MU, Oklahoma hope to take steps toward 'conference stability'

Thursday, September 22, 2011 | 9:52 p.m. CDT; updated 11:39 a.m. CDT, Friday, September 23, 2011
University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren, football coach Bob Stoops, and regents chairman John Bell, from left, gather for a news conference Thursday in Norman, Okla., announcing plans to stay in the Big 12 Conference.

COLUMBIA — MU Chancellor Brady Deaton was addressing the media Thursday night when a voice interrupted him from a speakerphone on his podium. He paused and frowned.

“That’s Oklahoma,” he said. “I can recognize David Boren’s (voice).”

He might as well have let Boren, the University of Oklahoma president, continue.

Both Big 12 Conference leaders spoke Thursday night about having taken what they hope is a firm step toward conference stability. Deaton spoke briefly — just over 10 minutes — and used vague expressions of optimism. Boren, in a simultaneous conference, spoke for almost an hour with more candor about what the Big 12 board of directors discussed in a teleconference earlier in the day.

After the board accepted the resignation of Commissioner Dan Beebe, it approved Chuck Neinas as the conference’s interim commissioner. Boren said during a news conference broadcast online that there will be a lengthy search for a new permanent commissioner but that Neinas will not be a candidate.

Boren also spoke about the reactivation of the conference’s expansion committee and Deaton’s formation of a new “working group” that will attempt to find ways to further strengthen the conference and make it more stable. Boren said he expects Deaton to finish staffing the working group by the “end of business” on Friday.

Deaton did not mention a specific timetable, leaving it at they were working “very expeditiously.”

Deaton also did not indicate the number of teams the conference would look to add. Boren, however, said he would like to see the conference return to 12 teams but added that the number is “not a necessity.”

Other slight differences presented themselves. On a six-year deal of granted media rights, Deaton said the board “affirmed its intention to pursue” the granting of such rights. Boren said, simply, that the board had agreed to do so. He also revealed this change means that even if a school were to leave for another conference, all of its television revenues would continue to go to the Big 12, rather than the new conference.

“These are pretty strong handcuffs,” Boren said.

Boren and Deaton both said the equal distribution of revenues would be something addressed by the “working group” and that no specifics were available. The Oklahoma president did say, though, that Oklahoma would be willing to make “a financial sacrifice” for equal distribution between schools.

As for Oklahoma’s recently reported conversations with the Pac-12 Conference, Boren was open about how positive those interactions were. He even mentioned that the Pac-12 was “the area we would most want to consider” had the university left the Big 12 because of instability.

Deaton did not mention the status of Texas A&M, the school that started this year’s round of Big 12 live-or-die questions. Boren, though, said Texas A&M President Bowen Loftin voted for and supported the changes that were made.

Boren said he thought Texas A&M would wind up in the SEC, but he did bring up the possibility that that university would remain in the Big 12.

“We will not give up on trying to convince Texas A&M to stay,” Boren said.

“I think the actions taken today would make it less difficult for Texas A&M to stay.”

Earlier in the week, Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel called the the state of the Big 12 "embarrassing." When asked about it, Deaton said he wouldn't use the same term and expressed satisfaction that Oklahoma and the other schools had apparently decided to remain members.

"Here we are back at the place we were when this all started," Deaton said. "It's a very positive statement and affirmation of the Big 12 Conference."

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