Paul Sakuma, File, Associated Press
The Big 12 dumped its embattled commissioner Thursday and said nine schools had pledged to give their TV rights to the conference for the next six years, a step intended to preserve a fractured league that has lost two members in the past year and is expected to lose another by next summer.
"The bottom line is we achieved substantial reforms," Oklahoma President David Boren said after school presidents met by telephone for more than an hour. "We feel extremely good."
Anil Gollahalli, Oklahoma's general counsel, said no contracts had been signed yet — in part because some schools must get the approval of their governing boards.
Commissioner Dan Beebe is gone after five up-and-down years that included securing a 13-year, $1.2 billion contract with Fox Sports but sharp criticism for failing to keep Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) from leaving over the summer. Texas A&M plans to leave by July for the Southeastern Conference.
"I put all my effort into doing what was best for the Big 12. With great fondness, I wish the Big 12 Conference a long and prosperous future," Beebe said in a statement released by the Big 12.
Former Big Eight Commissioner Chuck Neinas will serve as interim commissioner.
Revenue sharing and a change of leadership were considered by some schools, notably Oklahoma, as the top issues to address to save the league in the latest round of conference realignment.
The Big 12 splits revenue from its 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.
Boren said all nine remaining schools — except for Texas A&M — "agreed" to give a six-year grant of their first- and second-tier television rights to the Big 12. That means that all revenue from the top television games — shown currently on networks owned by ABC/ESPN and Fox — would continue to go to the Big 12 even if a school bolts to another league.
The six-year term runs past the next negotiating period for the top-tier contract, currently with ABC/ESPN, in a bid to keep the nine schools together for the next contract.
"These are very strong handcuffs," Boren said. "The grant of rights really does bind the conference together and it shows that we fully intend to stay together.
"If you wanted to talk about one important action that really does demonstrate that this conference is going to be stable, that we're not going to have year-to-year dramas like we have had, I think that grant of rights is a very essential item," he said.
Not addressed Thursday, however, were issues surrounding Texas. The Longhorns had already proposed equal revenue sharing but also said it won't make changes to its controversial 20-year, $300 million contract with ESPN for the Longhorn Network.
Texas officials were not immediately available for comment Thursday night.
The conference call came after a whirlwind of a month when the league appeared — again — to be on the verge of breaking apart.
The league nearly split when Nebraska and Colorado left. The Big 12 appeared to be set as a 10-team league until Texas A&M announced earlier this month it will leave in 2012 to seek membership in the Southeastern Conference.
That started a new round of maneuvering and Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech all were considering a potential move to the Pac-12 until it announced Tuesday that it would not expand.
The 54-year-old Beebe became an easy target for schools upset about instability in the league.
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