Commentary

Conference partners appeal to Texas

Updated: June 15, 2010, 4:05 PM ET
By David Ubben | ESPN.com

AUSTIN, Texas -- In the Carpenter-Winkel Centennial Room nine floors above the field at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, three decision-makers for the University of Texas outlined the reasons why the Big 12 -- despite now having just 10 teams -- was the best place for the Longhorns to compete.

"There was no single issue that was a tipping point, this is a long-term affiliation," president Bill Powers said Tuesday morning in front of 14 video cameras and more than 50 reporters, eschewing the idea that money was the only motivator. He later pointed to the well-being of student-athletes and existing rivalries as reasons to stay, in addition to the academic benefits. "All things considered, this was not just one item or another. It's what is the most comfortable and best fit for the University of Texas. And our view, after going through all of that and giving it very careful consideration, is the new formation of the Big 12."

Only days ago, a move to the Pac-10 seemed likely, along with the two Oklahoma schools and Texas Tech, with Texas A&M wavering and fielding a visit from SEC commissioner Mike Slive over the weekend. It took an assurance from the conference heads -- who consulted with TV networks -- that the conference would prosper as a 10-team league to convince the Longhorns to stay.

Along with that, each of the remaining Big 12 schools -- minus Texas Tech as of Tuesday morning -- issued "public, unequivocal commitments" to the Big 12, though those commitments are legally non-binding.

"That is enough for me," Powers said. "We have those, and that's all that we need to trust these very trustworthy partners."

The league will begin its negotiations with Fox in April and hopes to extend that deal to coincide with its agreement with ABC and ESPN, which is up for renewal in 2016. That would end a practice of staggered contracts that guaranteed coverage on at least one network, but Powers stressed that no deal was in place.

"We've evaluated the value, long-term, of a 10-team conference, and we feel it's very positive," Powers said. "Exactly what numbers will be reached will depend on market negotiations, but we feel very confident this is a very viable and strong economic conference."

Critics had a hard time believing that a weakened Big 12 would fetch more money per team than a theoretical Pac-16, college football's first major superconference. But the money from the ABC/ESPN contract will remain constant -- even without a championship game. With only 10 teams to collect that cash, everyone earns more, with projected growth from future deals adding comfort.

"The Big 12 is an excellent conference in the eyes of some important partners -- media partners," said women's athletic director Chris Plonsky. "Ratings of games this year were tremendous. The competition value, a central time zone is a media-friendly, fan-friendly time zone. An exposure-friendly time zone. This league, despite the choices of two of our members to move in a different direction, is not bereft of strength, and brand strength and media strength. That's been affirmed by the people that do business with us and have been doing business with us since this league was created."

In addition, the league will have exit fees from Nebraska and Colorado to divvy up, though the exact breakdown and usage for those fees has not been finalized.

"We do not have any guarantees from the league or our northern partners. There have been reports that there's going to be a special deal for some of us using penalty money or other money," Powers said. "We were not part of that. We have heard about that. … It was not part of our consideration and we oppose that kind of deal."

David Ubben covers Big 12 football for ESPN.com.