Kevin Weiberg served his apprenticeship. Now it's on to the big time.
There aren't any comparable jobs open, so the Big 12 commissioner made a less-than-lateral move to the Big Ten on Thursday. It made perfect sense for Weiberg, the Big Ten and college athletics.
College athletics? Sorry SEC, but when the Big Ten sneezes, the rest of you bring a Kleenex.
These things don't happen often. The last major conference to change commissioners was the SEC five years ago. Roy Kramer retired and was replaced by Mike Slive. Weiberg left after 8½ years in the sometimes-turbulent Big 12 for the Big Ten Network. Not a commissioner's job, a commissioner-in-waiting job.
Judge for yourself by Weiberg's new title: Vice president of university planning and development. In other words, a job created for him by the man he will eventually replace -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
This is big news because Delany is arguably the most powerful man in college sports. His teams have the most combined living alumni. The fan base is roughly one-quarter of the U.S. population stretching -- in terms of the all-important TV "footprint" -- from Chicago to New York.
Who should take over the Big 12?
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Delany is nearing 60. That's not old in commissioner years by any means. But there has been speculation that retirement, or another job, is looming.
If he left right now, Delany's crowning achievement might eventually be the Big Ten Network, which kicks off in August. The network has plenty of financial backing (DirecTV and Fox). It's still a risk considering that even the NFL is having trouble clearing spots on the cable dial for its network. But the launching of the network shows how much usually conservative school presidents believe in it.
When/if it does succeed, Weiberg will be in the middle of it.
This move is his breather before getting back in the ring. The Big 12 was fractured from day one, with a North vs. South mentality. Weiberg arrived in October 1998 after the controversial departure of first commissioner Steve Hatchell. But he kept all sides together, raising revenue as its teams raised championship banners.
Oklahoma and Texas have won football national championships since 2000. Big 12 basketball on Big Monday has been a rousing success, an unexpected bonus in 1996 when the league was formed.
Weiberg leaves having finalized a new round of TV contracts. Now all he has to do is launch a network.