MU officials hold press conference on 10-team Big 12

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | 8:26 p.m. CDT; updated 11:22 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 15, 2010
From left, UM System President Gary Forsee, Chancellor Brady Deaton and Athletics Director Mike Alden attend a news conference at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday to discuss the Big 12 conference. "We're committed to the Big 12 for the foreseeable future," Deaton said.

COLUMBIA — For now, things are back to normal.

After months of conference realignment speculation, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, UM System President Gary Forsee and Missouri Athletics Director Mike Alden addressed the media Tuesday at Mizzou Arena's Clinton Club, affirming that Missouri will remain in the 10-school Big 12 Conference.

When the University of Texas announced on Monday it had decided not to accept an offer to join the Pac-10 Conference, the Big 12 was saved from disbanding.

Nebraska had decided to join the Big Ten in 2011, and Colorado had decided to move to the Pac-10 in 2012, and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech all seemed ready to bolt to the Pac-10 with the Longhorns to form the nation's first super-conference in the process.

But after a weekend of community and in-house discussions at each Big 12 school, all 10 of the remaining members have pledged to stay in the Big 12 Conference.

But the foundation of the conference is now considerably weaker. And though the topic of conference realignment has been quieted for the time being, there are no assurances beyond a verbal agreement that the Big 12's teams will stick together, if the topic does come up again.

On Tuesday, Missouri officials, for the first time, addressed the speculation that the Big Ten Conference was interested in MU. Deaton said that Missouri received no offer to join the Big Ten Conference and that Missouri is not interested in joining the Big Ten.

"We are committed to the Big 12 for the foreseeable future, and we are in this for the long haul. We are not anticipating any discussions with other conferences," Deaton said.

But with only a pledge holding the Big 12 together, things can change at any moment. Even so, Deaton said he thinks Texas fairly represented their positions at all times and is ultimately committed to the Big 12 just as much as Missouri.

"They had a very powerful offer," Deaton said of Texas. "All of the uncertainty we had, they had as well."

With Texas choosing the Big 12 over the Pac-10, Deaton said he has faith the other Big 12 schools will uphold their pledges.

"There is a great level of trust involved in all of this, and in our society that is the only way you could go forward," Deaton said.

Alden said the gentlemen's agreement between the member institutions is strong.

"This is a word, and a trust, and that is very well respected within our 10 institutions, and that is ruling the day," Alden said.

For a conference that was on life-support, a verbal agreement is a start on the road back to full health.

Deaton said Tuesday he was not always sure that the Big 12 would stay together, but that he and other Big 12 school administrators maintained a level of optimism in their discussions with one another and the leadership of the Big 12 Conference.

"Pulling this all back together was the yeoman's task that we've all been engaged in," Deaton said. "There were periods where we were optimistic, there were a few periods where we were very pessimistic."

Deaton said there was limited discussion of what would happen if the Big 12 consisted of only Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor. Deaton also said no one was planning for a five-team scenario.

"Looking at the alternatives we have, we wanted to remain in the Big 12," Deaton said.

Future television contracts with Fox and ABC/ESPN, could be worth $20 million or more to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Then under the 10-team agreement, Missouri and the remaining Big 12 schools would then be allotted television revenue on a tiered status, as they have been for the entirety of the Big 12's existence.

"The same revenue sharing formula applies," Deaton said.

The Big 12's contract with Fox extends until 2012, and its contract with ABC/ESPN lasts until 2016. The Big 12 can negotiate new television contracts with those outlets at any point but is yet to engage in any formal negotiations. If the revenue sharing numbers presented by the Big 12 are not equal to projections, there is nothing stopping Texas, Missouri or any Big 12 school from leaving the conference, starting the realignment circus all over again.

For now, Alden and Missouri are content with going forward in a Big 12 without equal revenue sharing. Alden has strongly expressed his desire for equal revenue sharing in the Big 12 in his time at Missouri, and his displeasure with revenue sharing was one reason for the Missouri-to-the-Big Ten speculation.

"The reality of this is, that is the way our league was founded 15 years ago, that's how our folks feel it's necessary to go forward." Alden said. "We accept it, we clearly agree with it, and our challenge then is how we manage that and get better within it."

Tuesday, Alden said he does not want to bring the issue of equal revenue sharing to the table again.

"I think for us, knowing the atmosphere we are going to continue to operate in, I've got to continue to be creative."

Alden said the way to maximize the opportunities the Big 12 offers is to win more games and schedule better out-of-conference games, as to be on television more often.  

With the conference realignment put to rest, for now, Alden said his emotions fell somewhere between relieved and happy.

"The intensity of this has been extreme, really unique, fascinating," Alden said. " It's one (an emotion) of satisfaction, one of frustration in a lot of ways. It's one of you turn to your fan base and say 'heck, we appreciate your patience and we understand the anxieties that go along with this, and we know we are going to keep getting better', and you take a deep breath and exhale."

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