizing there had been "progress... to gain agreement from the Big 12 for changes which will make the conference more stable in the future."
Multiple league sources predicted Wednesday that Beebe soon will be replaced on an interim basis by Chuck Neinas, a former Big Eight commissioner. Beebe remained on the job Wednesday, said a Big 12 spokesman, and had not resigned. To remove him would require a majority vote of league presidents in today's conference call. His contract was extended in November through June 30, 2015.
Dodds said Texas and OU are together on issues related to the Big 12's future. Asked about Beebe's future, Dodds said: "I don't have a role in that. He works for the presidents."
Dodds said he was optimistic about finding expansion candidates because he envisions a significant boost in the league's ABC/ESPN television rights, which expire after the 2015-16 school year. The increase, he said, would put Big 12 teams in position to make up to or beyond what members in other leagues make on a per-school basis.
If the Big 12's expansion plans call for a 12-team format, league sources identified Big East members Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia as primary candidates, along with BYU. Although some Big 12 administrators want to make one last run at convincing A&M to return to the league, Dodds considers that a wasted effort.
"In my mind, they're in the SEC. And I think people feel OK about that," said Dodds, adding that it would be "problematic" but not impossible to continue the A&M-Texas football series on a nonconference basis.
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