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The Big 12 Conference should have listened to Kevin Weiberg

COMMENTARY — The league’s former commissioner wanted to form a Big 12 Network. But he couldn’t sell it to enough schools, and now the Big 12 has been passed by other conferences and their channels.
by Berry Tramel Published: September 2, 2014

/articleid/5338213/1/pictures/2738388">Photo - KANSAS CITY, MO. 7/20/04.      BIG 12 COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg speaks at the Big 12 Media Days in Kansas City, Mo. Staff photo by Emily Schwarze.
KANSAS CITY, MO. 7/20/04. BIG 12 COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg speaks at the Big 12 Media Days in Kansas City, Mo. Staff photo by Emily Schwarze.

Meanwhile, in the Big 12, Texas and ESPN connive to get as many as three games a year on Bevo TV, and Kansas State, a top-20 program by any definition, can’t get its season opener televised even in Kansas.

The SEC Network is televising some of the conference’s best games, notably the Texas A&M-South Carolina opener last Thursday and Arkansas-Auburn on Saturday. The Big Ten Network will reap the conference schools a combined $3 billion over 25 years while it promotes the conference 24/7/365. The Pac-12 Network, despite distribution problems, is part of the most lucrative media contract in the nation.

The Big 12 could have been out in front of the conference television idea. Weiberg heavily promoted it. Tried to sell it. He was consistently rebuffed.

“I don’t know that we ever put it to a formal vote,” Weiberg said. “But it was obvious you couldn’t get there.” Conference bylaws required nine votes. But there were never more than eight in agreement, and even Kansas, wondering how it would affect its hoops, had serious questions.

“Hard to find that super majority consensus around it,” Weiberg said.

And now conference networks are all the rage, with the ACC considering joining the club. Meanwhile, Texas and its Longhorn Network contract safely keep the Big 12 from considering a conference channel for 17 more years.

Weiberg resigned from the Pac-12 earlier this year and moved back to his native Kansas, in the Wichita area, for family reasons. He’s consulting, still helping the Pac-12 and working on a University of Oregon project. He knows more about conference television networks than any man in America.

“I think they have been successful, by and large,” Weiberg said. “They’ve been sources of revenue for the schools, but they’ve also been great exposure vehicles. Lot of games don’t get on. Especially for the Olympic sports. Great to have an ongoing, year-round conversation about intercollegiate athletics and the conference.”

The conference networks can come in many shapes. Fox Sports owns 51 percent of the Big Ten Network. ESPN is a partner with the SEC, as it is with The Longhorn Network. The Big Ten televises mostly rumdum football games. The Pac-12 offers some decent games. The SEC puts on showdowns, complete with Brent Musburger calling the action.

Who knows what a Big 12 Network would have looked like? It was not an original idea, Weiberg said. He knew the Big Ten was considering a network. He knew media companies had inquired with the Big 12 about a possible startup.

Instead, we have BevoTV and no A&M. We have pay-per-view and no Nebraska. We have West Virginia and no Missouri.

“I’m disappointed there have been membership changes, having worked in the conference nine years,” Weiberg said.

He takes the high road. “I think the conference came out of it in good shape,” Weiberg said. “Bob Bowlsby is an outstanding commissioner and will do an outstanding job going forward. It’s hard to predict the future, from legal challenges to just the whole nature of the way the structure is put together.

“Challenges cause some institutions to question and engage, which could lead to more change. I think the Big 12 has come through it in a good spot. Has a chance for a bright future.”

A chance. That’s where the Big 12 is. It has a chance. The other leagues have a certainty. We should have listened to Weiberg.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

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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