Even in the face of a struggling economy, the Big 12 Conference's economics are showing robust growth.
Big 12 officials announced Thursday that the conference will distribute a record $130 million among its member institutions from the 2008-09 fiscal year. The figure, announced on the final day of the Big 12's annual spring meetings in Colorado Springs, is more than 14.5 percent better than last year's previous record disbursement of $113.5 million.
Missouri athletic director Mike Alden attributed the record payment to several factors.
"It's a combination of things. The strength of our conference, the Big 12 brand, our great fans who travel extremely well and television ratings," Alden said. "With all of that and the job that [Big 12 commissioner] Dan [Beebe] has done, it will bear fruit for the entire league."
The number also spiked, in part, by having two Big 12 teams participate in the Bowl Championship Series -- by Texas in the Fiesta Bowl and Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship Game. It marked the fourth time in the past six seasons that the Big 12 qualified the maximum two teams into the BCS.
Even with the record distribution, Beebe said that Big 12 athletic directors are aware they need to explore methods of trimming operating costs.
"Cost-containment strategies are important in today's economy," Beebe said. "Our directors of athletics voiced their support for national legislation in these areas."
Beebe also said the record payout is vitally important as member institutions continue to grapple with higher across-the-board costs.
"Cost-containment is important because we want to drive as much revenue as possible back to the schools," Beebe said. "We need to be cognizant of returning revenue to our schools so they can support their programs. The conference itself is going to be stable, but we are trying to help schools make up for any losses."
Beebe mentioned that future Big 12 meetings could be conducted through the use of video conferencing to help defray costs.
Among the areas that were mentioned for possible cost savings include the elimination of non-traditional playing seasons in sports such as baseball and volleyball; ceasing foreign travel for teams and all-star squads; doing away with regional track and field championships; and the elimination of printed media guides.
"Those are four principal areas our board feels strongly about," Alden said. "The non-traditional playing seasons would not allow them to have organized activities outside their traditional season, or if those activities did take place that they would count towards the number of allowable games played."
Considering the economic climate, Alden said he would examine more ways to trim athletic budgets in the future.
"There are a number of schools already doing some of these things," he said. "A lot of movement has already taken place. We just want to push for it at a higher level."
Tim Griffin covers college football for espn.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.