interim commissioner

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."