COLUMBIA — Although the Big 12 Conference received new life Tuesday when the Pac-12 decided not to expand, the conference still has a lot of work left to do, said MU Chancellor Brady Deaton.
Deaton, who is also the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, spoke Thursday at Jesse Hall about the future of MU and the conference, beginning with the fact that Commissioner Dan Beebe had stepped out of his role, and that former Big Eight Commissioner Chuck Neinas, now a college sports consultant, would take over as interim commissioner.
“He’s a national figure in collegiate athletics,” Deaton said. “Engaging Chuck Neinas will enable us to go forward as a conference.”
Beyond that, Deaton said that though not much has been resolved yet in terms of keeping the conference together for the long term, the conference has plans in place for how it’s going to go forward.
“There are specific issues to be addressed, and I think the public is generally aware of what those are,” he said. “Be assured there will be a working group immediately set in motion to address those issues.”
The issues Deaton referred to are not exactly new developments. They have been in play since Nebraska and Colorado left the league last year and were part of Texas A&M's announcement on Aug. 31 that it plans to leave the conference. This, though, is the first time anyone has come out and publicly discussed the fact that the conference is going to try and resolve its problems.
Those issues include equal sharing of conference TV revenue and more regulation of Texas’ newly created cable channel, the Longhorn Network. Whether those were the specific issues Deaton was referring to is impossible to say because he declined to comment on them in specific terms.
But even with that positive development on the table, neither Deaton nor MU Athletics Director Mike Alden was ready to stake MU’s future with the Big 12 in the long term.
“Every institution has to look out for its best interests; I have said that from the beginning. It’s interesting and positive for us that (all schools) found that staying with the Big 12 is in their best interest,” Deaton said. “Anything is possible; that’s all recognized. That’s what led to discussions the last couple of weeks.”
Speaking to the rumors that Missouri has been in contact with the Southeastern Conference, Deaton said Missouri was just doing what everyone else was doing.
"It's fair to say every major institution in the country has had one type of communication or another with essentially every major BCS conference," Deaton said.
Alden agreed when asked whether the league was at the beginning of a process rather than the end.
“I think that’s safe to say,” Alden said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Deaton said the board had reactivated its expansion committee, as well as agreeing to pursue the “granting” of schools’ Tier 1 and 2 television money — the overwhelming majority of the conference’s TV revenue — over the next five to six years.
Granting, as explained by Oklahoma President David L. Boren during his Thursday news conference, means that if a school were to leave the Big 12 for another league, all of the money it would make on television contracts in its new league would be sent straight back to the Big 12, creating, as Boren put it, “a pair of very strong handcuffs.”
Even with the creation of the working group and the commitment to the granting of the TV money, Alden called the entire process “challenging” and “troubling.”
“You don’t want your league out there being talked about the way the Big 12 has been talked about,” Alden said.
Neither Deaton nor Alden gave a timetable as to when the working group would be formed, but Boren said it would be by the end of Friday. No timetable was given on expansion either.
Despite being a major factor in working through the “specific issues,” neither Texas President William Powers nor Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds had scheduled a news conference as of Thursday night, though a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said Texas administrators “favor working with Oklahoma to create stability within the league, including adoption of equal revenue-sharing from all leaguewide television contracts.”