Beebe places Big 12 hopes in 'process'

KANSAS CITY, Mo.-- In Dan Beebe's perfect world, Nebraska and Missouri would have pledged unqualified commitments to the Big 12 weeks ago. It would have pulled together a conference some feel is being torn apart by the initiative of the Big Ten and Pac-10, who have made rumored overtures to teams within Beebe's conference.

Friday's news conference, concluding the week's testy meetings between the Big 12's athletic directors and university heads, settled little more than one fact.

This is not Beebe's perfect world.

His chosen option now: A secretive "process" that he hopes will keep the teenage Big 12 alive -- and presumably in its current form. Part of that process could include the Big 12's own reluctant expansion if forced.

"We'd hate to see the landscape change. We think 12 is an optimum number. We're prepared in case we need to change our membership, but I think that's the number that works," he said. "I think it's a huge disservice to the student-athletes if it grows to a bigger number, where they have to go further and not have as much chance to win championships and have access to championships.

"The process that's been set is firm, but I'm not going to engage in what that is. That's just where it's going to sit."

And if eyes understandably continue to wander to the Pacific or Great Lakes and refuse to abide by the firm process?

"We'll have to figure that out," he said.

Call it firm with a few mushy spots. The conference's board of directors will meet again in October and once more in February. April serves as a third possible peg for conversations in which commitments emerge, when the conference begins negotiations with Fox Sports Net for a new television deal.

Beebe's phone lines will be open to anyone who wants to commit well before either. A hard line may have been drawn. April seems likely and makes sense. But only a handful of people on the planet know the exact date.

"I know," Beebe said with a smile.

Beebe said the week produced "more clarity." What it needed was more unity -- even in the face of looming expansion from the Pac-10 and the Big Ten. Few thought the Big 12 would get it. They didn't. And now, the Big Ten and Pac-10 will take center stage with meetings of their own over the weekend. In the meantime, the SEC will sit and wait while the Big 12 hopes.

If it couldn't draw commitments from Nebraska and Missouri, a statement from the Austin contingent would have helped. But William Powers, president of expansion darling Texas -- who may have suitors from three separate conferences -- skipped Friday's conference because of travel arrangements back to campus and didn't issue any statements despite spending two days in Kansas City with the university's heads.

Beebe made it clear his perfect world is what currently exists. He didn't get it from his own members. It's doubtful the Big Ten or Pac-10 will do anything different.

"I want to emphasize as I close, that I'm encouraged by the meetings that we've had. I'm encouraged by the process that has been set forth from the board," Beebe said. "I understand your need to know what that is, but I'm not going to reveal that."

Better hope that process is a good one.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe addresses expansion and his process of preserving the conference.