Texas move helps Big 12 survive

Updated: June 15, 2010, 10:42 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Big 12 is alive and kicking.

The University of Texas on Monday said it was staying in the Big 12, followed moments later by pledges from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M to remain in a league that had seemed to be falling apart last week when Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-10) decided to leave over the next two years.

The Texas announcement came shortly after Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott confirmed that Texas had declined an invitation to become the 12th member of his conference.

"University of Texas President Bill Powers has informed us that the 10 remaining schools in the Big 12 Conference intend to stay together," Scott said in a statement. "We are excited about the future of the Pac-10 Conference and we will continue to evaluate future expansion opportunities under the guidelines previously set forth by our Presidents and Chancellors."

Powers declined comment when asked by the AP about details of the deal that kept Big 12 together. The school has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning.

Now the Big 12 its back, though there are still questions about how it will conduct its business.

Among those that still need to be answered by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is how and why the Big 12 will be more lucrative now, especially when it cannot hold a conference title game with only 10 members.

Beebe did not return phone messages Monday, but plans to hold a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

Texas had a meeting Monday with the other remaining nine schools in the Big 12 about a TV deal included in a plan put together by Beebe that would keep the league intact with its current programs, according to multiple reports. The Dallas Morning News reported the cable TV deal is with Fox Sports.

Based on a TV deal in the works that could pay upwards of $25 million per year, Texas leaned toward staying in a 10-team Big 12 for the foreseeable future, Orangebloods.com reported, citing sources familiar with negotiations.

Texas stands to earn between $20 million and $25 million annually in television revenue in the reworked deal, including money from its own network, according to Orangebloods.com.

The Longhorns' network figures to generate between $3 million and $5 million, according to the Orangebloods.com report. Because the Big 12 has unequal revenue sharing, the deal will mean more money for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who all would receive at least $20 million annually from the new deal.

The other seven schools in the Big 12 would make between $14 million and $17 million, doubling what they currently receive in TV revenue.

Big 12 officials told member schools that the loss of the Denver television market and Nebraska would not weaken the league's negotiating position with TV networks as much as feared, a person with direct knowledge of discussions told The Associated Press.

Last year, Big 12 schools divided between $7 million and $10 million each depending on how many appearances they made on regional and national TV. At Big 12 meetings earlier this month, Beebe said he expected huge increases in rights fees from both Fox and ESPN.

The more lucrative contract with ESPN runs through the 2015-16 academic year, while the Fox deal is reportedly in its final two years.

The Big 12 has increased the financial reward for every one of its members since it began play in 1996. The Big 12 distributed $139 million to its members this past fiscal year, more than ever.

"We're excited about the Big 12 Conference and for its continued growth," Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said in a statement. "The University of Missouri has certainly prospered during its time in the Big 12, and we are looking forward to future opportunities in the years ahead."

The news about the Longhorns, Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 South powers staying put was especially good for Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State and Missouri -- the five schools in danger of being left homeless if the conference dissolved.

Baylor football coach Art Briles, a Texas native who has spent his entire career in the Long Star state, put it this way: "I got resuscitated. You can take your hands off my chest. ... I'm extremely excited, it's like being given new life."

As for the Pac-10 and Scott, who was trying to pull off a bold move that would have dramatically changed the landscape of college sports, they are left looking for at least one more member to get to 12 by 2012 when Colorado is set to join.

Scott's next target? Utah from the Mountain West Conference would seem a likely candidate.

Scott's plan was to add Texas (with Notre Dame the big prize in the conference expansion game) along with its main Big 12 South rivals -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Because Texas is the richest and most powerful of the Big 12 schools, the Longhorns were seen as the lynchpin to the deal. Wherever Texas decided to place its cash cow football program, the rest of the schools would seemingly fall in line.

But Texas A&M had represented a wild card, with school officials meeting with Pac-10 and SEC officials in recent days. If the Aggies were serious about leaving for the Southeastern Conference, no matter what Texas did, it was unclear whether that would have prompted the Longhorns, Sooners and the rest to decide the Big 12 was not worth saving with only nine members.

But that SEC flirtation turned out to be nothing more.

"Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future," school president R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement.

Officials at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma issued similar statements, with OSU president Burns Hargis singling out Beebe for his "bold moves and intense efforts."

"The decision to stay in the Big 12 represents a consensus position which resulted from a collaborative effort with our colleagues in the conference," Oklahoma president David L. Boren and vice president and director of athletics Joe Castiglione said in a joint statement. "We value the strong working relationship that has been reaffirmed during this process among the conference members. We intend to work very hard to make the conference as lasting and dynamic as possible. We appreciate the respect and interest that has been shown to OU during this process."

The news that the Big 12 survived spread quickly.

"That's great news," said Scott Drew, whose Baylor men's basketball team advanced to the South regional final in the NCAA tournament a few months ago. "Obviously, we're very excited and pleased about the 10 schools staying together. It will be great to continue the rivalries and traditions."

Earlier Monday, ESPN reported the departure of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-10 was "imminent," citing four sources within the Big 12.

A source told ESPN's Joe Schad that Powers was taking a "global view" of the landscape, excited about the importance of aligning his school with research opportunities and academic reputations of schools in the Pac-10.

But clearly being able to come at least close to the Pac-10 financial projections, while being able to still launch a network, may have swayed Powers to change his mind.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE