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June 13, 2010

New proposal to save Big 12 with 10 teams being considered by UT

It might be a long shot. It's probably the last shot.

But three different sources at Big 12 South schools being targeted by the Pac-10 told Orangebloods.com Sunday commissioner Dan Beebe's assurances that a new TV deal can be reached on par with the SEC's $17 million/school for the 10 remaining schools in the Big 12 is in play and being considered by Texas.

The stakes for Beebe to somehow rescue the Big 12-Lite seemed to get a lot higher on Sunday as Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and chief operating officer Kevin Weiberg conducted a tour of Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Texas before flying up to Kansas City (possibly to talk to KU officials).

Orangebloods.com reported Saturday that Texas A&M has the votes on its nine-member Board of Regents to join the Southeastern Conference and could be ready to make that move as early as this week.

So either Texas A&M will consider Beebe's plan to rescue a 10-member Big 12. Or A&M will most likely end 100 years of tradition with rival Texas by heading to the SEC, likely triggering a exodus west of Texas, OU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and possibly Kansas.

A Big 12 athletic director and two other sources told Orangebloods.com that A&M president R. Bowen Loftin indicated to Scott and Weiberg in a brief meeting in College Station Sunday the Aggies were not interested in joining the Pac-10.

But A&M spokesman Jason Cook refuted that report and said, "Texas A&M continues to evaluate its options. At this point, all options continue to be on the table."

Orangebloods.com was able to confirm with a top source at Texas A&M that despite visits to College Station by SEC commissioner Mike Slive on Saturday and by Scott and Weiberg on Sunday, Aggies athletic director Bill Byrne was out of the state the entire weekend - at a family reunion in Idaho.

"As Bill Byrne and I have said on several occasions, our desire was for the Big 12 Conference to continue," Loftin said in a statement Sunday evening. "With the departure of two universities from the conference last week, the Big 12 is certainly not what it was.

"We are aggressively exploring our options, one of which is for the Big 12 to continue in some form. We have also had extensive discussions with other conferences over the past two days. We continue to evaluate our options in a deliberate manner as we work toward a decision that is in the best long-term interests of Texas A&M."


BEEBE'S HAIL MARY

"My plan is about what's best for the citizens in this part of the country and for the student-athletes and not having this section of the country with all its major institutions connected to conferences that aren't even here. We shouldn't be a fly-over zone," Beebe told Orangebloods.com on Sunday before returning to what he called his "War Room" on no sleep from the previous night.

Having Texas consider anything other than the Pac-10 at this point is more than could be said on Friday. That's when Nebraska announced it was bolting for the Big Ten and Colorado had a press conference with its new commissioner - Larry Scott of the Pac-10.

Friday afternoon Texas announced it would have a regents meeting on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that sources said was to finalize a vote to accept an invitation to the Pac-10.

That vote was expected to begin an exodus west by at least four Big 12 South teams (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State).

Texas A&M, which met with SEC commissioner Mike Slive in College Station on Saturday, according to sources, is meeting with Scott and Pac-10 chief operating officer Kevin Weiberg on Sunday.

Then, Scott and Weiberg were due in Lubbock and Austin Sunday as they continued to make their rounds of the Big 12 South to discuss a possible future with those schools.

Scott and Weiberg met with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State officials on Saturday.


THE BEEBE PLAN

Here's what Beebe has provided to the five Big 12 South schools who have been targeted by the Pac-10, including Texas A&M, who has been in deep conversation about joining the SEC, according to sources.

--Beebe has secured information that enough money could be inked in its next TV negotiation (in 2011) that revenues per school would jump from between $7 million and $10 million in the Big 12 currently to $17 million beginning in 2012, which is what the SEC pays out.


--The 10 remaining Big 12 schools would divide up the more than $20 million in buyout penalties that will have to be paid by Colorado and Nebraska for leaving the league early.


--Individal institutions would be allowed to pursue their own networks, which has been a goal of Texas. If the Longhorns went to the Pac-10, they would have to forgo their own distribution platforms, including a network, because the Pac-16 would seek to have a conference network in which all inventory is shared.

(Consultants have put Texas' ability to generate revenue from its own network at between $3 million and $5 million after a start-up window of about three years.)


--The Big 12 would proceed with 10 teams. Everyone would play everyone in football, providing a nine-game conference schedule.

--The conference championship game would be dumped in the short-term (because the NCAA mandates 12 schools for a football title game).


--The loss of Nebraska and Colorado should have been a loss of about 16 percent to the league's revenue generating capacity. But because Colorado was an underperformer, the league lost only about 8.6 percent of its value with the loss of Nebraska, according to sources with knowledge of the Beebe Plan.



PROCEEDING WITH CAUTION

The Big 12 South sources said they are proceeding cautiously with the new information provided by Beebe.

One top executive in the Big 12 told Orangebloods.com Sunday "the plan is a long shot, but at least it's a shot."


AN END TO REALIGNMENT COULD BE ON THE LINE

If life could be breathed into the Beebe plan by the Big 12 South, life would re-enter the Big 12 North, where limbo has been the theme for more than a week at Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State as well as at Baylor in the Big 12 South.

It might also stop what appears to be an impending avalanche of college realignment across the country, depending on how conversations between Texas A&M and the SEC might be affected.

Sources say if the Pac-10 is ultimately denied by the Big 12 South schools, Scott would likely extend an invitation to Utah and wrap up the Pac-10's expansion at 12.

The information from Beebe might at least slow down the rocket-like pace of Big 12 schools seeking a new home and possibly draw all the divided parties back to the table.

Hearings are scheduled in the Texas House on Wednesday with invitations to all the Texas universities involved in this break-neck game of musical conferences to get some answers by elected officials.

Texas Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who will preside over the hearings as chair of the House Higher Education Committee, said it would not be wise to act on any conference movement before Wednesday.

"I think it's great the different conference commissioners are going around and being vigilant about what the market economies are," Branch told Orangebloods.com Sunday night.

"I applaud the universities for being nimble and acting quickly and looking at everything. But I think the leadership would be wise to give their principal officers authority but not to act.

"They need to make sure the people of Texas and their elected representatives have a chance to get their questions asked and answered. There will be time to act after that."

Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr., a prominent Baylor alum, told Orangebloods.com Sunday that officials will live to regret killing off prized tradition in Texas college athletics by moving too quickly.

"The rivalries between Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor have lasted more than 100 years," McLane said. "Those are treasured assets in this state. And to see them broken up and discarded would be a travesty.

"Sometimes we make decisions faster than we should. I would like to encourage the universities to see the issues as they are, the tradition. To wipe out over 100 years of tradition and go start playing on the west or east coast, that just doesn't fit what this state is all about."


BIG 12-LITE HAS A PULSE

So hold on folks. This is about to get interesting. The key in all of this is that Texas appears to be at least rethinking its position on leaving for the Pac-10 and is considering the Beebe proposal.

Orangebloods.com was told Texas president Bill Powers, a Cal graduate, is not on board yet, but that he is listening.

Nothing is done. It is fluid. But the Beebe Plan to hold the Big 12-Lite together is at least in play.

As Orangebloods.com was told by a top source in the day's developments: "The winds to keep the Big 12 together with 10 teams are getting stronger."

Texas had been resolute up to this point that if Nebraska left the conference, it would accept an invitation to join the Pac-10 and likely lead an exodus that appeared to include Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Texas A&M has been in deep discussions with the SEC and as of Saturday night had enough votes on its Board of Regents to join the SEC (believed to be 6-3).

But the dissenting votes on A&M's regents board are apparently passionate about keeping Texas and A&M together and not breaking up a 100-year rivalry by having the schools head to different leagues.

Sources say SEC commissioner Mike Slive was in College Station Saturday. Sources close to the situation say A&M has an invitation to the SEC if it wants it. The SEC has also been doggedly pursuing Oklahoma.

But thus far, OU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have indicated they would stay with Texas. Up to this point, that appeared to be an announcement to join the Pac-10, starting as early as Tuesday of this week.

But with news that Texas is now at least considering the Beebe Plan, there is at least a chance the Big 12, which is now at 10 schools (while the Big Ten, by the way, is now at 12 schools) just might survive after all.

Stay tuned.



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