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Big 12, Big East start picking up pieces

By Jim Vertuno

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 22 2011 7:33 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2011 file photo, then Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott announces the splitting of NCAA college football divisions during a news conference in San Francisco. The Pac-12 Conference is just dandy at a dozen. The league's presidents and chancellors decided late Tuesday night to reaffirm their decision to stay at 12 members. While Commissioner Scott called some proposals "financially attractive," there was overwhelming support from member schools to hold off on further expansion.

Paul Sakuma, File, Associated Press

Turned away by the Pac-12, the Big 12's most powerful members are trying to find ways to live together again after weeks of hurtling toward a break up.

Texas President William Powers declared Wednesday that the Longhorns — who receive more media money than other members of the Big 12 — are open to a new revenue-sharing model and have already suggested that top-level television and cable money be shared equally.

What's not on the table is the money from Texas' 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN to create the Longhorn Network, which has been blamed in large part for Texas A&M's pending departure from the Big 12.

"That's never been in play, that's not in play," Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said.

So with that line drawn in the sand, the Big 12 leadership has scheduled a key meeting Thursday, Oklahoma President David Boren said.

"The most important goal for the University of Oklahoma is conference stability," he said. "We intend to support actions that will strengthen and stabilize the conference at the very important meeting of the conference board."

The Pac-12 late Tuesday squashed any hope of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech heading west in what surely would have been a death blow to the Big 12.

But the conference realignment wheels are still turning, especially with the Aggies planning to join the Southeastern Conference as soon as legal threats are out of the way.

"Certainly the position of Oklahoma State and I think most of the schools, if not all, is that we want to add a 10th team," said Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis, a member of the league's expansion committee. He listed TCU, Houston, SMU, BYU, Utah and Air Force among the potential expansion targets before saying "we've talked about a lot of ideas."

The Big East, left with only six football members after Pitt and Syracuse announced plans to join the ACC, must also find a new way forward while the Mountain West and Conference USA are in discussions about a partnership.

The talk of saving the Big 12 centers on sharing television revenue equally — a core principle of the Big Ten and Pac-12. The Big 12 splits the revenue from its $1.2 billion Fox Sports contract evenly, but only half of the money from its top-tier deal with ABC goes into equal shares. The rest is weighted toward the programs that play on the network more frequently, such as Texas and Oklahoma.

Dodds said Big 12 athletic directors more than a month ago approved Texas' suggestion to equally share to network revenue around the league. He said the plan has not been voted on by league presidents.

Texas Tech President Guy Bailey said he doesn't anticipate much opposition to that idea. "I would be surprised if there weren't a change in that, in some way," he said. Now, how exactly it plays out, I don't know."

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe has not commented on the turmoil surrounding the league and there is speculation about his future. The Kansas City Star, citing two sources with knowledge of the decision, reported Wednesday night that Beebe was working on an agreement to leave his position and that an announcement of Beebe's departure was expected Thursday.

Beebe's contract was extended in November through June 2015, a decision made after Nebraska and Colorado announced they were leaving the Big 12 and before the 13-year deal was reached with Fox Sports in April.

Dodds declined comment, and Bailey and Hargis called Beebe's status a private "personnel" matter.

Besides Thursday's meeting of the Big 12 conference board, a summit also is possible between Texas and Oklahoma officials. Big 12 athletic directors also have a previously scheduled meeting in Dallas next week.

ESPN distanced itself from the conference affiliation uproar, saying the "driving force on realignment lies with the conferences and universities."

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