One of the first items on the Big 12's agenda after ousting Dan Beebe as commissioner was agreeing to equally share revenue from the conference's major TV rights, a Pac-12 and Big Ten-like deal supplanting one that had rewarded schools based on appearances.
It was a "bittersweet" development for
Beebe, who said in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN.com that it was something he attempted two years ago.
But the Nebraska Cornhuskers stood in the way, he said.
"It could have kept all 12 together,'' Beebe said Saturday, nearly three weeks after his contract was bought out by the Big 12 board of directors on Sept. 22. "I proposed it two years ago when Nebraska and Colorado were in the league as we prepared for our television negotiations we did last spring.''
Beebe said none of the Big 12's recent defections had to occur.
"I asked for them to consider it,'' Beebe said of the revenue-sharing pact. "Nebraska was one of the biggest objectors of equal revenue rights, and their president Harvey Perlman said that. We could have done this two years ago and none of this would have happened.''
Beebe said he was glad to see Oklahoma and Texas agree to the six-year, grant-of-rights pact, adopted last week by the Big 12 board of directors. The Sooners and Longhorns had also not been in favor of the equalized revenue plan.
"It's bittersweet with what's going on,'' Beebe said. "I want this conference to make it. I really, truly enjoyed and working with so many of the people and coaches and administrators. But it's bitter in that these are policies that I recommended quite a while ago and that (his predecessor) Kevin Weiberg recommended, too. If it was needed to have a new voice to do it then that's fine. The conference is bigger than Dan Beebe. But on a personal level it's hard.''
The Big 12 secured a 13-year, $1.2 billion deal from Fox Sports in April, even after Nebraska and Colorado were gone. The league's deal with ABC/ESPN expires in 2016.
Beebe said the move that affected the Big 12 that made the most sense in the past year was Colorado going to the Pac-12.
"Colorado has more alumni in the Pac-10 footprint and has always got students from the West,'' Beebe said.
Beebe said he thinks Missouri will stay in the Big 12, rather than pursue a membership in the SEC, and believes there is a chance the conference could then halt expansion after the addition of TCU gets the league back to 10 teams for 2012-13.
"My gut is that they stay, they should stay,'' Beebe said. "I was born in Missouri. I have tons of relatives there. Both sides of my family were there prior to the Civil War and fought on both sides. I'm well connected. They have a right to look but I think they'll come back to what their primary connection is.
"My strong feeling is that they need to be connected to the Midwest and I agree with (Big 12 interim commissioner) Chuck Neinas that they're a Midwest institution, not a Southeastern institution,'' Beebe said.
Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis, the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, was quoted by The Associated Press on Saturday that he hoped the next announcement was Missouri would stay in the Big 12 and then the league could remain at 10 for the immediate future.
"Missouri's and Texas A&M's alumni and students are up and down the I-35 corridor and maybe Missouri's highest alumni base is in the (Dallas) Metroplex,'' Beebe said. "And if you detach from that it could cause real concern.''
The Big 12's board of directors invited TCU last week to replace Texas A&M, which is leaving for the SEC. TCU, which is in the Mountain West and was scheduled to move to the Big East next season, still has to formally accept the invitation this week. That appears to be a formality.
If Missouri were to stay then the Big 12 would be back to 10 teams, the number it holds for this season with Texas A&M in the conference after Nebraska and Colorado left for the Big Ten and Pac-12, respectively.
"I think 10 is a great number for both football and basketball and other sports,'' said Beebe. "But I do think they will continually evaluate. I would have advised to sit at 10 and study hard whether to go higher and with whom. If I were made czar and able to designate the number in every conference then I would go with 10-member conferences that have geographic proximity.''
Beebe said TCU's elevation to the Big 12 was a direct correlation to the departure of Texas A&M. He said there had always been a feeling within the Big 12 that there should be four schools in the state of Texas to allow for three other football games (Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas are the other Big 12 schools in the state) and at least six basketball.
"It was always important to keep four institutions in the state of Texas for recruiting purposes and with so many alumni in the state,'' Beebe said.
The Big 12 office is in Dallas.
"TCU deserves a lot of credit," Beebe said. "They didn't just sit there. They built very good sports that play at a high level.''
Beebe said TCU wasn't in play for expansion a year ago when Nebraska and Colorado left because "losing a Texas school wasn't part of that.''
But now all of the expansion moves in the Big 12 and for that matter in the Big East are on hold while Missouri decides its next move. The Missouri board of curators gave chancellor Brady Deaton the ability to explore all his options for membership. Deaton, who is one of the five members of the Big 12 expansion committee, then resigned as chair of the Big 12 board of directors and the school abstained from voting on the TCU addition as well as the six-year agreement among the remaining Big 12 schools to share their Tier I and Tier II television rights of major and regional broadcast games.
"The Big 12 can't wait forever, but it's somewhat frozen until Missouri decides what it's going to do,'' Beebe said. "But that won't take long. It does affect the Big East. But there are other options.''
Beebe said he didn't feel comfortable divulging the other expansion schools on the Big 12 list from when he was commissioner. But a number of Big 12 sources confirmed that Big East schools Louisville, West Virginia and independent BYU were on the original list. Another Big 12 source said Conference USA teams were also being discussed.
Beebe said he wasn't told that he was the reason for the defections of Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M.
"You understand that it's more of a political than actual issue,'' Beebe said. "I had been talking to several board members who were terrific but I was told that fortunately or unfortunately during my time these events occurred.''
The Oklahoman reported that one of Oklahoma's demands was that Beebe be removed. Oklahoma president David Boren said at a news conference in Norman after Beebe's departure that he held no negative feelings toward him, but "I'm alarmed by the fact that in 15 months we lost three teams and I'm aware in detail in how some of those situations played out. I don't feel it was inevitable that we lost those three teams.''
Beebe said he never thought Oklahoma and Texas, and subsequently Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, would leave for the Pac-12 last month. The Pac-12 announced that it wouldn't expand, never formally inviting the four schools and before any of them asked for an invitation. The move by the Pac-12 came after Boren was given the authority by his board to explore all OU's options.
Beebe said the financial deal Texas struck with ESPN to create and operate the Longhorn Network wasn't an issue. But televising high school games and a second Texas football game was, he said.
"One of the things that was a disappointment was before we had a chance to address any formal grievance by Texas A&M they had already met with the SEC,'' Beebe said. "I would have preferred that if we have a problem, here's what the problem is and have our fellow members rectify it. But before we had a chance to do that they had already met with the SEC.''
Beebe said what changed with the SEC and Texas A&M was the new deals that were struck by the Pac-12 and the Big 12, which eclipsed the SEC's television per school media deal.
"My hunch on the SEC side of things is that this gave them an opportunity to add a fine institution,'' Beebe said.
The Pac-12 deal is for $3 billion with ESPN and Fox for 12 years. The SEC deal that it signed with CBS and ESPN in 2009 is for 15 years each for $825 million and $2.25 billion, respectively.
Beebe said he was treated fairly by the Big 12 board of directors. But he still wants to contribute in some form to college athletics and will continue in an enforcement consulting role. But he has been essentially ousted as one of the 10 members of the prestigious NCAA tournament selection committee since he isn't employed.
Beebe's term ends Aug. 31, 2013, according to the NCAA. Former Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway technically retired and was given a settlement. Hathaway is in his final year as chair of the committee and his term started on Sept. 1. There are no current plans to remove Hathaway from the committee and he has had support from the Big East to remain in his role for his final season on the committee.
"I don't think it's appropriate for anyone who isn't employed,'' Beebe said. "But the fact is that Jeff and I would have a lot more time to devote to it. But I think Jeff still has a connection (to Connecticut). I think there needs to be some connection to the membership. I'm not necessarily against it and if the NCAA was willing to change its policy then I would be willing to serve. But that hasn't been the history. I'm not eligible so I don't have a disagreement with it and I support it.''
Beebe's position is open to the membership, not just the Big 12. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione was asked by his fellow Big 12 athletic directors if he wanted to complete Beebe's term. Castiglione told ESPN.com he hasn't decided if he would advance his name as the Big 12 nominee or pursue membership on the committee for a full five-year term. The 10-person committee has to have a six-four split among football bowl subdivision and football championship division schools/conferences.
The other eight members of the committee for the 2012 tournament outside of Hathaway and Beebe are: Xavier AD Mike Bobinski (the chair for 2013), Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman, Utah State AD Scott Barnes, SMU AD Steve Orsini, LSU AD Joe Alleva, UTSA AD Lynn Hickey, Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton and WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich.
"I needed to grieve over this but a little time has passed now,'' Beebe said of losing his Big 12 commissioner job he held since 2007. "I have no complaints with any folks in the league. Now this league is on the right course to be as great a conference as there is in the country. I was honored to serve. I did everything I could for the good of the conference and in the best interest of the conference and the student athletes. I wish the Big 12 nothing but the best.''
Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com.