Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said Friday he believes Missouri is committed to the beleaguered conference, despite the mixed messages from dueling news conferences Thursday night.
While OU President David Boren announced commitment from all nine remaining Big 12 schools, Mizzou chancellor Brady Deaton said his school was committed to pursuing stability but wanted to make sure necessary reforms were passed, apparently including equal revenue sharing of conference television contracts.
Neinas said Missouri “has to go through the board of curators to get their approval. I don't know exactly when that will occur.”
Neinas said he will visit Texas A&M and attempt to recruit the Aggies back from their desire to join the Southeastern Conference, but “I think the Aggies are probably going to go and I do think Missouri's going to stay.
“What the chancellor (Deaton) told me, he has some curators who are new and they are interested in discussing some things. In the end, I believe they will be resolved.”
Missouri has been mentioned as a candidate for the SEC, and Neinas said “you've got to be concerned” about Missouri possibly leaving the Big 12. But he said the conference would still be viable at eight schools. “There's a lot of strength in the conference,” Neinas said. “We'd have to assess the landscape.”
Boren said all the schools agreed to sign a granting of rights to the conference, which tie the schools' traditional television revenue to the Big 12 for six years. Such a policy would keep schools from leaving the conference, since their television money would belong to the Big 12.
Deaton did not address that issue in his Missouri news conference, but Neinas said it was an important issue.
“If the institutions take this step, then there's no question,” Neinas said. “They're basically locked in. During that period of time (six years), hopefully they can solidify things.”
Neinas said that from afar, he would describe the Big 12's turbulent 15 months since last May this way. “I think it comes down to one word. Trust. Gotta make sure there is a trust that exists between the members.”
Neinas conducted a 40-minute teleconference. Here are his views on a variety of subjects:
On why he took the job, which came open when Dan Beebe was forced out earlier this week: “I have strong affinity to the conference and a number of people who are involved in it. I'm pretty well-acquainted with most of the athletic directors. I know all the football coaches. It's a remnant of the Big Eight Conference, which was dear to my heart for a number of years.”
Neinas was Big Eight commissioner from 1971-80.
“Again, it's going to sound corny,” Neinas said. “But I can't help it. I have a strong affection for that conference. The Big Eight was very good to me. People don't know this, but you can ask Donnie Duncan, DeLoss Dodds (the athletic directors at OU and Texas, respectively, who put the Big 12 together), I was kind of in the background, helping the league get formed.
“I've got a lot of friends I've worked with who are involved. Doggone it, if I can be of assistance, I'm willing to try.”
On whether he would be the league's primary voice: “If they've hired me to be the commissioner, I'll act like the commissioner. I might be there for the interim. But if you look at my record, I'm not afraid to make decisions.
“I would say this. If your employers are thinking you made the right decision, that's how you gain authority. They can always fire me.”
On what is the best number for expansion, 10, 12, more? “I can only go by what I've heard. The Big 12 seems to think 10. At least for them. The Super Conference idea, relative to expansion, I'm not in position to make an honest judgment. I know the conference has an expansion committee.”
Dodds said his preference is 10. But Boren and OSU President Burns Hargis both said they preferred 12.
On what he could tell A&M in an effort to get the Aggies to stay? “They belong in the Big 12. That's where they belong. History. I'm a history major. I think their history belongs in the Big 12. They're from the Southwest Conference. They're from the state of Texas. That's where they were born and bred.
“I've known (A&M athletic director) Bill Byrne for many, many years. I was in the search (as a consultant) when he went to A&M. I don't know what the answer will be. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
On his role in hiring a permanent commissioner? “I will offer my services to assist in the search, if they would like me to do that. That has been my business for a dozen years, helping institute searches for coaches and athletic directors.”
On whether the Big 12 would consider the potential harm to another conference when searching for members? “I'm looking at the best candidates for the conference.”
Neinas did say he would suspend his consulting work, except for a project on which he has been working with the Mountain West and Conference USA, apparently an alliance for those leagues to square off in a championship game.
Neinas said he would talk with those league's commissioners should the Big 12 seek a candidate from C-USA or the Mountain West.
On whether he would be a candidate for the job full-time? “I had a very stress-free job before taking this one. So no, I am not a candidate in any way, shape or form on a permanent basis.”