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Commish: Big 12 can thrive without Colorado, Nebraska

As he makes a closing argument for the viability of a suddenly 10-school Big 12, conference commissioner Dan Beebe is trumpeting what's left over what's been lost.

That includes the appeal of two of the nation's most decorated football programs, Texas and Oklahoma, and one of college basketball's richest traditions at Kansas. That includes studies conducted by media companies that suggest the conference needn't even consider replacing departing Colorado and Nebraska to maintain commercial appeal because of factors such as its population base.

"The information we have is pretty strong that the 10 members we have would continue to provide a tremendous amount of revenue if we hold together," he said in a conference call Friday, adding, "We have pretty good evidence that if our 10 institutions remain, we have more value with 10 than now the 11 in the ... Pac-10."

But the "ifs" loom large for Mizzou's longtime home, even in terms of those numbers that Beebe declined to share.

"It depends on what the buyer thinks and how they feel about it at the time," he said, later adding, "It's more like buying a Picasso than it is buying widgets."

The Picasso reference perhaps was more apt than Beebe intended, evoking an image of the Cubist movement and its broken-up, abstract theme -- analogous to a landscape the Big 12 is facing as it tries to stay alive.

Even as Beebe promoted the strength of the rivalries, accessible regional travel for fans, the practical benefits of each conference team meeting annually in football and even the advantages of playing on Central time, he acknowledged that the temptations of more stable homes and the bruised relationships among remaining conference members were threatening to doom a league whose foundation was formed 104 years ago.

"Right now there seems to be high interest in (staying) together," he said. "At the same time, I would not be candid if I didn't say there are those that are studying options otherwise."

Most crucially, linchpin Texas is mulling a presumed offer from the Pac-10 that also could pull along Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Texas A&M also could be part of that move but is believed to be pondering the prospect of the Southeastern Conference.

While Beebe said he was "going all the way to the whistle" to hold together the group, his ability to succeed in that is debatable because of the foul dynamics that led Colorado and Nebraska to go.

Asked what more he might have done to avert that with the threat of expansion lurking since the Big Ten announced it would initiate a study of it in December, Beebe said, "I raised every possible scenario and issue I could think of and ones that all of you have raised."

But he couldn't build consensus on approaches to take.

"Some might have been interested, some (weren't)," said Beebe, noting the continuing issue of staggered revenue sharing and adding, "Issues from the very beginning with member institutions started to get more exacerbated.

"So I think there's a realization that we need to work better together in the future."

Yet apparently there is just as much a belief by key schools that they should consider a fresh start and put behind altogether the Big 12, a fusing of the former Big Eight and four Southwest Conference schools that began competing in 1996 and may soon be dissolved despite the value it might yet hold.

"There is a bright future if we stay together," said Beebe, adding that money "shouldn't be part of the equation" but noting, "If it's about other factors that are outside of our control, then there's nothing I can do about it."

© 2010, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.