Colorado, Big 12 agree to early exit

Updated: September 22, 2010, 1:42 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Big 12 will become a 10-team league next year after all in the wake of an agreement on Tuesday by Colorado to forfeit more than $6 million in conference payouts in order to leave the Big 12 after the 2010-11 academic year.

Colorado plans to leave for the Pac-10 on June 30, 2011 and have $6.863 million withheld from its conference revenue.

Colorado initially planned to leave for the Pac-10 after the 2011 season, but Nebraska's announced plans to move to the Big Ten after the 2010 season meant Colorado would have to do the same or force the Big 12 to play a season with 11 teams, along with the Pac-10, who will add Utah after the 2010-11 academic year.

Nebraska and the Big 12 announced earlier Tuesday that it would agree to have $9.255 million of its conference revenue withheld, but that number would fall to $8.755 million if Nebraska was one of two teams in the Big 12 to qualify for a BCS bowl game.

"We are pleased that, with this issue behind us, the Big 12 is poised to begin the transition to its exciting future as a 10-member Conference beginning in July," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said in a statement.

"Even as we leave for an exciting future in the Pac-10 Conference, we value the great friendships and memorable rivalries we have been a part of, and we appreciate the good faith Commissioner Dan Beebe has shown in working with us on our exit from the conference," Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano said.

Both officials from Colorado and Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott sounded pessimistic after Colorado's recent game at Cal-Berkeley that a deal to leave the Big 12 by 2011 instead of 2012 would come together.

The Big 12, under its bylaws, originally had sought to withhold 80 percent of Colorado's actual slice of the conference payout for 2009-10 and their projected distribution for 2010-11. That would have been at least $15 million for Colorado.

Nebraska and Colorado officials initially said their schools shouldn't be required to pay anything because the league was on the verge of collapsing when they struck deals with the Big Ten and Pac-10 in June.

Texas and four other schools had talked to the Pac-10 before Beebe convinced them to stay in a 10-team league. Nebraska and Colorado challenged the bylaws, saying their moves were based on unstable circumstances that they did not create.

"I think everybody knew there was going to be a dispute," Beebe said in a teleconference Tuesday night. "They were firm in their positions, we were firm in ours, and we worked out the compromise."

The latest figures show the Pac-10 paid its members between $7-$11.5 million. With the additions of Colorado and Utah, the league expects those figures to almost double when it negotiates new televisions deals next year.

Conference distributions are divided among member schools mostly from revenues derived from football and men's basketball television contracts, bowl games and the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

"We are very excited that Colorado will be joining the Conference in 2011," Scott said in a statement Tuesday night. "Our plans all along were for them to join the Conference in 2012 so this puts the Pac-12 ahead of schedule, which is great news. With Colorado and Utah coming on board next year we are tremendously excited about the future of the Conference."

Beebe said Big 12 leaders would meet next month to discuss how the money withheld from Nebraska and Colorado would be distributed among the 10 remaining members.

Information from ESPN.com's David Ubben and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

ALSO SEE