Rouse: Texas A&M also a villain?

Texas A&M officials remind Big 12 of revenue pledge

TEXAS A&M REMINDS BIG 12 OF REVENUE PLEDGE TO KEEP AGGIES IN FOLD, by Charles Rouse

KANSAS CITY – Just when everyone thought Texas and Oklahoma were the two villains in the Big 12 melodrama who were holding the conference hostage with high money demands in exchange for staying home and holding together what remained of the conference, up pops another villain in Texas A&M, insisting on its own financial guarantees. It’s the story that keeps going and going and going, like a circle, which is continuous and has no ending.

This past week, the Big 12 held its last Media Days as a conference of 12 – for the time being, at least – prior to the start of the 2010 college football season. Surprisingly, in view of the near collapse of the conference a little more than a month ago following the announcements by officials of Nebraska and Colorado that those schools will be leaving the league, there was very little Cornhusker or Buffalo bashing by the other Big 12 schools during the conference’s annual football preview.

Football Media Days is always a highly anticipated and well attended event by members of the media that cover the Big 12 and its teams. The timing of this year’s gathering at the conference headquarters in Irving, Texas, was somewhat problematic given the near breakup of the 15-year-old power conference just a few short weeks before. As Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News wrote, “More than anything, the league needed to project three days of unity and stability as its coaches and select players from each school met with the media.”

To the delight of commissioner Dan Beebe and his Big 12 staff, there were no incidents and everyone stuck closely to the loosely planned script. Less than 24 hours after Media Days ended, however, Texas A&M chose to sound off to the commissioner’s office with the intent to settle its own personal score. One of the significant details that managed to get overlooked amid all the rumor-mongering and changing developments that were flashing in and out of the mainstream media and social networks in the nervous final hours as the Big 12 stood on the edge of destruction was the pledge made by Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State to make up the funds necessary to guarantee Texas, Oklahoma and, oh yes, Texas A&M $20 million in annual athletic revenue.

Officials at Texas and Oklahoma subsequently publicly stated that they didn’t “want or need the cash.” Not so with Texas A&M, though. “A key part of Texas A&M’s decision to remain in the Big 12 earlier this summer was the commissioner’s commitment that Texas A&M would receive a minimum of $20 million in future conference contributions,” Texas A&M’s Loftin said in his e-mail message to the Beebe. “We remain committed to the conference and fully anticipate that the Big 12 will honor its commitment to Texas A&M,” he continued.

According to the Big 12 commissioner’s office, the conference fully intends to live up to the pledge it made to the Aggies’ athletic department. “The commitment to Texas A&M was made and it still stands,” Beebe said in a statement issued this week by the Big 12, adding, “We did not have the luxury of time during the (recent) crisis to sort out the details, but that will be addressed in the future.” The San Antonio Express-News reported Thursday that Texas A&M was considering legal action, if it needed to, to force the Big 12’s hand. If that failed, reported the Express-News, the school was considering revisiting its opportunity of jumping over to the Southeastern Conference.

It is uncertain whether Loftin’s e-mail message was a direct shot at the Big 12 office or perhaps also an appeasement message to the A&M fan base, a good number of whom apparently aren’t particularly pleased with the Aggies decision to remain in the Big 12. According to Dallas Morning News sources, A&M is in no position to walk away from any revenue. The Morning News reported that the Texas A&M athletic department is under the gun for a 10-year, $1.6-million annual loan payment to the university. If the guaranteed revenue promised to A&M is, in fact, to come from Baylor, Kansas, K-State, Missouri and Iowa State, that calculates to approximately $400,000 per school.

It’s obvious that this five-team coalition has a huge vested interest in the Big 12 successfully negotiating more lucrative TV contracts when the time comes. For now, at least, it appears, another aftershock from the recent crisis that threatened the demise of the Big 12 has been quieted. When and where the next tremor will occur is anyone’s guess, but there is sure to be further fallout.

Charles F. RouseCharles (Chip) F. Rouse III, the Kansas City Sports Examiner, has spent over 40 years working in and with the news media. Rouse, a journalist by training and a graduate of the University of Kansas, has served in the role of newspaper reporter; in addition to radio and television. To view Chip’s sports articles, including this one, on Examiner.com, please click here. He welcomes your comments at [email protected].

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