New Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told CBSSports.com on Friday he believes Missouri wants to stay in the Big 12 despite reports the Tigers are flirting with the SEC and he will do his best to keep Texas A&M from leaving.
"My belief is that Missouri would like to stay in the Big 12 but I also know that this is a question that they must work through with their Board of Curators," Neinas said. "They may have a different idea."
Neinas told CBSSports.com he believes Texas A&M is "probably gone." But Friday evening on a conference call, Neinas said he still hopes to convince Texas A&M to remain in the Big 12.
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"They belong in the Big 12, that's where they belong," Neinas said. "Their history belongs in the Big 12, from the Southwest Conference where they were born and bred."
Neinas admits it's a long shot that the Aggies don't go to the SEC, but hasn't given up. "Sometimes a 100-to-1 shot comes home," Neinas said.
As far as the league's expansion, Neinas said he believes the league prefers 10 schools -- although Oklahoma president David Boren said Thursday night the league wants 12 teams.
"I have not talked to anyone in the Big 12 about expansion, except that they told me they have an expansion committee," said Neinas, whose first official day on the job is Oct. 3.
As far as potential teams, the most likely candidates that have been reported for the Big 12 are independent BYU and Big East members TCU and Louisville. Neinas said he's not concerned if the team or teams that the Big 12 takes from another conference could damage or even eliminate that conference.
"I'm looking at the best candidates for the conference," Neinas said.
On Thursday, Boren said that the Big 12 presidents had agreed to grant their Tier 1 and Tier 2 television rights to the conference for the next six years. If that becomes a reality, then it is virtually assured that the Big 12 will survive for the foreseeable future when earlier this week it appeared to be on life support. That means if a school leaves the Big 12, the conference still would retain their television rights in football. "It was a very important item to show that we mean business about staying together," Boren said in a press briefing attended by athletics director Joe Castiglione and football coach Bob Stoops.
But in a simultaneous press conference, Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton did not sound as certain that his school was going to remain in the Big 12. Media reports in Kansas City and Birmingham said that the SEC has an informal offer out to Missouri to join if the school is free to go without any legal entanglements. Big 12 member Baylor has previously indicated that it might pursue legal action if Texas A&M leaves to join the SEC, which has extended an invitation.
If Neinas can implement this deal and keep the rest of the Big 12 together, then Baylor will be protected and then it is expected that Texas A&M will be free to join the SEC.
Neinas will replace Dan Beebe, who resigned his position on Thursday amid pressure from several Big 12 presidents, especially Boren.
Neinas is well respected throughout the college athletics community and has conducted numerous executive searches for members of the Big 12.
Neinas lives will shuttle between his home in Boulder, Colo., and Dallas as he goes about the task of holding the Big 12 together. He meets with the Big 12 athletics directors Wednesday.
"It's a group of people that I care about," Neinas said when asked why he took the job. "But we have a lot of work to do."
Neinas was the commissioner of the Big Eight from 1971-1990. Then he became the first and only executive director of the College Football Association, a group of football playing schools that banded together to negotiate their television rights. After that he founded a consulting business and executive search firm, Neinas Sports Services.
"It comes down to one word: Trust," Neinas said. "I've got to make sure a trust exists among the conference members."
CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy contributed to this report. Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.