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Sharing A Bright Future

By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - One year ago, the Big 12 Conference concluded its annual spring meetings with its future in jeopardy.

The Conference wrapped up its 2011 spring meetings here Friday with an outlook so bright, sunglasses might have to be distributed. After losing Nebraska and Colorado to other conferences, the Big 12 is poised to move forward as a united 10-team league.

"We had very productive meetings and everyone is committed to moving forward," said Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, the chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors. "There's no question the collegiality is (present). Maybe smaller numbers, having two fewer members, helps a bit because you get more interaction among the 10 and everybody's just working together real well. It's a good time for the conference."

That was underscored by a number of announcements made by Deaton and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.

The most significant news involved a change in revenue sharing. The schools unanimously voted to a more equitable revenue distribution plan. The Big 12 will equally divide 76 percent of its football and basketball television revenue among the 10 schools. Since the league was formed in 1996, 57 percent of the revenue had been split equally.

The remaining 24 percent of television money will be distributed according to several criteria, including number of appearances, quality of competition and willingness to move games to accommodate television.

"The important thing is we're dealing with a lot more revenue, so everybody feels good about the contract and giving us the flexibility and resources to be more competitive," Deaton said. "And there's also the growing recognition that to be a strong conference, we've got to have every member be strong and competitive in an ongoing basis in all sports."

Changing the revenue sharing involved rewriting the conference bylaws. That typically requires unanimous agreement. Interestingly, Nebraska fans often complained about the Big 12's unequal revenue sharing. Beebe said that when it was a Big 12 member, Nebraska officials "were the most adamant" in opposition to changing the bylaw.

"What's happening clearly is we're moving in a steady pace toward a more equal sharing revenue model, which is a good thing for the long-term stability in the conference," Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin told the Dallas Morning News. "Over time, that will be a good thing. Those conferences that have equal revenue sharing just seem to be happier, as far as I can tell."

In mid-April the Big 12 announced that it had agreed to a lucrative 13-year agreement with FOX Sports for the Conference's second tier (cable) television rights. Beebe said Friday that while that agreement doesn't start until the 2012-13 season that Big 12 schools would see "a significant impact" starting immediately.

"FOX agreed to pay a signing bonus and that money will be distributed equally starting with this season," Beebe said.

Deaton said that the issue of revenue distribution hasn't been as contentious as what has been portrayed.

"It wasn't something that divided us, while externally it was viewed as a significant issue," Deaton said. "We're dealing with a lot more revenue and to be a strong conference we have to have all members getting stronger."

As the Conference moves closer to a new era that officially begins July 1, it is gearing up to market itself. During a joint council (presidents, athletic directors, faculty athletic representatives and senior women's administrators) meeting Thursday GSD&M Idea City made an impressive presentation. The advertising agency was hired last August to help create an extensive and aggressive media campaign.

The board of directors voted to fund the GSD&M campaign, which will start being made public at the Big 12 football media days in late July.

Football Tiebreaker Rules Updated
With football doing away with divisions and the 10 teams playing a round-robin schedule, the Big 12 tiebreaking procedures have been modified. In case of a three-way tie (something that happened two of the last three years in the South Division), the first two tiebreakers will be head-to-head and then record against the next highest team in the standings.

If the teams remained tied, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS poll would be the BCS bowl representative, unless two of the teams are ranked within one spot of each other. In that case, the head-to-head would break the tie.

Two Sports Added
Starting with the 2011-12 season, the Big 12 will sponsor and hold championships for rowing and equestrian. Adding the women's sports and making them subject to conference eligibility requirements can help schools comply with Title IX gender equity requirements. Squad limits will be 52 for rowing and 32 for equestrian.

Four conference schools have been sponsoring teams on the club level in each sport. Kansas, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma compete in rowing while Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M compete in equestrian.

Beebe On The BCS
The Department of Justice announced this week it will meet with the BCS officials regarding the issue of antitrust. The BCS maintains that the government has more important and better things to do than "insert itself into how college postseason football should be operated."

Beebe agrees with those who don't think the Justice Department is spending its time wisely. "It's good to know that they've chased down all of the people who caused our banking system to have problems," he said.

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