AMES – The Big 12 Conference lives, and Iowa State happily remains a part of it.
So now what?
“The real fun begins,” Athletics Director Jamie Pollard said Tuesday during a joint press conference with ISU President Gregory Geoffroy. “You have to start figuring out how you are going to move forward.”
Pollard believes the now 10-team league and the athletic programs he oversees will come away from this brush with extinction in even better shape than before.
It appears both will certainly become richer.
On life support a few days ago, the Big 12 and its remaining members will play on with its current and future financial success looking awfully rosy if you believe commissioner Dan Beebe. An eleventh-hour proposal crafted by conference officials and the five most vulnerable schools – ISU included — kept Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma in the fold.
As you may expect, the decision was largely about money.
The league is primed for a big television rights deal for football, on top of more lucrative bowl agreements and a re-negotiated television contract for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Schools’ budgets will see a nice return in the coming years.
“The piece that makes this work is when you divide up the money 12 ways versus 10… it’s a big bump for all of us,” Pollard, who oversees an athletic budget of about $42.5 million. “There’s going to be significant incremental revenue for all of us, without any new television deals.”
Nebraska announced last Friday it would be joining the Big Ten after the 2010-11 season.
Colorado accepted an invitation by the Pac-10 a day earlier and will start play in 2012-13.
“I’d argue we are stronger as a result of those decisions,” Pollard said.
That left ISU, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Baylor to fend for themselves as South Division schools were weighing their options.
“The five of us stuck together like glue,” Pollard said. “The No. 1 option for all us was to find a way to have the Big 12 remain.”
The promise of increased television rights revenue helped hold the league together.
The Big 12 is under contract with ABC/ESPN through 2016 and Fox Sports Net for another two seasons. No estimates on how big a new deal could be were given.
“The projection is that there is a high level of interest,” Beebe said. “We are in a tremendous position.”
Clear after listening to Beebe’s 40-minute conference call with reporters is that the Big 12 needs Texas and its band of South Division brothers more than they need it.
Beebe said the five schools not being heavily considered for expansion agreed to earmark conference distribution monies from Nebraska and Colorado for Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M if they fall short of revenues they could have earned as members of another conference.
The Longhorns and Sooners were being wooed by the Pac-10, among others. Texas A&M got a long, hard look from the Southeastern Conference.
“They were very hotly pursued by a number of conferences,” Beebe said. “Their value based on the marketplace was desirable to others. They frankly could have left. We need all three.”
Pollard is comfortable with the financial terms.
The money set aside for those three schools may never find their way to them, and eventually be re-distributed to all members.
“We did not give away the future like many have portrayed,” Pollard said. “We wanted those three to stay, and so we figure out a way that allowed them to have a backstop.”
In addition, the league’s revenue distribution and slant towards the schools that play in bowl games and make more television appearances and deeper runs into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will not change.
Beebe said the league, at this point in time, has no plans for expansion.
Once Nebraska and Colorado leave the league for good, there will be a nine-game conference football schedule and a round-robin 18-game men’s and women’s basketball schedule.
New coach Fred Hoiberg – and all of Cyclone Nation — breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday.
“The best thing for us was to stay in the Big 12 and that’s exactly what happened, so we are excited about it,” Hoiberg said.