Mizzou Links, 6-16-10

Missouri officials speak

We're going to go line-by-line on Dave Matter's Behind the Stripes post on yesterday's Missouri press conference.  Though filled with plenty of non-answers and official-speak, I think it's as revealing as anything we've read in the last few months.

"When this all started to bubble in December, I think our fans developed a thought that and an expectation that the Big Ten was a league that was going to invite Mizzou," he said. ‘By us not coming out and reinforcing that message that we have not received an offer from the Big Ten or that we needed to only focus what we were doing in the Big 12, certainly I can understand how that fueled the desires and the angst of our fans. For those out there who thought about that, the reality is we did not receive an offer from the Big Ten Conference. When we heard about conference expansions, we did our due diligence and did all the things necessary to make sure we were moving forward … but at the end of the day the Big 12 Conference is where we’ve been and … where we continue to be."

The 'non-denial' of everything is further proof to me that Missouri really was attempting to take advantage of the leverage they seemed to have.  They were likely attempting to basically say, "We love this conference, but ... if you think we're leaving, then how about you do something to keep us?"  They expressed complete and total commitment to the conference ... and aired their grievances, grievances that are shared by many and shouldn't have been a surprise to anybody.

It seemed to be working beautifully until about a month to six weeks ago, but two things happened that completely took away their leverage: 1) The media narrative completely turned on Mizzou, flipping from "Missouri's probably near the top of the Big Ten's list," to "Missouri? Really? What exactly do they think they have to offer? And look at them...they want it so bad!!!!! Ha!"  (Jay Nixon's big mouth and Dennis Dodds' "Missouri opening their blouse" article -- which contained no quotes from administrators, just faculty and fans, likely contributed significantly to this.)  2) The Pac-10 got involved.  When Larry Scott decided to send out invites, it allowed Texas to put pressure on the situation.  And when Texas gets leverage, it's safe to say that everybody else loses theirs. To say the least.

And no matter what writers and fans of other schools want to think, blaming Missouri for "starting this whole mess" because they tried to take advantage of the one time they would ever have leverage (while still expressing total commitment to the Big 12) is silly.  Teams look out for their best interests, and I have no complaint about what they tried to do here.

"The speculation out there needed to be talked about and needed to be directly refuted," he added. "What happens with your fan base, and I understand this, they’re sitting around going, ‘Maybe, maybe.’ Then at the end it’s like, ‘Holy cow, what’s going on?’ That’s an unfortunate occurrence."

One thing Alden and company probably underestimated in applying leverage was the amount a lot of their fans want the hell out of this conference.  While I really do think Dan Beebe was able to put together so much information on new TV contracts because he started a while ago, at least partially because Missouri was applying pressure, clearly disappointed, bitter Mizzou fans is a drawback.  (And if it turns out Beebe's numbers are wrong, and nobody gets nearly as much money as Beebe promised ... um ... nevermind. We had nothing to do with it.)

"Our understanding on that was … there were institutions in our league that had opportunities to go elsewhere," Alden said, "and doing that, mostly likely — you’d have to ask Dan about that — there were opportunities for them to perhaps generate more revenue share than they’re currently getting. So we wanted to make sure that wasn’t necessarily an issue for them. If there was a way we could assist, we were more than happy to be able to assist in that fashion with the league. But, again, in our projections it’s going to be a moot point. It’s not going to be necessary but we were willing to do that." I’ll explore that topic more in Wednesday’s Tribune.

In an email to the Tribune, Big 12 Assistant Commissioner for Communications Bob Burda shed some light on the exit revenue question:

"The five schools that were facing uncertain conference futures - Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor - made a good-faith offer to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. The five agreed that if necessary, they would use a portion of their shares of the money Colorado and Nebraska will owe for leaving the Big 12 to ensure a certain level of revenue distribution. Contrary to some reports, use of this revenue from those five institutions does not affect the revenue distribution formula or the amounts that would be distributed to the other institutions. All withdrawal fees withheld from Colorado and Nebraska will be shared by the 10 remaining members in accordance with the conference's revenue distribution policy."

I don't want this point to be missed.  It's beginning to sound like, while Texas "saved" the conference by deciding to stay, the "forgotten five" schools were the ones who very much got the ball rolling.  While that says something about the fear of the MWA (the "Mountain West Alternative"), it also shows that those schools do deserve a little credit ... at least from those who feel credit is due for saving this conference.

There will be no changes to the revenue distribution model the Big 12 has been using for TV revenue, Alden said. "And that puts the onus on Mizzou to win more games," Alden added.

Funny how expectations work.  Suddenly the old way doesn't sound too bad after all the talk of "tiers" and guaranteed money.

More important than winning games is scheduling attractive ones, and I can’t imagine a new conference schedule that will include Oklahoma and Texas every year will inspire Alden and Gary Pinkel to strengthen the nonconference slate. In fact, I’d be surprised if MU doesn’t go straight cupcake on the three noncon games. Arizona State better have a fat buyout in its two-year deal, especially if the nine-game Big 12 schedule goes into effect in 2011.

I don't know if they'll back out of those games, but Dave's right -- our scheduling practice has, for a while, been 1) BCS opponent, 2) solid mid-major, 3) less solid mid-major, 4) FCS team.  Do not be surprised if (1) is changed.  Playing OU, Texas, Tech, etc., every year means you kind of need three guaranteed or almost-guaranteed wins, and while Mizzou fans will justifiably complain about the lack of non-conference excitement ... it's hard not to understand.

There will be no changes to the way the Big 12 bowls select their Big 12 participants, Alden said.

It would have been the same in the Big Ten.

Some of the North Division ADs met in Kansas City on Tuesday and they discussed conference scheduling issues, non-conference scheduling, exit fees and eliminating the North-South divisions. That's a distinction Alden is in favor of erasing. "The quicker we can get away from the North and South divisions, to say, 'We're the Big 12 Conference, it doesn't matter where we're at,' the better. I think this will help facilitate that. ... We choose to believe the league will be stronger."

Honestly? I'm becoming okay with this. I'm not sure we've ever truly felt like conference rivals with teams like Tech (remember how we all laughed at Beebe's (paraphrased) "I'm not sure they'd want to give up their strong rivalries with Tech and Texas" line?, and I'm thinking the only way that might ever change is by playing them more and more.  Obviously this makes Missouri's yearly schedule tougher, but ... oh well.

Alden does not expect the conference’s name to change. "Big 12. Big 12," he said. "It’s a great brand and we’re going to keep moving with that."

No comment.

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