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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 ESPN.com 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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