KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe came to Kansas City this week to galvanize his athletic directors and school presidents in keeping the conference together. But as the Big 12's annual meetings come to a close today, it appears the conference is closer than ever to falling apart.
Reports that the Pacific-10 Conference would target six Big 12 teams started surfacing early Thursday afternoon. Later, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn said that he believed his school would be invited to join the Pac-10, along with Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
"The longer that we were together in Kansas City, it appeared that the rumor of speculation did have some validity," Bohn told the Boulder Daily Camera.
Asked directly if Oklahoma had been contacted by the Pac-10, Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione said, "Not yet."
Beebe and University of Texas president Bill Powers, chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, were scheduled to meet with reporters Thursday after the third day of meetings concluded at the InterContinental Kansas City on the Plaza. They instead canceled the news conference, and both got on an elevator.
Contacted later by The Kansas City Star, Beebe declined to comment.
"I have to honor the board's directive," he said.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said that his league, which begins its annual meetings today in San Francisco, does not expect to take action soon.
"We have not developed any definitive plans," Scott said. "We have not extended invitations for expansion, and we do not anticipate any such decisions in the near term."
The Big 12 previously faced a threat from the Big Ten Conference, which is also exploring expansion. But only two Big 12 teams, Missouri and Nebraska, have been rumored to be targets, and the Big 12 could withstand the loss of a few teams, especially if Texas remained.
If the Pac-10's reported move happens, the Big 12 won't exist.
The league would be cut in half, and — if the Tigers and Cornhuskers wind up in the Big Ten — Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor may not have a place to land. Those schools would also be left out of a conference that automatically qualifies for college football's Bowl Championship Series, which creates multimillion-dollar payouts for the top six conferences.
The Big 12, which opened for competition in 1996, will conclude week-long meetings today that Beebe hoped would bring about a sense of unity. Instead, there were indications that the schools weren't on the same page.
"Each athletic director had a chance to convey their thoughts about the future of the conference," Castiglione said.
Was there agreement?
"Everybody expressed their thoughts," he repeated.
Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said several times during an interview that the Tigers were "proud members of the Big 12. (But) we're not shutting our ears to anything. I'm sure every school here has a responsibility to its own institution as a primary responsibility.
"Conference alignment is something we do for our athletic program. That's what we're working on right now."
But on Thursday, there was a sense that the Big 12 wasn't business as usual.