Departing Big 12 commish leaves legacy of prosperity
DALLAS -- In his early years as Big 12 commissioner, Kevin Weiberg's job was to mediate the tense marriage of the Midwest-based Big Eight and four Southwest Conference schools in Texas.
Weiberg, who caught Big 12 athletic directors by surprise Thursday when he announced he was resigning next month to take a job with the new Big Ten Network, was part-commissioner and part-counselor.
"The conference was new and the working relationships were not well-established," Weiberg said. "This was to some extent Conference Building 101."
Weiberg, who started in December 1998, built the Big 12 into one of college sports' wealthiest and most competitive conferences. He is credited with doubling the annual revenue distributed to member schools from $54 million in his first year to a record $106 million last year. Big 12 teams won 27 NCAA championships and 200 individual national titles during his tenure.
His ability to keep money flowing into the coffers of member schools helped smooth over early distrust in the new conference. Big Eight holdovers looked at the Big 12 as an expansion, whereas the Texas schools looked at it as a new venture.
Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said Weiberg brought unity to the Big 12. Texas AD DeLoss Dodds praised the outgoing commissioner's "critical leadership during the growth of the Big 12."
Kevin took it from a group of people who walked into a room with some suspicion to a group that works pretty well together
Harvey Perlman, chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors
"Kevin took it from a group of people who walked into a room with some suspicion to a group that works pretty well together," said Harvey Perlman, Nebraska's chancellor and chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors.
No replacement has been named. A consulting group probably will help identify candidates, and an interim commissioner is likely after Weiberg leaves in mid-July, Perlman said.
Weiberg said he felt the timing was right to make a change. He helped complete TV agreements with ABC and ESPN through the 2015-16 academic year. Championship sites for major sports are in place for the next four years, and established bowl agreements will last through the 2009-10 season.
In 2001, Weiberg lost a family member when a plane carrying members of the Oklahoma State men's basketball program crashed in Colorado, killing 10. Among the dead was Jared Weiberg, a student manager on the team and the commissioner's nephew.
During his tenure, Weiberg became a powerful insider in college sports. He served as coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series for the 2004-05 seasons. Before that, he was a member of the NCAA men's basketball selection committee for three years.
One of Weiberg's darkest days as commissioner came in 2001, when a plane carrying members of the Oklahoma State men's basketball program crashed in Colorado, killing 10. Among the dead was Jared Weiberg, a student manager on the team and the commissioner's nephew.
Weiberg's new job is the vice president of university planning and development for the Big Ten Network, which plans to launch in August. The network, a joint venture of the Big Ten Conference and Fox Cable Networks, will cover Big Ten athletic and academic events.
The Big Ten and Mountain West have their own cable networks, an option Weiberg said his Big 12 successor will have to explore.
"There are some attractive features to it, but our members at the end of the day did not feel like it was right for them," Weiberg said. "I think the possibility of a channel down the road is something they will have to come back to."
Steve Hatchell was the Big 12's first commissioner, serving two years after the league began competition in 1996. Dave Martin served in an interim role until Weiberg was hired.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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