- Associated Press - Friday, September 23, 2011

Seemingly headed for disaster, the Big 12 Conference may have come up with a way to stick around.

Oklahoma President David Boren said all nine remaining schools _ all those except for Texas A&M _ have “agreed” to give a six-year grant of their first- and second-tier television rights to the Big 12 for the next six years. That means all revenue from the top television games _ shown currently on networks owned by ABC/ESPN and Fox _ would continue to go to the Big 12 even if a school bolts to another league.

The six-year term runs past the next negotiating period for the top-tier contract, currently with ABC/ESPN, in a bid to keep the nine schools together for the next contract.

“These are very strong handcuffs,” Boren said Thursday night. “The grant of rights really does bind the conference together and it shows that we fully intend to stay together.”

However, no contracts had been signed yet because some schools must get the approval of their governing boards, league spokesman Bob Burda said. And the league said a “special working group” will be tasked with coming up with ways to stabilize the Big 12.

Commissioner Dan Beebe is gone after five up-and-down years that included securing a 13-year, $1.2 billion contract with Fox Sports as well as sharp criticism for failing to keep Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) from leaving over the summer. Texas A&M plans to leave by July for the Southeastern Conference, and four other schools _ Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech _ were examining a move to the Pac-12 as recently as this week.

For a time, it didn’t look as though the Big 12 would survive until next season.

“You don’t want your league out there being talked about the way the Big 12 had been talked about,” Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said. “That’s really tough.”

Former Big Eight Commissioner Chuck Neinas, a veteran sports consultant, will replace Beebe on an interim basis. Boren said Neinas will start next week and will not be a candidate to take the job permanently.

“Everyone trusts him,” Boren said, noting that many of the league’s athletic directors are former colleagues of Neinas or were hired with his recommendation.

“I think what we’re really doing is bringing the conference back together, re-establishing trust among the members and I think the role that he’ll play will be extremely important in that.”

Beyond the trust issue, Neinas will take over a league with a list of disputes that need to be resolved.

Chief among them may be setting rules for Texas’ Longhorn Network, a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN that has been divisive. Texas officials were not available for comment Thursday night but athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said the network is not negotiable.

Boren said the conference’s two powerhouses will work out their differences.

“Without going into any of our private conversations, we’ve managed to meet halfway on a lot of things,” Boren said. “The nature of a bargain that lasts is that each side gets part of something they want. That’s a win-win. For it to last it has to be a win-win.”

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