AUSTIN, Texas — Staring at extinction, the Big 12 is once again in play.
The beleaguered conference made a rousing comeback Monday, when Texas declined an invitation to join the Pac-10 and decided to stay in the Big 12.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M quickly followed the Longhorns by recommitting to the conference after commissioner Dan Beebe convinced his members they would make more money in television and media deals in a 10-team Big 12 than in a 16-team Pac-10.
Texas Tech will also stay, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The Associated Press reported that Texas is clear to set up its own TV network and keep all proceeds in exchange for remaining in the Big 12.
All that talk about the Pac-16, the first super conference that would span from Seattle to the Lone Star state? Done.
"University of Texas president Bill Powers has informed us that the 10 remaining schools in the Big 12 Conference intend to stay together," Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. "We are excited about the future of the Pac-10 Conference and we will continue to evaluate future expansion opportunities under the guidelines previously set forth by our presidents and chancellors."
Powers declined comment when asked about details of the deal that kept Big 12 together.
The conference, born in 1996 when the Big 8 merged with members of the old Southwest Conference, seemed to be falling apart last week when Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-10) decided to leave over the next two years.
Beebe still must answer questions. For instance, how will the Big 12 will be more lucrative now, especially when it cannot hold a conference title game with only 10 members?
Beebe did not return phone messages Monday, but plans to hold a conference call today with media members.
Last year, Big 12 schools divided between $7 million and $10 million each depending on appearances on regional and national TV. At Big 12 meetings this month, Beebe said he expected huge increases in rights fees from Fox and ESPN. The more lucrative contract with ESPN runs through the 2015-16 academic year.
The Star-Telegram reported that Beebe sought a long-term commitment — believed to be 10 years — from member schools who want to be part of a Fox package that could boost annual disbursements to an average of $17 million per school by 2012 for the 10 remaining teams.
The news about the Longhorns, Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 South powers staying was especially good for Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State and Missouri — the five schools in danger of being left homeless if the conference dissolved.
Baylor football coach Art Briles, a Texas native who has spent his entire career in the Long Star state, put it this way: "I got resuscitated. You can take your hands off my chest. … I'm extremely excited, it's like being given new life."
As for the Pac-10 and Scott, who was trying pull off a bold move that would have dramatically changed the landscape of college sports, they are left looking for at least one more member to get to 12 by 2012 when Colorado is set to join.
Scott's next target? Utah from the Mountain West Conference would seem a likely candidate.
Scott's plan was to add Texas (one of two big prizes in the conference expansion game along with Notre Dame) along with its main Big 12 South rivals — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
Because Texas is the richest and most powerful Big 12 school, the Longhorns were seen as the key. Wherever Texas decided to put its cash cow football program, the other schools would seemingly fall in line.
But Texas A&M had been a wild card, with school officials meeting with Pac-10 and SEC officials in recent days.
But that SEC flirtation turned out to be nothing more.
"Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future," school president R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement.
Officials at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma issued similar statements.
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