AUSTIN, Texas — The Big 12 Conference, which has lost Nebraska and Colorado within the past week, is close to moving forward with its 10 remaining schools, The Associated Press has learned.
A person with direct knowledge of discussions among the Big 12’s remaining members said the University of Texas would be clear to set up its own TV network and keep all proceeds in exchange for remaining in the Big 12. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because nothing has been finalized, stopped short of flatly predicting the league would survive, adding that details were still being worked out.
“Something could still happen,” the person said Monday afternoon.
The fate of the conference born in 1996 when the Big 8 merged with four members of the Southwest Conference has been at risk for days, and Texas emerged as the key to the Big 12’s survival when Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-10) decided to leave over the next two years. The Pac-10 has courted Texas and other Big 12 South Division schools, while Texas A&M reportedly expressed interest in going to the Southeastern Conference barring a better offer.
Both Texas and Texas A&M are now leaning toward staying in the Big 12, the person told the AP.
“Everybody is feeling much more confident the Big 12 is going to survive,” the person said. “Everybody’s going to be making more money.”
Big 12 officials have told member schools that the loss of the Denver television market and Nebraska would not weaken the league’s negotiating position with TV networks as much as feared, the person said.
Texas, the biggest and most lucrative of the Big 12 members, has been the pied piper in the league discussions, with other schools seemingly ready to line up behind the Longhorns once the school decides where it wants its cash cow football program to compete.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has reportedly told his remaining members that new television deals with a 10-team league would give league revenues a huge boost. Beebe did not return messages seeking comment Monday.
Texas A&M has represented another wild card, with school officials meeting with Pac-10 and SEC officials in recent days. If the Aggies are serious about leaving for the SEC, no matter what Texas and the others decide, would that prompt the Longhorns, Sooners and the rest to decide the Big 12 is not worth saving with only nine members?
Texas A&M regent Gene Stallings said Monday he wants the Big 12 to survive and would vote to keep the Aggies in the league if they don’t get a much better offer. Stallings told The Associated Press that keeping the Big 12 together “would tickle me to death.”
Stallings coached Alabama to a football national championship in 1992. He has said that if Texas A&M does move, he’d rather see the Aggies go to the SEC than the Pac-10, but his comments Monday suggested that would be a last resort.
Regents at Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have scheduled meetings Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss conference allegiances. Stallings says he expects Texas A&M regents to meet later this week.
The Kansas Board of Regents on Monday lobbied its counterparts in Texas and Oklahoma to keep the Big 12 alive, sending a letter that said a 10-member league would be “extremely viable.”
Tucker reported from Kansas City, Mo. AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report from Dallas.