KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If it's possible, the Big 12 left here more fractured than when it arrived.
Commissioner Dan Beebe wanted a full plane by the end of the week at his spring meetings. He came away from his own spring meetings with a load of ----.
Nothing is settled as the conference realignment moves on inexorably. Missouri and Nebraska hemmed and hawed about their future plans -- whatever they are. Kansas AD Lew Perkins proclaimed this was "serious, serious, serious stuff," while his own future at KU seems to be in jeopardy.
Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne disparaged the Pac-10 while a report claimed his school was about to join the league lured by a promise of $20 million free and clear each year.
No one besides Iowa State and Baylor seemed to be pledging loyalty. Check that. Iowa State checked out. The president and AD put out a statement Friday saying the fix is in: "... the Big 12 is not in our control -- it is in the hands of a few of our fellow institutions."
Poor Beebe. Things are changing that fast. He came to a luxury hotel in Kansas City for five days to hear and read various accounts of his league breaking up. It came to a head Thursday when, confronted with that Pac-10 story, he left the hotel abruptly, media trailing behind him.
Before the media circus left town -- by the way, love that closet side aside for us to work in -- Beebe tried to calm fears that his league was breaking up. But it's not really a league, or even "a few of our fellow institutions." It's a team. Texas. Keep Texas and you keep the Big 12 together, in some form. Yes, Nebraska and Missouri are on the street corner hiking up their skirts from the johns from the Big Ten. But any league with Texas committed is a viable conference.
The Longhorns control the future. Theirs, the Big 12's, maybe college athletics'. In the coming (or at least predicted) realignment it's obvious Texas is king.
It is the jewel that can't get away if you're the Big 12. It would also make some conference lucky enough to snag it. Perhaps the biggest news of the week was Friday's story in the Columbus Dispatch that detailed correspondence between Ohio State president Gordon Gee and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany regarding Texas.
Message: Texas is interested.
Well, there it is, isn't it? Texas isn't loyal to the Big 12. Texas is loyal to Texas. And as long as that is the case, why should any school be loyal to the Big 12?
Thursday's shocking report that the Pac-10 may invite six Big 12 schools supported my theory: We're still months away from anything. The Pac-10 isn't going to invite anyone this weekend at the league's spring meetings in San Francisco. But I'm sure pretty much everything you can think of is on the table.
Notre Dame and Texas in the Big Ten, a 20-team Big Ten, a 16-team Pac-10, even a world where the Big Ten does nothing. The problem for the Dan Beebes of the world is that closed-door discussions are starting to leak out. It doesn't mean they're right but it's embarrassing as hell for a commissioner in a defensive position.
Beebe has one swing left to hit a home run. He keeps alluding to a windfall waiting down the line. He is referring to the new deal coming with Fox Sports Net. The network finished an aggressive second in the bidding for the ACC rights so it supposedly has money to burn. In the end, that might be the best play for Texas. It has won conference and national championships in the Big 12, gone to the Final Four, become the dominant amateur athletic entity in the country. Try counting to $138 million. That's the amount of Texas' athletic budget.
It's a burnt orange Catch-22, though. Beebe can't negotiate with Fox until April. His teams can negotiate with a new conference every day. Beebe should be thankful he has Texas. This week.