September 22, 2011
When the dust settled on the chaos in the Big 12, nine teams remained committed to the conference, one had moved on and it's leader, Dan Beebe, had been shown the door.
Beebe, who had been with the conference since 2003 and its commissioner since 2007, resigned just days after word leaked that Oklahoma was starting a movement to oust him. Apparently, the idea was pretty popular because it didn't take long for Beebe to quietly remove himself from the picture. The only fight came from Beebe's fake namesake on Twitter, who went on an epic rant calling out every school for turning on him.
Of course, the real Beebe knew his time was running short after last year's debacle that saw Nebraska go to the Big Ten, Colorado got to the Pac-12 and nearly the entire Big 12 South flirt with the what would have been a Pac-16.
Even though Beebe put a Band-Aid on the wound and kept the majority of the Big 12 together, it was a shaky arrangement that allowed Texas to strike a multi-million dollar deal with ESPN to create its own network and not only become the most financially dominant school in the conference, but also take a major advantage in recruiting.
That's when things really started to unravel. Schools became outspoken about the advantages of Texas' network for the Longhorns and Texas A&M got so fed up with it, the Aggies sought solace in the SEC. Then, like any good soap opera, Baylor sued to keep A&M in the conference while the rest of the league looked for exit strategies. All the while, Beebe was plugging holes in the dam but running out of fingers and toes.
So the remaining teams in the Big 12 allowed it to collapse on him, swallow him up and wash him away, leaving a new Big 12 that promises to be a more stable version of its former self with its former leader out to sea.
And he saw it all coming.
"A couple of weeks ago he told me privately that if the conference stayed together and he had to go it would be like lifting up a huge weight off his heart," a source close to Beebe told the Kansas City Star.
Now, headhunter extraordinaire Chuck Neinas is in as the interim commissioner to not only help heal wounds, but also usher the Big 12 (or Big Nine) into a new era that may or may not include expansion. Neinas is very familiar with the Big 12, having helped several of its coaches and athletic directors get their current jobs. He and the presidents and athletic directors have to think about the long-term sustainability of the conference and that likely means expanding back to 12 teams before all the good teams in the region find other conference suitors. Teams such as BYU, TCU, Houston and SMU have been bandied about as possible solutions to the Big 12's vacant spots, but the in-house bickering, which even irked Missouri's football coach, has to stop and the conference has to show a united and mature front if it wants to regain its spot as one of the country's elite leagues.
For all his faults, Beebe oversaw a conference that, for the most part, thrived. During his time with the conference, the Big 12 won eight national championships, had five teams in the BCS and had several athletes achieve individual NCAA titles. This past year, Big 12 member institutions earned a record $139 million in revenue.
So even though the conference nearly collapsed under his watch, Dan Beebe did leave the league in good shape to figure out what's next.
"It is satisfying to know the Big 12 Conference will survive, and I congratulate the members for taking strong action to ensure a bright future as a premier intercollegiate athletics conference," Beebe said in a statement. "As I have stated many times, it is in the best interest of intercollegiate athletics and higher education to maintain the regional connection that is so important for the student-athletes, their parents and the fans. 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."
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