Exactly one year ago today, as the Big 12 opened their annual spring meetings, commissioner Dan Beebe was asked what were the odds that not a single member school would up and leave the conference.
“Very high,” the commissioner boldly stated.
Fast-forward 365 days, and with Nebraska set to officially join the Big Ten and Colorado the Pac-12 one month from today, the Big 12 opened this year’s version of their annual spring meetings to “slightly less” drama. And even fewer people, both membership-wise and media-wise.
In perhaps the most stunning development, at least from our perspective, of the first day of the meetings, a grand total of six media members were in attendance. Our guess as to the makeup? Five of ‘em were from Texas and the other from Nebraska, and that’s only because he/she forgot about the whole Big Ten thing.
Needless to say, the “subdued” media presence didn’t escape the notice of officials in attendance.
“We couldn’t get through that hallway out there last year,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
With expansion (thankfully) off the docket this year, much of the talk on the first day of the meetings — and much like it was at the SEC’s spring meeting opener Tuesday — centered on Jim Tressel‘s resignation and the repercussions it may have for college football as a whole. Even as some view The Vest’s inglorious tumble as one of the signs of some kind of collegiate football apocalypse, Beebe took a decidedly different tack when discussing the state of sports at the NCAA level.
Such matters, commissioner Dan Beebe said, represent “a big teaching moment for all of us” to re-examine compliance and standards on conference campuses.
Still, Beebe doesn’t believe the issues associated with OSU, football national champion Auburn, men’s basketball champion Connecticut and other prominent programs are an indication of corruption corroding college athletics.
“I think it’s a confluence of unfortunate events,” said Beebe, a former NCAA investigator. “There are some situations that are occurring that are body blows to what we’re doing … (but) I think you have to put it in context (with) where we are now.
“Maybe I’m being Pollyanish about this, but I don’t think it’s anywhere like where we’ve been in previous eras.”
Without naming the old Southwest Conference or Southern Methodist, which Beebe probed leading up to its death penalty, he recalled a “whole area” of the country in which there was “outright buying of players” and “academic fraud.”
On that point, Beebe is likely absolutely correct; the people from that era and that area of the country are quite likely quietly scoffing at the Tressel’s and Cam Newton’s of today’s game.
The commissioner is also correct on the level of scrutiny in this day and age of the Internet and social media, which shines a brighter — and longer and nearly instant — spotlight on situations such as what is currently going down in Columbus.
“It used to be I’d gumshoe around for quite awhile” before the media knew about allegations of impropriety, he said. “Now the media is out there first.”
And that’s part of the problem: the media has almost become an unpaid extension of the NCAA’s investigative arm. It’s high time that the NCAA — and, specifically, the conferences who are pulling in unprecedented money from historic television deals — put additional investigators on the streets and get out ahead of the issues that exist. Simply put, the 30-some individuals who make up the Association’s overwhelmed enforcement division are simply not enough given how massive, far-reaching and powerful the game has become.