Big 12 appears set to implode amid possible defections

Published: June 3 2010 | 6:44 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 2:11 am in
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 14-year-old Big 12 Conference has the potential to implode, and it could happen Friday.

Rumors swirl — with no outright denials — that eight different schools interested in joining other conferences. Iowa State University isn’t one of them.

A report from Thursday had Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado bolting for a new-look Pac-10 Conference. Missouri and Nebraska are rumored as Big Ten expansion candidates. That could leave Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor looking for new conferences.

Pac-10 officials open their spring meetings Friday in San Francisco, where future plans could be announced.

“The entire issue of all the discussions related to conference realignment create instability discussions,” Iowa State President Gregory Geoffroy said. “We’re confident that the Big 12 Conference is going to remain strong and be one of the best conferences in the nation, and we’ll do everything we can to keep it that way.”

Geoffroy declined to address specific rumors. He deferred comments about the Pac-10 report to University of Texas President William Powers. Colorado Athletics Director Mike Bohn told the Boulder Daily Camera his school and the others could receive Pac-10 invitations this weekend.

“Until something firms up it’s all speculation,” Geoffroy said.

Speculation boiled over when Big 12 Conference Commissioner Dan Beebe first delayed then canceled a scheduled news conference to discuss the league’s future. Beebe declined to comment as he walked past a large media contingent and into an elevator.

The Big 12 began play in 1996, combining the Big Eight Conference (of which Iowa State joined in 1908) and four members of the defunct Southwest Conference. Infighting over the league’s power structure and revenue sharing developed almost from the outset.

The league moved its headquarters to Dallas, which created a schism with northern schools that wanted to keep the office in Kansas City. The Big 12 doesn’t share television revenue equally, and there’s disparity in overall revenue. Texas’ athletics department earned $138.45 million in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Iowa State was last among league schools with $45.8 million in earnings.

Should the league fold, Iowa State’s earning potential outside of the Big 12 could reduce dramatically. Only one athletics department (Texas Christian) from a non-major conference earned more than Iowa State in 2008. Next on the list (Brigham Young) earned $35.6 million, $10 million less than Iowa State.

It appeared none of the league’s prominent athletics officials were on the same page regarding the rumors as afternoon meetings concluded Thursday. Oklahoma Athletics Director Joe Castiglione said Pac-10 Conference officials have not contacted him.

“Those scenarios, whether possible or imaginary, would have to be vetted out with (school administrators),” Oklahoma Athletics Director Joe Castiglione said. “I couldn’t speculate if they would pursue that or not.”

Pac-10 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott denied his league has extended invitations but did not deny interest in the six schools.

“We are aware of a story filed today by an columnist, speculating about possible expansion plans for the Pac-10 Conference,” Scott said in a statement. “While many interesting scenarios have been suggested in numerous news reports, around the country, we remain focused on a thorough evaluation process that examines all of the options for increasing the value of the Conference for our member institutions, our student athletes and our fans. We have not developed any definitive plans. We have not extended any invitations for expansion and we do not anticipate any such decisions in the near term.”

Missouri and Nebraska’s future with the league — which began the meetings as the major story — dwarfed into a footnote. Missouri Athletics Director Mike Alden publicly reiterated his loyalty to the Big 12, as did Castiglione and Texas Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds.

“We’ve said all along we’re proud members of the Big 12 Conference,” Alden said. “Again, you get into speculation and rumors, and it’s in nobody’s interest to be able to talk about those types of things. Those are things you can’t control. We’ve responded pretty consistently about that.”

But the rumors do concern Geoffroy. When asked if he envisioned the Big 12 remaining in current format, Geoffroy said, “We certainly are going to work to make sure that happens.”

League officials meet Friday morning, which could provide Geoffroy one last opportunity to keep the Big 12 intact.

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