SBD/September 23, 2011/Colleges

A Mutual Agreement Between Beebe and Big 12 Leads To His Resignation

Beebe's resignation comes less than a year after his recent contract extension to '15
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).

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