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Neinas To Exit Big 12 This Summer; League Should Look To SEC’s Womack

Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas has announced that his short reign will end on June 30th.  He took over when Dan Beebe was ousted last September (as if it were Beebe’s fault that a castle built of sand continued to erode).

“I’ve agreed to remain on until the end of June, so I’m fully confident they’ll have a new commissioner to be on board the first of July, and probably earlier,” Neinas said told yesterday.  And who might that new commissioner be?  We have a suggestion — Mark Womack, the executive associate commissioner of the SEC.

Long-viewed as the eventual successor to Mike Slive — whenever the SEC’s current commish decides to step down, smoke more cigars and sip more Scotch on his back porch — Womack would bring a knowledge of the SEC’s operation to the Big 12 and his departure would cause the Big 12 rival to have to fill a void of its own.  Sun-Tzu called such a strategy “Stealing the firewood from under the pot.”    When an enemy is too big and bold to engage directly, you weaken him by undermining his foundation and attacking the source of his power.

No offense to Womack, but we don’t view him as “the source” of the SEC’s power.  That said, if he left, the league’s foundation would definitely suffer.  Working alongside Slive, Womack has been involved in negotiating the league’s mega-television contracts and he’s overseen the league’s budget (collecting cash from the outside and distributing it to the members inside).  He has also overseen the operation of the SEC Championship Game in football as well as the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.  He also serves as the main go-between for the league’s athletic directors.

Would Womack leave if offered a million-dollar-a-year gig from the Big 12?  He’s been with the SEC since 1978 and — as noted above — most people around the conference feel he will eventually be the choice to replace Slive.  If given assurances that he will indeed be the commish-in-waiting, it’s hard to picture him pulling up stakes to join a league that has a world of problems to go along with a world of potential.  While the SEC prides itself on being an even-Steven kind of club, the Big 12 will always be dominated by Texas and Oklahoma.  And when that league’s shared media rights deal ends in six years, there’s no telling what might happen or who might leave.

All of this might be moot anyway.  Most leagues — while envying the SEC’s power, success and cash — actually look down upon the Southeastern Conference.  Commissioners and coaches from the Big Ten to the Big 12 have taken many shots over the years at the SEC’s academic standards (which are on the rise), its NCAA scandals, and the perception that it’s a win-at-all-costs league.  So would people with Texas-sized egos chase after the #2 man of the SEC… a league Texas has refused to join?  Not likely.

But if the Big 12 power brokers are smart, they’ll give Womack a call to gauge his interest.  Then again, whoever accused Big 12 leadership of being smart?

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Beebe “Violates Trust” With Last-Second Email To SEC

The Associate Press has obtained an email sent by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to Mike Slive late last night.  In it, Beebe tells the SEC that it will have to ask each Big 12 school to waive heir rights to sue Texas A&M and the SEC.

Beebe wrote, “I recognize that this issue has been raise due to Baylor University’s indication that its governing board has not waived the university’s rights” to take legal action.

Since Beebe had already provided the SEC and A&M with assurances that his league would not sue, he also wrote the following in yesterday’s email: “I regret any confusion on this issue.”

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin told the AP today that the email was “really a violation of trust” on the part of the Big 12 commissioner.

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A&M Officially Withdraws From Big 12

How’s that for timing?  We just finishing posting some links to stories speculating about when Texas A&M might pull out from the Big 12 and now they’ve already gone and done it.

A&M president R. Bowen Loftin sent a letter to commissioner Dan Beebe today stating:

“After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University’s athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference.

We appreciate the Big 12′s willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement.  We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members.”

If the Big 12 accepts A&M’s withdrawal and if the two parties can agree on proper settlements, the Aggies will officially leave the league on June 30th of next year.

For SEC fans, that means that unless Mike Slive announces the surprise addition of a 14th school (or 15th or 16th), their league will likely feature 13 teams next football season.

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A&M Asks For Info On How To Withdraw From Big 12

Texas A&M is one step closer to leaving the Big 12 today… and that means they’re one step closer to entering the SEC.  The school notified the Big 12 today that as part of its exploration of conference realignment options, it wants the league to outline the process to be followed should the university decide to leave.

According to — the site for A&M — school president R. Bowen Loftin sent a letter to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.  In the letter, he said that if A&M left the league it would do so in accordance with the Big 12′s bylaws.

“While we understand the desire of all parties to quickly reach a resolution, these are extremely complex issues that we are addressing methodically,” Loftin said in an A&M press release.

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Of Million-Dollar Commissioners Slive Ranks 3rd

When it comes to spending, four of the six BCS conferences believe in giving great compensation to the men in charge of driving up their leagues’ revenue.  But of the four conference commissioners making right at a million or more, the SEC’s Mike Slive ranks third on the list.

The Associated Press — digging through 2009 IRS returns — found that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany makes $1.6 million per year.  ACC commissioner John Swofford ranks a surprising second at $1.1 million.  Then comes Slive at an even million, followed by the Big 12′s Dan Beebe at $997,000.  (Slive received a million dollar bonus in 2008 as a big “thank ya” for landing mega-deals with ESPN and CBS.)

Larry Scott of the Pac-12 ($735,000) and John Marinatto ($366,000) started mid-year in 2009, so their numbers don’t show a full year’s salary.  That suggests, of course, that Scott is making more than a million a year and could even be making Delany-type money.

Interestingly, Marinatto makes less than the median pay of presidents ($760,774) at America’s biggest research universities.  That despite the fact that he might have the toughest job as the Big East has separate members for basketball and football and stretches from New England to Milwaukee to Fort Worth.

The AP’s article is itself another push to pay athletes.  One professor quoted in the piece says:

“Mike Slive got more money for TV contracts, but nobody turns on their TV set to see Mike Slive, who may be interviewed at halftime.  They want to see Alabama and Auburn play at their very best, which means player have to be in 12-month training and (put in) very intensive work weeks.  The logic and ethics of the situation say the players should be paid.”

Sounds good.  Unfortunately professor Murray Sperber of Cal-Berkeley doesn’t grasp the fact that there are lots of unfair wages being paid out in America today.  Should the people who build the cars Americans drive be better compensated than some exec in a corner office at Ford?  The car company would probably tell you that the leadership provided by its top-paid exec influences every person in the company.

Along those same lines, if Slive weren’t there to cut those massive TV deals — deals that opened the door for other leagues to follow suit, by the way — would the players be able to negotiate those television contracts?  And if not, who pays for those multi-million-dollar workout rooms, academic centers, and new lockerrooms that they enjoy?

This isn’t about defending Slive.  It’s about shooting down an oversimplified argument. 

“I do more work so I should make more money than the top guy.”  Everybody says it and in a lot of cases its true.  But the top guy is on top for a reason.  Usually because he’s the one negotiating the deals that push the company’s product from “value in theory” to “value in reality.”

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