With the Big 12 teetering on the edge of extinction yet again, the conference was pulled back from Bolivia thanks in large part to the Pac-12’s decision to cut bait on the idea of expanding.
Since that announcement late Tuesday night, the Big 12 has seemingly taken several steps toward stabilizing the conference, including the Oklahoma-led movement to oust the commissioner — Dan Beebe tendered his resignation Thursday — as well as taking the unheard of step of each remaining member giving up its television rights for the next six years in an… wait a minute. Hold on. As is normally the case when it comes to the Big 12, uncertainty reigns when it comes to the latest linchpin of the conference’s stability.
During his press conference Thursday evening — the audio of which hilariously bled into the press conference being held by Missouri, incidentally — OU president David Boren proudly proclaimed that the nine members of the conference had agreed to relinquish their Tier 1 and Tier 2 television rights to the Big 12, meaning that the revenues would go directly to the Big 12 and be disbursed equally. Additionally, if a school did decide to leave for another conference during that six-year period, the Big 12 would, as the New York Times writes, maintain the TV rights, and thus the revenue, to that member’s most lucrative games.
In effect, such an agreement would preclude any of the schools in the Big 12 from garnering interest from another conference, let alone actually leaving.
“A six-year grant of rights — of our television rights, Tier 1 and Tier 2 — was agreed to by all the institutions’ presidents,” Boren said at his press conference.
“These are very strong handcuffs. When you grant your rights it’s very unlikely you would receive an invitation to another conference.”
The words coming out of the leadership at Missouri, however, paint a vastly different picture than the one unveiled by Boren.
At his press conference, Mizzou chancellor and chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors Brady Deaton would only say that grant of rights was being discussed and had not yet been agreed upon.
“[The Big 12 Board of Directors has] affirmed its intention to pursue the granting of media rights,” Deaton said, a far cry from Boran’s proclamation that the issue that could keep the conference together for the foreseeable future is a done deal.
Big 12 Football: Catch the Disconnect!!!
As if that weren’t enough to rain all over the Big 12’s stability parade, sources from the area refused to close the door on Mizzou bolting from the conference despite all of the puppy dogs and rainbows being shot out of Norman. One source told CFT Friday morning that “the SEC hasn’t been taken out of play.” Another source told the Kansas City Star the defection option is not off the table, and even hinted that it may be a welcome development.
“We either stick in the Big 12 because everything came about the way it needs to, the right way, with all the differences being settled in Missouri’s favor,” an MU administrator told the paper. “But what are the odds of that happening?
“The other option is to join another conference and I believe that is something that we’re very open to.”
The source added, when asked by the Star if the SEC was still in play, “[y]ou will not look stupid by insinuating that.”
Deaton himself did nothing to shoot down speculation that there could be further defections from the Big 12. Or, at least, a further defection.
“That’s again a hypothetical that could occur. In a sense anything is possible,” Deaton said when asked if Mizzou might still exit the Big 12. “That’s all recognized and that’s what has led to the discussions that we’ve had over the last several weeks.”
And, apparently, what will lead to further discussions — and speculation about the conference’s long-term viability — in the coming weeks as well.
Perhaps the best part of this whole latest disconnect in the conference? This Saturday, Missouri will face… wait for it… Oklahoma in the 2011 Big 12 opener for both schools. You just can’t make this stuff up. Then again, when it comes to the Big 12, reality is so much more entertaining than any type of fiction could ever be.