OU president David Boren says Big 12 needed a fresh start

BY TRAVIS HANEY, Staff Writer, thaney@opubco.com Modified: September 23, 2011 at 7:55 am •  Published: September 22, 2011

NORMAN – A “virtual tie” between the Pac-12 and Big 12 was broken this week in Oklahoma president David Boren's mind on the basis of reforms in the Sooners' current league.

But the breadth of those Big 12 changes was still in question as of late Thursday night.

An early evening conference call with the league's leadership led to a news conference at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in which Boren declared “victory” for his school.

Multiple Big 12 sources said later, though, that the win was not quite as measurable as Boren told reporters.

Yes, he did help force the ouster of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. Boren was not shy in voicing disappointment in Beebe's role in allowing Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M to look toward other leagues.

“I'm alarmed that in 15 months we lost three teams,” Boren said. “I am aware, in detail, of how some of those situations played out. I didn't think it was necessary or inevitable that we would have lost those teams. I felt we needed a fresh start.”

Beebe, who resigned Thursday afternoon, will be replaced next week on an interim basis by former Big Eight commissioner Chuck Neinas.

In the second component of reform, one designed to enhance stability, Boren said the Big 12 schools would allow the league to control their individual media rights packages for six years, beginning in 2012.

The grant of rights would, as Boren said, “handcuff” the schools together and prevent another round of conference upheaval. If a school, hypothetically, left for another league, its TV rights would remain with the Big 12. That would make it incredibly undesirable to any other conference.

“A six-year grant of rights — of our television rights, Tier 1 and Tier 2 — was agreed to by all the institutions' presidents,” Boren said during the news conference.

That statement was not entirely true, at least not to that degree. While the grant of rights was discussed on the call, several league sources said there was no agreement but rather only the pursuit of one.

One source familiar with the conference call intimated that it's all a matter of semantics, considering only Boren, Oklahoma State's Burns Hargis and Texas' Bill Powers were given power this week to make conference decisions without board approval. The rest of the schools would need a vote from their respective boards.

While that is true, at least one source said that the door is still cracked for schools to back out on the grant of rights. One of the schools requiring board approval is Missouri, which had been entertaining overtures from the SEC.

Chancellor Brady Deaton, the chairman of the Big 12's leaders, held a news conference at the same time Boren did. He did not mention the finality of any agreement about the grant of rights.

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