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June 14, 2010

Remaining schools in Big 12 close to saving league

In a bombshell development that could bring a halt to seismic changes in college realignment, sources tell Orangebloods.com Texas is at the table with the 10 remaining Big 12 schools working on a TV deal put forth by commissioner Dan Beebe that would hold the conference together.

If there's consensus to the deal, and it appears there is, it could be announced as early as Monday, sources said.

According to sources familiar with the deal, Texas stands to earn between $20 million and $25 million in television revenue, including money from its own network. The UT network figures to generate between $3 million and $5 million, according to sources.

According to sources, the deal will mean more money for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who all stand receive $20 million from the new deal. The other seven schools in the Big 12 would make between $14 million and $17 million, but would nearly double what they currently receive in TV revenue (roughly $7 million to $9 million).

The deal brokering puts on hold a courtship between Texas and the Pac-10, which all but seemed solidified as of Friday when Nebraska announced it was heading to the Big Ten and Colorado had a press conference with its new commissioner - Larry Scott of the Pac-10.

But as it became clear over the weekend that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State appeared ready join the Pac-10 and Texas A&M appeared ready to join the SEC, Beebe was able to obtain assurances that a TV deal could be reached paying each of the 10 remaining members of the Big 12 at least $14 million and $17 million.

Under Beebe's plan, schools would also be able to explore their own distribution platforms, including networks.

Texas would not be able to pursue those options in the Pac-10, which is planning to launch a conference network in 2012 and would require schools to turn over all of their inventory.

If the Big 12 is able to work out a deal with its 10 remaining teams, it's likely Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott would look to add Utah as the 12th member of his league and launch a conference network in 2012, sources said.


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.

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).


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.


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 now is Texas A&M will come back to the table and rethink its position on leaving for the Pac-10 and is considering the Beebe proposal.

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 with news that Texas and Texas A&M are now willing to stay put, the Big 12 just might survive after all.

Stay tuned.



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