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.