Another day brought another round of conflicting evidence Tuesday in the long-term staying power of the Big 12.
Within hours after The Oklahoman reported that Oklahoma officials would consider staying in a “reformed” version of league, with more constraints on the Longhorn Network and without commissioner Dan Beebe, the Birmingham News reported that Missouri had reached an informal agreement to become the 14th member of the Southeastern Conference.
The report cited sources saying a majority of SEC presidents have endorsed the agreement and Auburn would move to the SEC's East Division as part of the deal. But the SEC responded with a statement denying the report.
"The Southeastern Conference has not agreed, formally or informally, to accept any institution other than Texas A&M and there have not been conference discussions regarding changes in divisional alignments,” the statement said, referring to its Sept. 6 decision to extend an invitation to A&M, pending a waiver of legal claims by Baylor and other Big 12 schools related to the move.
Missouri has called a Thursday meeting of its board of curators, who would need to approve any move on the realignment front. Other regent/curator boards meeting this week to discuss and take action on realignment include Oklahoma State (today), Kansas (Thursday) and Kansas State (Thursday).
OSU and Oklahoma are candidates for Pac-12 expansion, possibly in a four-team move with Texas and Texas Tech. Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State could be part of a proposed merger between Big 12 and Big East schools if both leagues suffer heavy attrition from ongoing realignment.
To join the Pac-12, Texas would have to modify its Longhorn Network _ a 20-year, $300 million partnership with ESPN _ to become one of the Pac-12’s regional networks. But fewer modifications would be necessary under Oklahoma’s demands, said Big 12 sources, than Texas would be required to make in the Pac-12. That led some administrators to believe the league might continue in a nine-team format without A&M.
Other administrators said they expect OSU and OU to apply for Pac-12 membership by the end of the week. Sources from two other schools echoed Oklahoma’s concerns that the Big 12, and Beebe, gives preferential treatment to Texas.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Beebe declined comment.
For Beebe to be removed as the Big 12 commissioner, it would require a majority vote of league presidents. Beebe received a three-year extension in November. In announcing the extension, Missouri president Brady Deaton _ chairman of the Big 12 board of directors _ said Beebe had been an “outstanding leader” who “performed well beyond his job description” while keeping the league together amid turmoil last summer.
_ Jimmy Burch