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October 4, 2011

Missouri curators give chancellor authority to look around

The Missouri Board of Curators formally delegated the authority to chancellor Brady Deaton to explore conference affiliation for the Tigers Tuesday evening.

Deaton also announced he has resigned his post as chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors to avoid a conflict of interest. (Obviously, the Big 12 is looking to expand, and Mizzou is looking at possibly leaving the Big 12).

But two sources close to the situation said a deal was nearly brokered on Tuesday that would have had the nine remaining schools in the Big 12 granting their TV rights on the Tier 1 and Tier 2 level for more than six years.

One source said the granting of rights would have been closer to the length of time left on the Big 12's Tier 2 TV deal with Fox, which has 13 years remaining.

But as part of the agreement, there were restrictions proposed on Tier 3 content, and Texas balked, the source said. The restrictions had to do with any and all high school content, the source said.

Texas' Longhorn Network has been at the center of debate over the airing of anything having to do with high schools. Currently, the NCAA has said LHN can show high school highlights in a news format. But LHN, which launched on Aug. 26, hasn't even been doing that - to avoid more controversy as the league works out its issues, sources said.

Texas would have to talk to ESPN before making any final decision on content restrictions, since ESPN owns and operates LHN, and those talks haven't yet happened, according to sources.

Two sources close to the situation said ABC/ESPN appears ready to renegotiate the Big 12's Tier 1 TV deal, which still has four years remaining on it.

By having the ABC/ESPN deal on the same timetable as the Fox deal, the Big 12 can improve its bargaining leverage and create a timetable for the granting of rights that could strengthen the league, the sources said.

But none of that will happen unless the schools remaining in the Big 12 can reach agreement on what will be included in the terms of everyone granting rights.

The Big 12 appears ready to expand, and the list of targets getting the most consideration right now continue to be BYU, TCU, Louisville and Cincinnati, multiple sources said.

But there is mixed opinions inside the league about whether to grow to 10 or 12 (with or without Missouri).

And here's why: ABC/ESPN agreed to keep paying the Big 12 as a 10-team league last summer for the remainder of its deal (through 2015-16). But if the league grows back to 12 and doesn't include Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado, but does include the likes of BYU, TCU, Louisville and Cincinnati, it's not necessarily a better TV product.

There's concern ABC/ESPN could come back and say, "Why should we pay more money to keep everyone at their current TV revenue number when the product is arguably inferior?"

But it's clear that the remaining members in the Big 12 are looking at options to grow to 10 or 12 at the moment, sources said.

But right now it appears Missouri is waiting to see if an agreement in the Big 12 can be reached on a longer term for the granting of rights before making any final decision about bolting the Big 12 (for the SEC), sources said.

Some in the Big 12 are more optimistic than others about the ability to keep Missouri in the fold.

Here's what Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said Tuesday:

"The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12."

There does not appear to be a deadline from the Big 12 - right now - for Missouri to make a decision whether to stay or go.

Stay tuned.



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