On Tuesday afternoon, Missouri's triumvirate of President Gary Forsee, Chancellor Brady Deaton, and Athletic Director Mike Alden met with the media to talk about Missouri's commitment to the future of the Big 12. Earlier on Tuesday, Big 12 Conference Commissioner Dan Beebe addressed the media regarding the future of the Big 12.
"At the very top of our list throughout our deliberations over the past many months have been our student-athletes, " said Forsee, in his opening statement. "(There's) nothing more important to what we do regarding athletic conference affiliation, and now our commitment to the Big 12, (than) our student-athletes. In addition to that, (I have) the highest respect for the passion shown by our alumni and by all of our constituents and supporters of this great University. I deeply appreciate that!"
Summarizing the analysis which he and his team had undertaken over the past few months as "looking at the alternatives we have", Deaton said that they wanted to "insure that the University of Missouri was most effectively positioned, and we've done that."
With Nebraska's move to the Big Ten Conference, starting in 2011-12, and with Colorado's move to the PAC 10 Conference, at first scheduled for the following season, but which may now be moved up to coincide with Nebraska's departure, the Big 12 will move forward as a 10 member league, sans divisions. In football, conference members will all play each other annually, producing a 9 game conference schedule, and there will not be a championship game. In basketball, the plan is to play home and away each season against each conference opponent, resulting in an 18 game "double round robin" conference season. Beebe said the chances of adding two schools are "very, very remote."
Beebe announced "unequivocal commitments" from the conference's remaining 10 schools as the foundation for the future of the Big 12.
"I'm very satisfied with the commitment of the remaining members, and the direction that we're going to go," said Beebe. "And, I think this kind of experience is something that can very well work to solidify the conference for a long, long time. Because, I think everybody had to give very considerate evaluation to where they are, what they want to do in the future, and they've come to the conclusion that they want to remain together."
Beebe referred to conference salvation as a "renewal of marriage vows", and Deaton emphasized that surviving the threat of realignment would strengthen the bonds between conference members.
Alden indicated that he felt that elimination of the north-south divisions and labels would be good for conference unity. There doesn't appear to be much impetus for re-establishing a Conference Championship game in football. This year's (December 4th, 2010) could be the Big 12's last.
Beebe and others have expressed the sentiment that a 10 member league may be optimal. It was pointed out that the Conference's Championship Game has cost the conference inclusion in the National Championship Game in multiple years.
Beebe pointed out that Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M had been pursued by "more than one conference", and judged those schools, and others within the conference to have "high market value".
The Missouri delegation verified that MU had not received an offer to join another conference, and emphasized that their "due diligence" had revealed that remaining in the Big 12 is what's best for Missouri.
"We wanted to remain in the Big 12," said Deaton
The commitment by Texas was considered the key to the Big 12's viability as a 10-team conference.
"There's a very strong future in the new 10-team Big 12," Texas president William Powers said Tuesday morning. "We've made a long-term decision and all the factors were considered. This is a long-term and unequivocal commitment. We've decided the Big 12 provides the best long-term opportunity for our university."
The promise of increased television revenue along with the idea of maintaining rivalries and geographic ties between schools were among the key factors in holding together the Big 12's 10 schools.
"The Big 12 (television) package is going to be every bit as good as any other conference," Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said during his school's news conference. "We are in good shape on the television side."
The Big 12's contract with Fox Sports Net (FSN) runs through 2011-12 season. The Conference's deal with ABC/ESPN runs through 2015-16. The Big 12 will work out a new deal with FSN that will allow the conference to sync up its television deals to run concurrently.
"The rising tide will lift all boats," said Forsee of the promise of increased revenue from future TV contracts. "And, the University of Missouri will be a big benefactor of that."
Alden said that "Missouri is in a better place" than they were a few months ago.
Questions about inequities in the future distribution of revenue within the conference were addressed, but it appears that all involved expect the current by-laws to remain in effect.
"We have stated our opinion on various aspects of governance in our league," said Alden. "One of those which had to do with revenue distribution and the formula, and how it has worked. It will stay the same way that it is right now, the same way that (the league) was founded on 15 years ago. We understand that. We accept that. And, we'll move forward with that. In addressing that, then that onus comes back on Mizzou. It's incumbent upon us to win more games, and to get more exposure on TV for games, and to be able to access even more opportunities that are available to everyone in our league."
Forsee cited the opportunity for Missouri to pursue its own TV network as a likely additional source of revenue for the University.