Deaton new chairman of Big 12 group

Saturday, June 19, 2010 | 7:21 p.m. CDT; updated 10:01 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 19, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Big 12 had some nasty bickering and nearly a messy divorce.

But now it's time for the 10 remaining teams to patch up their relationship.

Flirtations with the Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC nearly sent more than half of the conference's teams scattering in different directions. Instead, an unexpected turnaround brought all but Nebraska and Colorado back in a shrunken Big 12 Conference.

Leaders of the remaining schools held a board of directors meeting by phone Thursday to move forward with plans for a beefed-up television contract, to reassign some leadership duties, and to restore unity.

"We're all for one and one for all," Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis said Friday. "Everybody's committed to going forward here."

Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said the gathering was set up at the conference's meetings earlier this month in Kansas City, Mo. In perhaps the biggest sign of forgiveness, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton was chosen as the new chairman of the board of directors. He will replace Texas president Bill Powers and serve a one-year term.

Missouri had riled some in the Big 12 by expressing interest in the Big Ten, and Gov. Jay Nixon's assertion that Mizzou was academically superior to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State was taken as an insult.

That didn't keep Deaton from being put in a leadership role.

"I think it's probably a sign of trust," Texas Tech president Guy Bailey said. "We have faith that we are all pulling in the same direction."

Also during the meeting, Bailey was picked to take over the role of representative to the NCAA board of directors. Powers was picked to represent the league on the BCS oversight committee. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman previously held both roles.

Perhaps most importantly, the board discussed coming up with a television package that's competitive with those secured by the SEC and the Big Ten, which also has its own conference network that has proven to be a moneymaker.

"We're excited really about our TV network contract prospects," Hargis said. "There's a lot of people interested in us, so that suggests to me that we're a strong player in the market."

The near breakup helped some Big 12 schools find out who their true friends were. Hargis spoke highly of the link between his school and two Big 12 South rivals, Texas and Oklahoma, through the process. But he disputed the notion that the Pac-10 turned its interest to other Big 12 schools and Texas had to protect OSU.

"We were committed to OU, OU was committed to us and I think both of us wanted to stay with Texas," the Oklahoma State president said, noting that his school was never invited to join the SEC.

"In that sense, I wouldn't say they saved us. I'd say that we all wanted to stay together, and did from the beginning."

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said the Sooners' approach toward Texas remains clear: "We want to beat them in everything," he said. But that doesn't mean the archrivals — and other Big 12 schools — can't emerge from the events of the past week.

"We live in athletics. We beat each other up on Saturdays, then we hug each other on Sundays," his Texas counterpart, DeLoss Dodds, said. "This is competition and we're good at that. We're good at being friends when the competition is over.

"The Big 12 ADs are going to be great. They've always been great. We have our differences, but those differences aren't carried outside of the meeting room."

The teams left in the Big 12 might now simply take on a shared pastime of bashing the two teams that left. After Missouri committed to staying in the Big 12, Nixon quickly turned his attack toward Nebraska and Colorado, calling them the "two weakest basketball programs" in the conference.

Oklahoma State megabooster T. Boone Pickens joined the chorus, too.

"I'm just not going to miss them. They wanted out, and that was fine with me," said Pickens, who has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to OSU in recent years.

He added that he would have hated to see OSU go to the Pac-10 and leave such longtime rivals as Kansas, Iowa State and Kansas State.

"I think we've just got to put the rhetoric behind us. There were some hurt feelings, some things said that probably would have been better left unsaid," Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said. "But you can't undo the past.

"At the end of the day, it's insignificant. I think the real issue is for the schools that are here now to come together as one and put aside some of the things that made it possible for us to splinter," he said.

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Ellis Smith June 20, 2010 | 6:56 a.m.

With Deaton's appointment, and considering the ridiculous circus we've witnessed the past few weeks, we've now been handed the ultimate definition of what "consolation prize" means.

Golly, are academic standards at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State THAT low? Nixon needs to concentrate on the job he was elected to perform.

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