The power brokers in the Big 12 get together in Kansas City this week to determine the fate of the conference. The biggest question on everyone's minds - what's going to happen?
In short, probably not a whole lot tangible that we'll know about. I can't imagine that anymore comes out of the meetings this week than a permanent move of the Big 12 championship game to Dallas, which ought to rankle Big 12 North fans a little more than they already are.
They're sure to throw around some ideas as to how they can make a Big 12 - Pac 10 television alliance work, but that's more of a "meeting to have a meeting" approach, rather than accomplishing something (unless you're one who believes that merely going to meetings accomplishes something).
These meetings might determine Dan Beebe's legacy as much as that of the Big 12 conference.
If the Big 12 is to survive long-term it had better damn well focus on making the conference better for all involved. Negotiating better contracts so that everyone gets more money isn't going to accomplish that by itself because it won't solve the problem of inequity that currently exists. Putting it another way, making a pie bigger won't keep Iowa State (or Missouri, if you're considering leverage) from feeling neglected if Texas and Nebraska are still getting larger portions.
It's an incredibly difficult problem to solve, especially since the Big 12 has little leverage against Texas, and frankly little against Nebraska, too, if push comes to shove. The Big 12 could decide to change the rules and make punishment for leaving the conference more severe (in terms of cost), but it's a pretty safe bet that both those schools could pay whatever penalties were needed and then move on to whatever awaits.
Going into this week, it has to be clear what a masterful job that Jim Delany has done for his conference. He's put the Big 10 in a strong position by doing nothing other than talking. He's even expanded the Big 10's realm of possibilities to cover half the nation and it has cost him nothing. He's even forced other schools (Nebraska and Missouri) to show their hand without revealing his own.
Whatever happens in Kansas City this week, Beebe had better show that he's a better negotiator than he's been so far. He's weakened his conference by first threatening his members ("Who's getting on the plane"), then abdicating his power by deferring to the Big 12 board being the body that makes decisions rather than standing by his original statements.
Negotiating from a position of weakness results in taking what you can get. Those things typically don't work out well. If Beebe thinks he's secured something because he walks out of the Big 12 talks with a signed piece of paper that shows everyone is committed, he might do well to remember history. Maybe Beebe could mention "peace in our time" just to complete the analogy. (A Nazi reference along with college football? Well, what the hell, I've done it before.)
Bottom line - if all that comes out of these meetings is a piece of paper stating that everyone is on board, the conference is doomed. DOOMED!!!!