Last June, the Big 12 had all the solidarity of the last days of the Soviet Union. A confederation tied together with baling wire.
This June, the Big 12 is united. Would surprise no one if we caught Big 12 fathers roasting marshmallows at the conference meetings, singing kumbaya.
The 10 remaining Big 12 schools stand arm in arm, extolling their commitment to each other and their desire to let no other school in the league.
The Big 12 this month even voted in equitable revenue-sharing for its new Fox cable contract. If you've got extra icepicks sitting around, mail them to Hell.
“I think it's a good overall sign of health and stability of the Big 12 moving forward,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw told me the other day. “It's great to see so much cohesiveness of the conference. What a difference a year makes.”
The remaining 10 adore the new setup. Expansion back to 12 schools is not even on the horizon. “It's a non-issue,” McCaw said.
Not to pick at scabs, but the Big 12 has been all lovey-dovey since Nebraska left. I know the Cornhuskers tried to paint Texas as the troublemaker in the Big 12 firestorm, and it's always fun to throw stones at the Longhorns.
But as soon as Nebraska went out the door, everyone started getting along swimmingly. Even voted in equitable revenue-sharing, which always was a deal-breaker for UT, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Maybe the Huskers were the problem all along.
Oh, you can't get anyone to say that. Commissioner Dan Beebe is the only one still willing to sling arrows at Nebraska. “On the Nebraska point, they never really liked, or at least (athletic director) Tom Osborne never really liked, the Big 12, I don't think,” Beebe told ESPN radio in Austin, Texas, earlier this month.
Osborne's final year coaching Husker football was 1997. He returned to campus in 2007 as athletic director. Less than three years later, Nebraska had left the league.
In an interview with ESPN, Beebe expressed regret for coming down so hard on Osborne, but then reaffirmed his original claim: “From the day that I sat down with him when he became the athletic director, he expressed strong concern about a lot of the things that happened when the Big 12 was formed, even though it was 13 or 14 or 15 years previous.”
So it's not a stretch to imagine a stress-free meeting room when Big 12 athletic directors meet. Did you ever lose a cantankerous co-worker? Makes going to work a whole lot more enjoyable.
For years, some Big 12 leaders — Oklahoma State's Mike Holder, Beebe himself — fought for equitable revenue sharing. Holder's mantra was echoed by Baylor's McCaw: “I feel that you're only as strong as your weakest link.”
That point finally hit home in the revenue-sharing. The new Fox deal will be split evenly, and 76 percent of the current ABC contract will be shared equally.
Part of the Big 12's money was set aside for teams that appeared more on television or moved games around to accommodate TV. OU's Joe Castiglione said athletic directors decided that instead of a system with so much minutia — this team was on this network, this team was on that network — “it just seemed we were going to be closer to revenue sharing anyway. Why not just make the decision to share it all?”
What exactly led to the vote? The kumbaya spirit or the newfound riches of the $1.17 billion Fox contract?
“Yes and yes,” Castiglione said.
Maybe the new Longhorn network helped, too. Armed with what it really wanted — its own network for events not on the conference television packages — maybe Texas was in a more cooperative spirit.
Sure, it all means more money for Texas. But it means more money for everyone, and the Longhorns always are going to grow money on trees, so why get upset about it?
That school that left the Big 12 did get upset about it. The schools that remain did not. And now everyone in the league smiles on their brother.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.