Is the Big 12 truly dead? Will Texas actually lead an exodus West to the Pac-10? Are Kansas and Missouri really going to be scrambling to secure an invitation from a major conference?
In the words of the ubiquitous Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."
A last-ditch effort from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to persuade the 10 remaining Big 12 schools to stick together appears to be giving potential deserters cold feet, according to the latest report from Orangebloods.com. Beebe's plan remains a longshot, yet the five Big 12 South schools being courted by the Pac-10 and SEC are proceeding more cautiously and investigating the promises he's made.
Beebe claims he can secure a TV deal in 2011 that would increase annual revenue per school to $17 million, which is on par with what the SEC pays out. Furthermore, he says individual institutions would be able to pursue their own TV networks, a goal of Texas' that the Longhorns would have to forgo if they leave the Big 12 because the Pac-10 plans to launch a conference-wide network.
The key in all of this is that Texas appears to be at least reconsidering its position on going to the Pac-10 and will listen to the Beebe proposal and to the idea of remaining in the Big 12.
Nothing is done. It is fluid. But the Beebe Plan to hold the Big 12 together is definitely in play right now.
As Orangebloods.com was told by a top source in the day's developments: "The winds to keep the Big 12 together with 10 teams are getting stronger."
The only chance for Beebe to keep the Big 12 together in the short term is to convince Texas that the league remains its best option even without Nebraska. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have pledged to follow the Longhorns wherever they go and the five potential leftovers are far better off in a paired-down Big 12 than fending for themselves on the open market.
The other wildcard in this remains Texas A&M, which has shown interest in escaping Texas' shadow and accepting a potential invitation from the SEC in recent weeks. It seems unlikely that the Aggies would ditch the Big 12 if there's a chance to salvage it, but Texas A&M would still have that option regardless of what the Longhorns do.
Regardless of the Aggies' decision, however, it doesn't appear that this plan solves the problems that have plagued the Big 12 from its inception. One of the reasons schools began exploring leaving the conference was because they felt Texas was growing too powerful, so wouldn't it only exacerbate that issue to give the Longhorns the right to create their own TV network?
Consultants told Orangebloods.com that Texas' TV network would provide an annual $3 million to $5 million per year in revenue for the Longhorns. Add that to the $17 million Beebe claims he can provide each Big 12 team, and that figure should be at least as much if not more than what Texas would get in the Pac-16 once its TV deal were renegotiated.
Assuming those figures are accurate, the decision for Texas may come down to comfort rather than money, as it should since revenue is never an issue for such a deep-pocketed program. The Longhorns have to decide if they feel more secure in a tense but successful alliance with the rest of the Big 12 or if they'd rather bolt for the Pac-16's potentially greener pastures.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is due in Austin to make his pitch on Sunday and Texas' board of regents is scheduled to convene Tuesday. It should be a fascinating 48 hours.