Chuck Neinas

Earlier this week the Big 12 Conference took a major step toward preserving conference stability with a new revenue-sharing plan that grants each member school equal rights to revenue generated in Tier I and II football and basketball games. While there are now only nine teams that compose the “Big 12,” the conference board of directors all voted in favor of equal sharing of Tier I and II television revenues. It’s a move that some schools within the conference have been waiting years for, and has other schools fleeing to conferences with plans like this in place.

For the second straight year, the conference has had at least one team decide to leave for another conference. Among a number of reasons for these team departures was the fact that the Big 12, until now, did not share revenue generated from televised games equally among all of its members. With the old system of revenue allocation, if Oklahoma or Texas played a game on ABC/ESPN that generated $3 million, that profit would belong to the school, or schools playing the game and would not be disseminated equally to all members. The new system allows for a more equal distribution of such profits, but does not affect the Longhorn Network — every bit of that $300 million will still find its way to Austin. It should also be noted that in order for this new revenue plan to take effect, each member of the conference must commit to a grant of rights for at least six years.

Many other conferences have adopted the idea of revenue-sharing for those Tier I and II games in order to appease the entire conference rather than their higher-profile teams. Within the Big 12, smaller schools such as Missouri and Iowa State don’t have nearly as many games televised as the Longhorns or Sooners, so their bottom line should see a boost once this new plan takes effect.

“In an objective view, this should be a positive sign for Missouri,” said new Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas.

As rumors have begun to circle about Missouri’s possible addition to the SEC, the plan should keep them around for at least another six years or so.

Neinas has only held the title of Big 12 commissioner for a couple of weeks, but he has wasted no time in trying to piece the conference back together after former commissioner Dan Beebe stepped down with the conference in flux. From the looks of it, he’s not quite done making changes to a conference that was in dire need of just that — change.

“We have some things in mind that I’m not prepared to reveal at this point, but we’re working in a very positive way toward improving what is already a good conference,” Neinas said.

Big 12 university leaders agreed to equally share the wealth from the conference’s most lucrative television deals if its members agree to lock those top-tier TV rights into the league for at least six years.

The league’s announcement Monday was an encouraging sign for the long-term health of the conference, but it is no done deal.

Missouri is considering leaving the Big 12, possibly for the Southeastern Conference, and the university’s board of curators is scheduled to meet today in St. Louis.

Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas hopes the approval by the presidents and chancellors of equal revenue sharing and a grant of tier-one and tier-two TV rights to the league will help convince Missouri to stay instead of joining Texas A&M in the SEC.

“In an objective view, this should be a positive sign for Missouri,” Neinas said during a teleconference with reporters.

Neinas said he plans to visit with Missouri officials this week, but not before Tuesday’s curators’ meeting.

Neinas said Missouri should consider its long-standing rivalry with Kansas, the Kansas City-based Big 12 basketball tournaments and the close proximity between Columbia to other Big 12 schools.

“It’s one thing to talk about the Southeastern Conference, but how many people are going to be able to afford to travel to Gainesville, Fla., or Columbia, S.C., or Tuscaloosa, Ala.,” Neinas said. “You know, John Q. Fan, he can get in the car and drive to Big 12 games.

“Besides, Missouri is midwestern, not southern.”

The revenue-sharing model had been proposed by Texas several weeks ago, but was waiting for a vote by league presidents. Neinas said that school leaders, who make up the Big 12 Board of Directors, voted unanimously in favor of it on Sunday.

Each school must still approve the granting of TV rights, and that’s where the Missouri curators come in.

The Big 12 also plans to move forward with expansion plans, apparently regardless of what Missouri decides.

Neinas said the Big 12’s expansion committee has been “activated” and will start meeting sometime this week. Neinas said the league has been encouraged by the amount of interest other schools have shown in the Big 12.

Neinas said the move toward sharing TV rights for football and men’s basketball will help the league’s expansion efforts and pointed to the 13-year, $1 billion television deal reached with Fox Sports in April.

Chuck Neinas | Big 12 Interim Commissioner

On September 22, 2011, Dan Beebe stepped down from his position — which he had held for four years — as Big 12 Commissioner. On Tuesday, 79-year-old Chuck Neinas, a veteran in the world of college sports, will officially assume the title as interim commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.

Neinas held a media teleconference last week during which he addressed an array of pressing questions concerning his plans to piece back together the fragmented Big 12. Once a coalition of twelve powerful collegiate programs, the conference will be down to nine schools following the official departure of Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference next year.

Despite the Aggies’ departure from the Big 12, Neinas believes that Missouri will not leave. However, if Missouri does jump ship, Neinas holds that it would still be possible for the Big 12 — which would be composed of the eight remaining schools — to reestablish its legitimacy and reclaim its reputation as a powerhouse conference.

The interim commissioner is by no means intending to take a cautious approach in his pursuit of reorganizing and reviving the Big 12.

“They’ve hired me to be a commissioner and I’ll act like one,” Neinas said at the teleconference. “If you look at my record, I’m not afraid to make decisions. They can always fire me.”

Neinas stresses that trust between Big 12 schools is one of the most critical requirements for success in his endeavor to restructure the conference. Also, he acknowledges the need to mend and refine the conference’s image. Neinas has not made any remarks regarding plans of expansion.

In his more than 50 years working in the sports arena, Neinas has held a number of notable positions including commissioner of the Big 8 and the executive director the College Football Association. In 1990, Sports Illustrated ranked Neinas the 75th most powerful person in sports, and in 2003, the magazine deemed him the 10th most powerful person in college football.

Neinas is the President of Neinas Sports Services, a consulting firm responsible for assisting the University of Texas at Austin in hiring current head football coach Mack Brown.

The Texas athletic program —along with its $300 million deal with ESPN establishing the controversial Longhorn Network—is not only being blamed for disunity in the Big 12 but also as a direct cause of the departures of Nebraska, Colorado, and most recently A&M from the conference.

Neinas believed he can calm the animosity between the conferences’ schools.

“Bringing people together is what I’m going to do,” he said.

Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer thinks Neinas is a perfect fit for the job.

“When I heard Beebe was leaving, Neinas was the first guy I thought of. He knows every athletic director in the country... He’s the one who can rein in Texas, if it can be done. That’s what they’ve got to have.”

Neinas has made clear that he is “not a candidate in any way shape or form on a permanent basis.” However, with his reputation, Neinas could be the temporary hero that the Big 12 needs to rescue it from its current state of dissolution.

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Interim commissioner Neinas vows to revive, organize Big 12.

Well, the Big 12 is going to stay alive, but Dan Beebe’s time as conference commissioner has come to an end.

Beebe fell on the sword for the Big 12 on Thursday, stepping down as commissioner in order to appease Oklahoma University, which said it would remain in the conference as long as there was a new commissioner in charge.

“I put all my effort into doing what was best for the Big 12,” Beebe said in a statement. “With great fondness, I wish the Big 12 Conference a long and prosperous future.”

Former Big Eight commissioner Chuck Neinas will serve as the interim commissioner.

Beebe, 54, was named commissioner in 2007. He guided the conference through last summer’s thunderstorm, holding strong despite the losses of Nebraska and Colorado. That effort got him a three-year extension to his contract, through 2015.

But he had received recent criticism for being partial to Texas, allowing the Longhorn Network to air a conference game — Kansas.

Beebe’s legacy will be a mixed one. He allowed other conferences to poach Big 12 schools — Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference, Nebraska to the Big 10, Colorado to the Pac 12. But he also kept the conference intact last summer, when it looked to be on its last breath. Beebe also was in charge when the league agreed to a $1 billion TV deal with FOX last spring.

“We sincerely thank Dan who has always demonstrated a total commitment to what is in the best interest of the Big 12 Conference,” said University of Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, also the chairman of the conference’s board of directors.

“His energy, devotion and skill in negotiating on our behalf have been tremendous assets that have benefited our member institutions, our student athletes, our athletic programs and all our fans.”

But his final action — a selfless and brave one — should be commended. And it proves that despite everything else, Beebe cared most about keeping the conference together.

“It is satisfying to know the Big 12 Conference will survive,” Beebe said. “I congratulate the members for taking strong action to ensure a bright future as a premier intercollegiate athletics conference.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Printed on Friday, September 23, 2011 as: "Dan Beebe out as Big 12 head, future unclear for conference."