Big 12 athletic directors were given a list of schools to contact a few weeks ago once it became clear that Texas A&M would be departing the conference for membership in the SEC.
Arkansas and BYU were contacted but then, according to multiple sources, the athletic directors who were given the instructions did not reach out to the other three schools on the list — Pittsburgh, Louisville and West Virginia of the Big East — because Oklahoma president David Boren made comments that the Sooners were unsettled in their situation as a member of the Big 12 and were exploring their options.
Who can you trust now? It’s so unfortunate that it has come to this. Everyone is working independently. No one is being straight with anyone anymore.
” — A source with knowledge of
the Big 12’s situation
The future of the Big 12 remains unstable while Texas A&M waits for official word from the SEC, even though it has been accepted, and Oklahoma takes its time deciding if it will seek membership in the Pac-12. Sister school Oklahoma State likely would join OU in the Pac-12. No one in the Big 12 expects Texas A&M to remain a member beyond this sports season, but officials in most corners of the league are holding out hope that the nine remaining members hold together.
Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas have publicly said they will not relinquish the right to sue the SEC or Texas A&M. Kansas State hasn’t commented publicly, but the Wildcats are likely to follow Kansas’ steps. Missouri remains neutral, especially since university president Brady Deaton is the chair of the Big 12 board of directors.
There is a reason schools like Iowa State, Kansas State and Missouri are holding their ground in the A&M/SEC affair — or at the very least approaching it with trepidation. The television deal that the Big 12 signed with Fox Sports Media Group for an estimated $90 million over a 13-year period beginning in 2012 allowed schools to begin major on-campus projects. The Big 12 still had three years remaining on a deal with ESPN/ABC, too.
Iowa State went ahead with projects after the Fox contract was completed and took out $40 million in bonds based on the deal. Iowa State has invested $5 million in a new video board, $20 million in a football building and an estimated $15 million in a sports complex for track, soccer and softball. The video board project began in July for this football season and the other two projects are under construction.
“The taxpayers of Iowa can’t pay if those bonds fall through,” a source said Wednesday. “These are real questions, real situations. I’m not sure how (Iowa State) could waive those (legal) rights (to sue the SEC).”
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Kansas State has multiple capital projects that were undertaken or are planning to begin in the fiscal year that were budgeted after the contract with Fox was signed, according to Kenny Lannou, Kansas State’s director of communications.
Meanwhile, a source said high-level fundraising at Missouri is on hold for its major $160 million capital campaign. The source said a number of donors — significant eight-figure donors — were prepared to present a gift but are holding up that process until they know which conference Missouri will be a member of in for the foreseeable future. If the Tigers were to drop down to the Mountain West, for example, then that would mean less money coming from the donors.
There is also some pushback in football recruiting due to the indecision, the source said. If the Tigers aren’t in a conference with Texas-based schools, then it can dramatically affect the lure of playing at Mizzou.
“There are a bunch of Texas kids now saying that they’re not sure now,” said the source. “If Missouri is in the SEC then that’s OK, but if it’s in the ACC or the Big East then that may not.”
The source said that Missouri remains on the fence publicly about whether to maintain its rights to sue because of its position on the board. But the source said the Missouri board of regents hasn’t given Deaton the authority to waive the rights yet.
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Multiple sources told ESPN.com that a number of Big 12 schools were floored moreso by Oklahoma’s decision to look elsewhere than Texas A&M’s desire to leave.
As a result, the conferences are now facing off while in survival mode. One source said that the reason the Big 12 ADs did not consider any other schools in Texas like SMU, Rice, Houston or UTEP out of Conference-USA or TCU from the Mountain West and soon-to-be Big East is the feeling that if one Texas school was invited, then others would be politically forced upon the Big 12.
Still, what has occurred is a potential game of Pac-Man between the potential remaining Big 12 schools and the Big East to see who can gobble up whom. If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State head to the Pac-12 and if Texas goes to the ACC, for example, and then one other leaves — whether it’s Texas Tech with Texas, or Missouri to the SEC — do the remaining five members try to take some Big East schools or does the Big East’s nine football schools gobble up at least three of the Big 12 schools?
“Three weeks ago the nine schools felt they were solidified and would go get a 10th,” a source said. “The list was being worked, two calls were made and there were three more to go.
“If four leave, say, and then there are five left, the five can stay together to retain the Big 12 money, retain the automatic berth to the BCS and the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament for a two-year period. But then the Big East would have nine and would only need three more. The Big 12 would need seven more. How ludicrous is that? At some point you have to call a timeout and say ‘stop.’ No athletic administrator has said 16 is a great idea.”
A source said Missouri is confident that if the SEC is pursuing a 14th school then the Tigers are high on the SEC’s radar. The ACC would be next if the Tigers were to look elsewhere. The Big East, according to the source, would be the third choice and the worst it could be for the Tigers in football (in basketball, obviously, would be a plus). The source said there has been no contact or presumed interest from the Big Ten and that Missouri assumes that the Big Ten isn’t interested in it or additional expansion.
Kansas and Kansas State are expected to have options with the Pac-12, possibly, if it were to expand to 16 with the Oklahoma schools and without Texas. The ACC could also be a possibility for the Kansas schools to join. The Big East would be palatable as the third option as well.
Texas Tech is hoping to stand with Texas in some manner.
A Texas move to the ACC could be more than possible since the Longhorns can keep the revenue from the Longhorn Network with ESPN owning the rights to the ACC and the LHN. Said one ACC source, “If Texas were available to anyone, you have to look at the possibility.”
The ACC has a shared revenue plan with its TV rights. “And that’s not the environment the Big 12 schools are coming from,” said the source. “Would they be interested in a different environment? I don’t know.”
That leaves Baylor and Iowa State to fend for themselves. To stay together, the only major conference option outside of the Big 12 would be the Big East, hence a possible major loss in TV revenue for the Bears and Cyclones.
Iowa State plays at Connecticut on Friday night. Could this be a Big East game in 2012 or 2013? At this point, no one knows.
“Who can you trust now? It’s so unfortunate that it has come to this,” said a source with knowledge of the Big 12’s situation. “Everyone is working independently. No one is being straight with anyone anymore.”
Senior writer Andy Katz covers colleges for ESPN.com.
Follow Andy Katz on Twitter: @ESPNAndyKatz
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