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Univ. of Oklahoma President David Boren on Thursday said that the Big 12's presidents “pledged to grant their television rights to the conference for six years,” according to David Ubben of ESPN.com. The Big 12 “splits revenue from its Fox Sports contract evenly, but only half of the money from its top-tier deal with ABC/ESPN goes into equal shares.” The rest is “weighted toward the programs that play on the network more frequently.” Boren in a conference call said that “all nine remaining schools -- except for Texas A&M -- ‘agreed’ to give a six-year grant of their first- and second-tier television rights to the Big 12.” That means that “all revenue from the top television games -- shown currently on networks owned by ABC/ESPN and Fox -- would continue to go to the Big 12 even if a school bolts to another league.” The six-year term “runs past the next negotiating period for the top-tier contract, currently with ABC/ESPN, in a bid to keep the nine schools together for the next contract.” Boren said, "We felt that we needed a lot more than an expression of solidarity” (ESPN.com, 9/22). Boren said, “These are very strong handcuffs. The grant of rights really does bind the conference together, and it shows that we fully intend to stay together” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/23). But in N.Y., Peter Thamel cites a Big 12 official who called the announcement “an agreement in principle.” Others said that it “seemed premature.” Some Big 12 colleges “must get the approval of their boards before they can move forward with their grant of rights.” Missouri Chancellor and Big 12 BOD Chair Brady Deaton said that “there was no agreement on a grant of rights.” Thamel writes it was “clear that Missouri had not signed its rights over yet and the door is left ajar for it to go to” the SEC (N.Y. TIMES, 9/23). In St. Louis, Vahe Gregorian writes, “Conceivably, Boren and Deaton meant the same thing and just expressed it differently. More likely, there was a fundamental misunderstanding of what was achieved in a conference call that culminated just before the two leaders met reporters” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/23). The AP’s Jim Vertuno noted issues surrounding the Texas' Longhorn Network were “not addressed Thursday” during the conference call. UT had “already proposed equal revenue sharing but also said it won't make changes to its controversial 20-year, $300 million contract with ESPN for the Longhorn Network.” Boren said that any changes to LHN “would have to be considered by a special panel to be appointed by” Deaton, and that panel “would likely be chosen by Friday” (AP, 9/22).
ESPN TO BLAME? USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes under the header, “Colleges Can Say No To ESPN’s Money.” Hiestand: “Texas had a choice about starting the new direct deposits from Disney. With all the realignment, schools willing to trade in rivals for ones with bigger TV markets ... don’t have guns to their heads. Just open checkbooks.” USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes ESPN’s “specious claim” that LHN is “not the driving force behind the chaotic conference realignments sweeping college football is like the New York Yankees saying they’re not responsible for high baseball salaries.” The laws of TV sports and motion “are the same here: For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” (USA TODAY, 9/23). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth asks if ESPN “should keep pretending its actions don’t contribute to creating consequences like these” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/23). But in Miami, Joseph Goodman writes ESPN “helped save college football as we know it this week.” College football was “saved from superconferences -- for now -- because Texas refused to equally share revenues from its new $300 million, ESPN Longhorn Network with Pac-12 schools.” Goodman: “How is that ironic? Because Texas’ deal with ESPN was one of the first dominos to fall in a chain reaction that nearly ruined college football in one maddening month” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/23).
Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe “negotiated a ‘mutual agreement’ with the conference to leave his job immediately,” according to Tim Griffin of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. Beebe will be replaced “on an interim basis by 79-year-old former Big Eight commissioner Chuck Neinas, one of the most widely respected insiders in college football.” The conference also “reactivated its expansion committee with an idea to add future members perhaps as soon as next year.” Although the Big 12’s BOD “didn’t identify specific targets, schools such as BYU, TCU and Louisville have been prominently mentioned when the conference decides to add teams.” Univ. of Oklahoma President David Boren said that Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin “voted on several items during Thursday’s teleconference, but he still expects them to leave for the SEC.” Boren: “We will not give up on trying to convince A&M to stay until the league documents have been signed. I think it’s highly likely they’ll go to the SEC. They are so far down the line that they are unlikely to change their minds” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/23). Beebe in a statement thanked his staff and said that “he was honored to serve as commissioner.” Beebe: “I put all my effort into doing what was best for the Big 12. With great fondness, I wish the Big 12 Conference a long and prosperous future” (K.C. STAR, 9/23).
COMING TOGETHER: In Oklahoma City, Travis Haney noted Boren “was not shy in voicing his disappointment in Beebe’s role in allowing Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M to look toward other leagues.” Boren: “I’m alarmed that in 15 months we lost three teams. I am aware, in detail, of how some of those situations played out. I didn’t think it was necessary or inevitable that we would have lost those teams. I felt we needed a fresh start” (THE OKLAHOMAN, 9/23). Boren “cited a ‘spirit of kumbaya’ during Thursday’s conference call and ‘a real sense of happiness’ at the end of the meeting.” Baylor President Ken Starr also “expressed satisfaction that league presidents ‘have come together … to recommit themselves’ to the Big 12.” But in Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch notes until "signatures surface on a grant of rights agreement, or a similar binding document, it’s hard to view Thursday’s actions -- other than Beebe’s resignation -- as anything other than more verbal pledges” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/23). The AP’s Jim Vertuno wrote “critics portrayed Beebe as constantly being outmaneuvered by other league commissioners who were picking off his teams one by one and as someone beholden to Texas, the Big 12’s biggest and wealthiest member.” Meanwhile, Boren said that “Neinas will not be a candidate to take the job permanently” (AP, 9/22).
FAMILIAR FACE: In St. Louis, Vahe Gregorian writes Neinas “is expected to be a calming, unifying force among the bickering constituents” (ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 9/23). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton writes Neinas “just might be the right man at the right time.” He will “have advantages that Beebe lacked, possibly including a six-year agreement on media rights along with revenue sharing.” National Football Foundation President & CEO and former Big 12 Commissioner Steve Hatchell said, “He’s a big-picture guy. He’s an ideal person for this time.” Ticket City Bowl President & CEO Tom Starr said, “I think it’s a brilliant, brilliant choice.” Neinas "represents an executive who can appeal to various factions in a divided conference” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/23). Former Big Eight and Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke said, “He’s been in the game a long time. It’s a good move on the Big 12’s part. I hope he’s able to instill some of the things that ought to be part of any conference, like equal revenue sharing” (K.C. STAR, 9/23). ESPN's Joe Schad said it will be “interesting to see how aggressive Neinas is moving forward” in going after possible new conference members (“College Football Live,” ESPN, 9/22).
THE BLAME GAME: ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisal writes, “Blaming commissioner Dan Beebe for the downfall of the Big 12 is convenient but has nothing to do with reality, save for besmirching a guy who tried to save the league’s members from themselves twice in the past 18 months” (ESPN.com, 9/23). YAHOO SPORTS’ Graham Watson wrote, “For all his faults, Beebe oversaw a conference that, for the most part, thrived.” During his tenure, the Big 12 "won eight national championships, had five teams in the BCS and had several athletes achieve individual NCAA titles." This past year, Big 12 member schools “earned a record $139 million in revenue” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/22). In K.C., Sam Mellinger wrote, “Beebe didn’t overcome the unique obstacles of being commissioner in a league built on shotgun wedding vows and financial convenience and distrust, and that’s on his permanent record, the first line of his obit, but there should also be some consideration that he dealt with factors no other conference commish in the country experienced” (KANSASCITY.com, 9/22). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes Beebe is a "good man who deserved better, but that’s the price of lacking vision" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 9/23).
ANOTHER CURVEBALL: USA TODAY’S Steve Wieberg noted Beebe's departure from the Big 12 "throws a second curve at the committee that oversees the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball tournament, on which he sits." Jeff Hathaway, “who just took over as chairman of the 10-person panel, recently resigned under pressure as Connecticut’s athletics director.” The NCAA said it is weighing "the best approach regarding the balance of his term" (USATODAY.com, 9/22).
Some Big East members would like to see Syracuse and Pittsburgh "gone as soon as possible," according to a source cited by Mike DeCourcy of SPORTING NEWS. Big East Commissioner John Marinatto "has declared he will hold Syracuse and Pitt to the 27-month time frame for exit mandated by the league charter." But some conference members' basketball programs feel the "eventual departure of Pitt and Syracuse will provide some breathing room, that the league had become too great for its own good." There is a "feeling among some Big East member schools that if the league can withstand the initial disappointment about Pitt's and Syracuse's departures and locate adequate partners for the football side of their operation, the league's strong position in the heavily populated Northeast and in large media markets such as Tampa still has value" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/22). CBSSPORTS.com's Chip Patterson noted "regardless of when Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave, it does seem as though the realignment shift has begun to slow -- at least for the moment." The Pac-12 "expressed no interest in expanding at this time, and it does not appear that the Big Ten has any desire to either." Patterson noted with Texas and Oklahoma "recommitting themselves to the Big 12 under new leadership, it is likely that Missouri will not be making any moves to the East anytime soon" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/22).
NOT DIVING IN YET: Navy AD Chet Gladchuk Thursday said that the school "has spoken to the Big East about possible membership, but wants to wait and see how the league solidifies before making any decisions." Gladchuk said that Navy "has not received an invitation, but it was close to an agreement to become a football-only member before Pitt and Syracuse bolted for the ACC." Gladchuk: "I think right now I'd be more comfortable making certain they're comfortable with themselves, and they've got a little bit of work to do." ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson noted Navy has been "hugely successful as an independent, having averaged eight wins in the past 10 seasons, with eight straight bowl appearances." The academy also has "its own bowl affiliations and a television deal with CBS." Gladchuk has "some concern with reports that not all Big East members are fully on-board with the future of the league." UConn is "still looking at a move to the ACC, and Rutgers reportedly has gauged interest with the Big Ten and ACC" (ESPN.com, 9/22). Gladchuk: "Our position isn't one of panic. It's one of evaluation and opportunity. We need to make sure Navy doesn't lose its position as a program that is nationally respected" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/23).
SEEKING DOUBLE DIGITS: ORANGEBLOODS.com's Chip Brown cited sources as saying that TCU "may be rising up the list of candidates to become" the 10th school in the Big 12. While BYU "has been the popular thought as a replacement for Texas A&M," a source said that BYU "may no longer be interested in joining the Big 12 because of recent instability" (ORANGLEBLOODS.com, 9/22). TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Wednesday said that the school "remains dedicated to joining the Big East Conference in July as scheduled" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 9/22). ESPN DALLAS' Jeff Caplan wrote the Big East "is in survival mode and, in the irony of ironies, the Big 12 -- the same league that has continually alienated TCU -- can potentially land the death blow to the Frogs' new conference." If the nine-team Big 12 "decides to expand to 12 (the internal debate is either 10 teams or a dozen), Big East members Louisville and Cincinnati are among the reported targets, along with BYU" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 9/22).