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Columbia Missourian

Dear Reader: Big 12 leaders fuel conference confusion with non-answers

By Tom Warhover
September 23, 2011 | 6:06 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader, 

No actual news was committed in the production of Brady Deaton's news conference on Thursday.


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At 6:45 p.m., MU's chancellor held court on campus at Jesse Hall. The press crowd was there, eager to hear whether any clarity could be found among the Big 12 realignment talks. The answer? Not here. 

Expecting a momentous evening, the Missourian sent two reporters from the football beat, a photojournalist and a reporter who was assigned just to tap out Twitter posts as the news happened. Live streaming video was discussed but ruled out for technical reasons. 

Deaton is the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors. But the real news was delivered 463 miles away at the University of Oklahoma, where university president David Boren held his own news conference. 

There, according to the Daily Oklahoman’s website, Boren declared victory. Oklahoma, he said, helped force out Big 12 executive director Dan Beebe. Boren then detailed conference plans for self-imposed handcuffs: Beginning next year, the Big 12 — not the individual universities — would control media rights packages. That means a university could leave the conference but couldn't take its TV rights with it. 

Here, according to the Missourian's Harry Plumer, Deaton said the conference has plans for moving forward — without describing any of those plans or even outlining the problems. "There are specific issues to be addressed, and I think the public is generally aware of what those are," Deaton said.

Well, sure, I generally know there are a lot of issues with conference realignment. Most begin and end in Texas, where the Longhorns aren't just first among equals but plain first in revenue and power. 

But I don't know what issues Deaton plans to address because he wouldn't say. The chairman leaves it to us to speculate. 

Deaton is the gentleman, which is why you might wonder how the Big 12 would ever let go of its wonderful director:

"We sincerely thank Dan who has always demonstrated a total commitment to what is in the best interest of the Big 12 Conference. His energy, devotion and skill in negotiating on our behalf have been tremendous assets that have benefited our member institutions, our student-athletes, our athletic programs and all our fans." 

Contrast Deaton with Boren. Again, from the Daily Oklahoman: "I'm alarmed that in 15 months we lost three teams. I am aware, in detail, of how some of those situations played out. I didn't think it was necessary or inevitable that we would have lost those teams. I felt we needed a fresh start.”

You know the game, dear reader. Politicians try to stick to the script. So some of the platitudes emanating from MU are expected. Meanwhile, journalists push for details. Perhaps Deaton held the press conference just to avoid a gaggle of phone calls. A press conference beats giving non-answers one at a time. This way, he could circumvent all the calls, emails, text messages and visits. The Missourian's football beat writers, for instance, have been known to camp out at the door to the chancellor's office. Earlier this week, they waited more than six hours to ask a few questions as Deaton left the building.

Dealing with the constant presence of the press goes with the job. After all, Deaton is the head of this group that's supposed to be at the head of the Big 12. The Big 12 hasn't stopped feeding its own drama.