A&M travel troubles, calculated risks

KANSAS CITY -- Concerns over travel continuously come up when anyone involved cites negatives to conference realignment. But Texas A&M's athletic department has seen some of those negatives on West Coast trips without having to bother with joining the Pac-10.

In April, Texas A&M had teams travel to Spokane and Seattle.

"We got in at 6:30 in the morning, and then were expecting our kids to go to class at 8 o'clock," Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said. "That's tough. I'm really concerned about the student-athletes."

Byrne said he expressed those concerns during this week's meetings. The response?

"Same as from you. Everybody sits and nods," Byrne said.

Byrne also said he feels travel costs are already rising exponentially. That would only continue with a move to an association with institutions that were less attractive geographically.

"Right now we're not getting surcharges when we get back, but I remember when we played Miami a few years ago in football, when we landed, the next weekend we had a $70,000 surcharge for fuel," Byrne said. "And it was $200,000 for the charter. So, it's something you can't ignore."

Careful what you wish for

The one consistent message from everyone in attendance at Wednesday's meetings was that they're happy in the Big 12. Everyone isn't happy with everything, but no one is fighting to get out of the conference. Teams like Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado have expressed interest in improving their situations. But Big 12 Dan Beebe commissioner said on Wednesday a move would be counter-intuitive to a don't-mess-with-success attitude, even if they're only seeking additional success.

"There's a very significant concern about the risk that any of them will have to their program if they go somewhere else," Beebe said. "There's the known here. Everybody's boats have risen. Not just in terms of revenue, but in terms of performances of their teams, whether it's because of the recruiting access that's been provided because of the conference, or because of the support they're getting. Whatever factors each institution can convey to you that's been a benefit of being in the conference can be put at significant risk, especially if you join a 16-member league. That makes it much more difficult to win championships and get in the NCAA tournament or postseason and do well."

And Beebe also stressed that while certain minor annoyances may affect attitudes (i.e., championship locations, revenue distribution) toward the Big 12, a new conference may have other, unforeseen minor annoyances that may be hidden behind a bigger check.

April miscommunication

On day 1 of the spring meetings, Beebe said he'd like to know who was committed by April. But it was in response to a question about the impending TV negotiations with Fox Sports Net and Beebe felt some mistook it for a deadline far in advance. Instead, the commissioner's deadline is simpler: As soon as possible.

"My time frame is very short. I'd like it to be Friday. If it's not Friday, the Monday. If not Monday, then maybe Wednesday," Beebe said. "The question was raised, 'Well, wouldn't you have to know by April?' Well, of course. I can't go into negotiation and say, 'How much will you pay for these six? What if you add two more? What about these 10?' I'm not willing to do that. So we need to know by then, without question."