It wasn’t too long ago that Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of “working every day to hold the Big 12 together.” Now he’s been tasked with helping decide whether the Tigers are the latest program to leave a troubled conference fighting for its future.
ESPN and the Associated Press reported that University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board’s members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system’s St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school’s) interest.”
Just one day earlier, the conference announced that presidents and chancellors of the remaining nine members, including Deaton, had agreed to equal revenue sharing and to seek approval from each university to hand over the most lucrative television rights to the conference for six years.
Now it looks as if the Big 12 might be losing two members for the second straight year. One year ago, Nebraska defected from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, with Colorado also leaving for what is now the Pac-12. Speculation has centered on a possible Missouri move to the Southeastern Conference, which recently agreed to accept Texas A&M from the Big 12 starting next year.
When the Longhorns entered the league in 1996 and stipulated inequitable revenue sharing, Texas bargained from a position of strength. If the (former) Big Eight schools wanted the ‘Horns, they had to meet UT’s demands. The other big money-makers — OU, A&M, Nebraska — never dreamed that Texas could land a deal like the $300-million, 20-year contract with ESPN.
Texas-OU week has arrived, and the most dominant force in college football is neither player nor coach. A little-seen cable channel lords over the sport in this autumn of 2011. The Longhorn Network has reshaped the landscape. Gone are Colorado and Nebraska. Sent Texas A&M screaming to the SEC last month. Might do the same to Missouri. Blame it on UT!