Part 2 in a three-part series
The Big 12 Conference's existing television partnership has remained a hot-button topic as has the future media value of a 10-team league. Dan Beebe addressed both topics during his Tuesday teleconference, admitting "those didn't look very good without Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma," who were all pursued by other BCS conferences recently. He also said the league won't look at increasing its membership and discussed the possible future of the Big 12 football championship game.
What was the "ah-ha" moment for you over the weekend. At what point did you just know the Big 12 had prevailed and won the day?
BEEBE: "I'd say that was more yesterday. That was the day I was informed of the commitment of the rest of the institutions and, again, Texas Tech is very honorable and said we have our board meeting set for Tuesday and we really can't do anything until then, but the rest of the ones that preceded yesterday's was the time I had the commitment and until that time, you never know for sure."
So even on Sunday you were uncertain and weren't 100 percent confident?
BEEBE: "That's correct. I don't feel 100 percent confident until the final whistle. And I'm waiting for the final whistle from Texas Tech, and like I said, I have every indication that they're going to make the similar commitment that you've seen from the rest of the universities."
The talking points you had at Kansas City at the Big 12 meetings, I guess I'm making a guess here, but you went back to those over the weekend when you had conversations with the schools. Am I right on that? Was there any new or additional information that you were able to present?
BEEBE: "That was certainly what we've been accenting and really it hasn't varied very much at all. With the departures of Colorado and Nebraska, we worked hard with our current media partners to request and ask and get a commitment that they would not diminish our rights. That was extremely helpful in that it provided the same revenue source but with two less institutions to distribute it to. That was very, very appreciative to ABC, ESPN and FOX for not negotiating a reduction of our rights. They have been great, great partners since the inception of the conference and have given us every indication that they wanted to continue if we remained as a viable 10-member conference. They also, in the spirit of that dedication to us, said that they would not do anything to try and diminish our rights with the two departing members. That provided us with a great platform and as I said, we got very strong verification and information about the future media right deals that we can be able to achieve.
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"It's been stated clearly that the staggered rights situation that I inherited, although it was deemed to be at the time for good reasons a good situation to be in to guarantee that you'd always have coverage, that hasn't been what's been beneficial in the recent marketplace. We'll be looking at that strongly and trying to sync up our rights so that we're in a future position that will make us be able to take advantage of the marketplace."
It's my understanding that you were receiving calls of support from outside the Big 12 about wanting to have this thing stay together. Can you comment generally on that and what the reaction from outside the Big 12 was?
BEEBE: "My mom was calling me a lot and family members. (laugh) Look, I'm very blessed and fortunate to have had a tremendous career with a lot of good friends over the 28 years that I've been in this business, who were giving me good support personally and professionally. There are a lot of people that felt this wouldn't be good for college athletics if the Big 12 seized to exist. Those people helped to work for our existence to continue. Of course, even if I was standing on the outside, I'd like to think I'd agree with that. This results, any trying time at least in my life, results in a very spiritual type of connection to make sure I'm carrying out what I believe is the will of our higher being here to make sure we continue. That's been something that's been important. Even though this is college athletics and not something of greater significance in the lives of a lot of people, it's still a very big significance to a lot of people in this region and at these universities. I think we got to a great place."
How comfortable are you with no signed agreement and just a president's word and the promise of a new TV deal. Is that enough for fans to not have any worry whatsoever about what could happen?
BEEBE: "I'm very, very comfortable. Trying to get into the media's heads and the fans' heads, I think a lot of what the fans feel is explained by how you in the journalistic field treat this and I know there's a lot of excitement about trying to see where the hearses are going and I would hope those of you who have responsibility to portray what is going on in terms of the sports world and our situation are going to understand how positive this is and what a positive development it is. Certainly as we continue on, we will solidify these commitments not just in terms of what has been stated on a high moral ground by presidents and chancellors of the institutions and through their boards, but also through media contracts as we go forward. I'm very comfortable with the commitments we've been able to gain. I don't think they were made with a very deliberative process with what has been clearly outlined as exploration, appropriate exploration by our institutions for other opportunities and even after that exploration the decision was made that this is the best place for these nine and now hopefully soon to be 10 institutions."
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Texas President (William) Powers that there have been some reports about -- I don't know how you'd characterize -- extra benefits that were going to be given to Texas and possibly Texas A&M and Oklahoma. He said he is against that and would oppose that and it didn't come from them. Can you just clarify if there was anything different done to the charter or the way things would be divided up for Texas and maybe those other schools?T
BEEBE: "Well, there were five institutions, and it's been well written about, that weren't being pursued as dramatically as at least Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Those five institutions were looking at a possibly very difficult future even if they repopulated the Big 12 in terms of their future media value and looking at probably significantly less revenue possibility. They came together and they wanted to make sure, they looked at life and the media evaluations we had going forward, and those didn't look very good without Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. It's no surprise those were the three member institutions that were pursued by multiple conferences, frankly. So those five institutions, in their judgment, decided that as they looked at the future media value, they wanted to ensure that those institutions stay with them and were willing to, if necessary, and I fully anticipate when we do our future media deal it won't be, but if necessary, to use some of the distribution that they might get from particularly departing members to make sure Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas were induced to stay with them and stay in the conference.
"I heard and I've talked to Texas about it and they were appreciative of that interest. That wasn't a driver for them to stay and it wasn't something that they were considering, necessarily. But that was something that the other five were willing to commit to."
So there was a commitment for that from the other five?
BEEBE: "Yes. The other five among themselves, they wanted to make sure that was conveyed to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M in regard to their consideration about whether they go somewhere else."
Did you get much of a fight out of Colorado or Nebraska for the distribution for the next year, or for Nebraska, two years? I know Nebraska Chancellor (Harvey) Perlman said that would've be appropriate but I would suggest you guys think something different about that.
BEEBE: "Our bylaws require us to withhold any distributions from departing members, which is what we will do, and then distribute those to the members. Those five were willing to hold out. It hasn't been completed yet, there's a lot of last-minute scrambling, but I think part of their thinking is we would hold our the distribution that would've gone to us from those member institutions and use that to help Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas hopefully stay in the conference and overcome the significant revenue projections that they were getting for going to another conference or two."
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What would you say to the people who feel that Texas pulled somewhat of a power play here and they had too much influence before and now with their own television network on the horizon, and like you said, some of the additional money from the departing schools, now have even more influence?
BEEBE: "Texas has a lot of influence. They're a very significant member institution and I think that also you have to look at that in regard to Texas A&M and Oklahoma. They were very hotly pursued by a number of conferences. That has to be emphasized. They had options to go to a number of conferences that had a more beneficial rights situation based on recent deals that they did. Their value based on their marketplace and their history, tradition and success -- all three of those institutions were desirable to others and frankly could've left for a pretty good situation.
"One of the big misnomers is this is all about money because they are committed to this conference for more reasons than that. That needs to be emphasized. Certainly, we look at the projections of our resources and everybody can profit greatly, but I don't think you can put one institution in that grouping alone as having the ability to do something different. It was something that all three looked at in earnest and it was a considerable decision by all three to remain and we need all three to continue to be strong members of the conference and all other members are very valuable contributors. But I don't think you can ignore the market value of some institutions based on the success and location of their programs. The others understand and part of our revenue distribution formula that was developed when the conference was formed was to acknowledge that and to acknowledge the tradition and history that programs have built. It's not discriminatory.
"There are successful basketball programs in our conference that get more than other programs because of the revenue distribution we have with the men's basketball tournament. It's not discriminatory. You get your programs in a certain position and you can be successful. In fact, the Pac-10 has a more district revenue distribution from television money than we do. A lot has been made of that. I think there's been a full exploration of that in our conference but I also think there's a comfort level now in the fact if you build your program, you can develop the revenue to go along with it. Back to your original question, this wasn't just a Texas effort, there were other institutions that had very significant offers and opportunities."
And you're not worried that when Texas does start its own television network -- it seems that the Pac-10 wasn't going to let them do that seemingly because if that television network is incredibly successful, there's only so much money to go around. You're not worried that when the Longhorn or Bevo Network gets going and up and running that there will be considerably less money for the remaining nine schools in the Big 12?
Page 5 of 6 - BEEBE: "Well, I guess it's the same question you could ask about SEC deal because they have the same situation with their institutions. In fact, they have a greater situation so that in their recent rights deal every institution gets to exploit a football game. We don't have that currently. Florida has a very great distribution system and gets a lot from that opportunity. So, certainly that's a model that we're going to be very interested in the future for all of our members. It's very unfair and unfortunate that only Texas is being painted in that category because others of our institutions have a high interest in distributing content in some form or fashion. That's something that has been important to the members of our conference and certainly was something of consideration, but it wasn't just Texas that had that consideration. I think it's very unfair to paint one institution in a different position than others.
"Texas A&M has a very successful distribution of their content on their Web site with 190 contests being done. In the future, a lot of institutions may do that because it may not be content that would be of real note regionally or nationally to anybody other than their supporters and their alumni. In our model, we think like in the SEC model, that for content that's going to go unexploited, we don't want it warehoused or anything else. The Big Ten didn't have that history and they were able to more comfortably move to not have those distributions because, frankly, they didn't have much of it going on in the first place. But our conference and the SEC has had a history of that. There's a high desire not to interfere with it."
You said at the Big 12 meetings that 12 is the ideal number. Have you come off that? Have you decided that 10 is the new ideal and if you do stay at 10 will you try to pursue a conference championship game?
BEEBE: "Certainly, the 12 that we had was the ideal number. The 10 that are remaining, as we look at it, now that we have it, there are a lot of positive feelings about having 10, about having a nine-game football schedule, which a lot of our members have wanted in the past, and having a double round-robin basketball schedule. So everybody has a chance to see the great basketball teams come to their arena every year. Certainly, Kansas has had a lot of success and there's a lot of excitement about having a team like Kansas in your arena every year. I think as we talked about this after the departures of our two members, my statement about 12 was more about not going bigger than 12. Now that we're at 10, there's been a lot of positive reaction about that and we're not looking to expand at all and certainly we wouldn't look to expand with any institutions that are in our geographic five-state area now. We're very comfortable with where we are. There's no interest in having an expansion review at this point and I don't think it's going to come in the future.
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"As far as a championship game, we can petition, and I know my colleagues would support having less than 12 members and still having a championship. I've had that indication. I'm not sure if we're going to do that or not. There are a lot of benefits to having a nine-game schedule, scheduling out to that weekend in December where you can get a lot of exposure, and then also not have the potential to knockoff a team that could have the potential to play in the national championship game. Those things will be considered. We'll have some meetings coming up to decide how we want to structure it, but my indication without having a full meeting is that the 10 members that we have are sufficient and that there's no interest to expand further."