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Dan Beebe didn't kill the Big 12; he saved it

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm •  Published: April 23, 2011

Dan Beebe once was an NCAA investigator, a job which commands all the public appeal of an IRS agent. “Only NCAA guy I ever liked,” cracked Barry Switzer, even though Beebe was on the infamous 1989 OU case.

Beebe was an onion-picker, too, at the age of 12, the son of an alcoholic father, needing to make a little money in his dysfunctional family.

Beebe also was a rugby player. Not that long ago. The 53-year-old Beebe played the rugged sport until he was 43.

Are you starting to see a trend? Are you starting to see why this guy who some said was allowing the Big 12 to die instead was the man who saved it?

Dan Beebe is tough. Smart, yes, but more tough than smart. More tough than anything.

The Big 12 commissioner is a competitor. Those who blamed Beebe for the exits of Nebraska and Colorado were clueless, but none of us had any idea how strong was the Big 12 leader.

First, Beebe kept the remaining 10 teams together by making financial promises. Now, he's delivered on the promise, with a 13-year, $90-million-per-year contract with Fox Sports.

The Big 12 is stable. Still no assurance that some school won't bolt sometime in the next decade and start the madness all over again, but even those still quietly talking further conference realignment admit Beebe has produced revenue that will make anyone hesitate to jump.

Truth is, the Big 12 is more stable now with 10 teams than it was with 12.

Anyone who played college football — offensive line, Cal Poly-Pomona — then met his physical fix with another two decades of rugby, does not give in lightly.

“We played hard, tried to win the game, then would meet the visiting team at the local pub,” Beebe said.

But Beebe was competitive long before rugby. “That came from rather difficult circumstances,” Beebe said, referring to growing up in Walla Walla, Wash. “I got a lot of lessons through athletics I wasn't going to get in my home life.”

Beebe went to junior college, Cal Poly and finally law school at Cal-Hastings.

The NCAA was hiring, so Beebe signed on. He worked SMU's Pony Excess case and OU's.

It's a natural step from NCAA cop to conference commissioner. The SEC's Mike Slive and the Big Ten's Jim Delany also were NCAA detectives before becoming conference power-brokers.

“We had to have a kind of personality, go in and deal with tough issues,” Beebe said. “Deal with people from all walks of life exposed to all areas of intercollegiate athletics.”

Boosters. Athletic directors. Presidents. Coaches.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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