Ousted Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe says he touted equal revenue sharing and members handing their television rights to the conference years ago, but the schools — and not just Texas — liked the idea of being able to start their own networks.
Beebe said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday that Oklahoma, Nebraska and even Texas A&M were interested in “developing their own distribution systems” for their sports programs.
The Big 12 recently agreed to switch to equal revenue sharing after years in which the schools that made the most television appearances received the most money.
The eight remaining schools — not including Missouri, which is considering a switch to the Southeastern Conference — also agreed to hand their most lucrative television rights over to the conference for six years, a move that makes it practically impossible for members to switch leagues.
Beebe said he first brought up equal revenue sharing in 2008 and the members never even voted on it. Nebraska, which left the Big 12 for the Big Ten last year, was among the schools against equal revenue sharing.
In 2009, ahead of negotiations on a new television contract, Beebe said he asked the members to grant the conference their top-tier TV rights, and the schools balked again without it ever going to a vote.
“Had we been able to do that none of the schools probably would of had a chance to leave because a significant amount of their rights would have been with the conference,” he said.
Now that the Big 12 has moved to implement the ideas Beebe had pushed for in the past, he said it's “bittersweet.”
“It's sweet because hopefully it will be what binds this conference together and I have a great love for the conference,” he said. “But it's bitter because had we taken these actions previously we may have been able to avoid the problems that have occurred.”
Beebe also said he was disappointed to find out Texas A&M already had been working toward a move to the SEC before he was allowed to address the Aggies' concerns about Texas' Longhorn Network.
A&M officials were upset about plans for high school games to be aired on the Longhorn Network, a plan that ended up being scrapped.
“I found out later that there had been a meeting between Texas A&M officials and SEC officials prior to us having the ability to address (the Aggies') grievances,” he said.
“I think the conference decisions that were made by the members as a whole ended up being a place that addressed many of their grievances. Maybe not perfectly, but more to their favor than not.”
In the summer of 2010, the Big 12 was on the verge of collapse. Nebraska left for the Big Ten, and Colorado joined the Pac-12. Texas A&M was considering a move to the Southeastern Conference and Texas and Oklahoma, along with their sister schools Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, were looking at creating a Pac-16.
Ultimately, the 10 remaining members committed to stay together and Beebe negotiated a 13-year, $1 billion television deal with Fox Sports.
But when Texas struck a huge deal with ESPN to start to the Longhorn Network, a 20-year, $300 million venture between the university and network, it changed the dynamic in the league.
“The institutional networks were part of the design of what we were doing when we were negotiating our contract with Fox,” Beebe said. “We were for the first time deliberately setting out to reserve the right for every school to do a football game and to do significant other content that wasn't able to be done previously.
“What wasn't counted on in allowing that was the degree of support and the amount of revenue that was able to be achieved by the Longhorn Network and even (Texas Athletic Director) DeLoss Dodds has said that isn't something he thought was going to happen either.”
Beebe was pushed out of the job he had held for five years last month and replaced on an interim basis by Chuck Neinas, the former Big Eight commissioner.
Beebe said he was never given a specific reason as to why he was fired.
University of Oklahoma President David Boren led the push for Beebe's removal.
“Obviously there were some concerns he had about the fact that three members had left during my tenure and whether I could have done anything differently or not that was a factor,” Beebe said. “It's their right to do what they did. And I have nothing but respect and admiration for the institutions and a great love for the conference and its schools and the citizens they represent.
“I didn't get specifics about what decisions I had made or didn't make so I could address those specifically. But that's fine. It was more nebulous. It was more, ‘We just need to go in a different direction.“'
The Big 12 invited TCU last week to join the league, which would push membership back to 10, if Missouri stays.
Beebe, naturally, said Missouri would be best served by staying.
He also said he has been in contact with Neinas and has offered any assistance he can provide in helping keep the conference together.
“The Big 12 Conference is bigger than me,” he said. “Personally, (being fired) hurt. It hurt to have some really false things put out in the press that your whole family reads and your colleagues read, but the fact of the matter is when I step back … I love this group of schools, its survival and its strength going forward is more worthwhile than my personal situation.”