If it takes buying out the remaining three years of Dan Beebe’s contract to calm the stormy waters, then do it. But that’s only the first step on the road to recovery for a conference in need of a more powerful bilge pump to keep the ship from sinking the next time it tries to negotiate stormy waters.
Keeping the Big 12 together temporarily isn’t the answer. The interim replacement for Beebe — deputy commissioner Tim Weiser, anyone? — must take a bold step to ensure stability.
Make the penalty for every member cursed with a wandering eye far greater than any dollar figure. Try language such as this: “You can leave, but we own your TV rights forever because you signed them over to us. If we want to put you on TV we can, but we never will, of course. And no other conference will take you because you’ll never play on television.”
With that one rule, conference stability no longer is an issue. Sound too much like imprisoning the nine members? Well, it beats solitary confinement. The Big Ten ensures loyalty by having its members sign away their TV rights.
Of course, that would require the Big 12 members acting with as much wisdom as the Big Ten schools. In the past, that hasn’t always been the case. Just look at how both conferences reacted to the sound advice of Kevin Weiberg, who served as commissioner of the Big 12 and deputy commissioner of the Big Ten and is now deputy commissioner of the Pac-12.
Weiberg left the Big 12 after he couldn’t get the members to agree on sharing TV revenue equally with what would amount to a Big 12 Network.
So he headed North and started the now-thriving Big Ten Network. Had Weiberg gotten his way before leaving in 2007, this whole mess never happens. Wherever Weiberg goes, it seems, good decisions follow. The latest was the Pac-12’s decision not to expand, though it’s not clear that Weiberg had anything to do with that.
As Tuesday progressed, it became evident not enough Pac-12 presidents and chancellors liked the idea of expanding. The Pac-12 removed all doubt by announcing its decision against expansion just before 10 p.m. Central time. They like the 12-team format, like the way the members get along, and like competing for a conference football title that Oklahoma would have dominated.
Not having the option of going to the Pac-12 and not having the desire to become one of many super powers in the SEC, Oklahoma can’t force a Beebe ouster on its own. But if other members push the idea of a fresh start to a more balanced conference, it could happen.
A new commissioner could have a serious talk with Texas about the dangers of getting a reputation as a relentless flirt. One day it’s the Pac-12, the next it’s the Big Ten and then the ACC. Enough with the wandering eye. Stay home with the beauty you’ve been with for 16 years.
Explain the new rules to Texas, which already has taken huge public relations hits over Nebraska and Texas A&M; leaving. Watch the Longhorns comply, realizing it can recoup some of the respect it lost and can’t find a better neighborhood than its current one.