A scene from Big 12 Media Days 2012 …
Dan Beebe bursts through the doors of an Austin hotel ballroom. His arms pump as Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero” echoes over the speakers, drowning out a smattering of applause. After one lap, then two, the Commish settles behind the podium. The music stops and so begins his annual preseason address.
“Thank you. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.
“Recently, I organized a retreat with the Big 12 athletic directors. We ate fajitas. Drank Shiner Bock. Played that game of trust, you know, where one guy falls backward and another guy has to catch him. DeLoss Dodds kept letting people drop to the ground. Such a prankster. We got him back, though. A bucket of warm water as he was sleeping.
“Anyway, I felt like that weekend really pulled everyone together and set the tone for the future of this league. You guys from Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State, I hope you can make it next year.
“As I survey the landscape, there’s no doubt we’re more unified than ever. And I really like the idea of nine schools. Some of the great conferences in America have nine. The Ohio Valley. The Southland. The Mountain West — before BYU left. So we’re proud to be part of that tradition.
“Anyway, we’re really excited for a new season. I’ll take a few questions now.”
Q: Where do you feel like the departure of A&M will hurt you most?
“Well, we’re not here to talk about former members. But I will tell you that Texas A&M didn’t actually contribute much. And Bill Byrne never liked the Big 12 in the first place.
“The league is leaner and meaner now. Remember, we still have several national powerhouses. Texas. And Oklahoma. And, of course, Texas.
“Most of all, we’re much more geographically cohesive now. You know, College Station was a long way from places like Columbia and Ames.”
Q: Are you still looking into the controversy from last season?
Q: You know, where A&M got penalized 27 times against Kansas State?
“No, no. We’ve put that issue behind us.”
Q: Do you still think it was the right decision to suspend the A&M quarterback for waving to his grandma?
“Our officials perceived that act as a clear violation of new NCAA celebration rules. Frankly, we had no choice.”
Q: Looking back, do you wish you would’ve presented A&M with the Big 12 trophy on Thanksgiving night. They did clinch the Big 12.
“Obviously, a lot of things have happened since then. I still feel like we did the right thing. People forget, The Longhorn Network wanted to do a postgame show from the sidelines that night. We were obligated to give the trophy to Texas.”
Q: Even though Texas went 6-6?
“That’s right. But to all the Aggie fans who called my house asking for the trophy, I can assure you that we shipped it on Feb. 24. We even paid for the extra Bubble Wrap. $39.72. We have the receipt to prove it. I don’t know what else to say on the matter. It’s not our fault that FedEx lost your trophy.”
Q: But according to an anonymous janitor who works in the Texas football offices, the trophy is on a shelf in …
“I won’t comment on rumors. Next question, please.”
Q: Dan, did it bother you that Texas pulled the cord on Mack after all he’d accomplished there? What does that say about the pressure for coaches to win these days?
“From what I’m told, it was more of a ratings issue. We all loved Mack, but ESPN wanted a younger, more dynamic character for that role.
“Actually, this is a wonderful time to recognize him. Coach Gruden, can you stand up? Jon? Oh, Jon’s doing an interview. I forgot. The Longhorn Network is filming ‘Tuesday in the life of Texas football.’ Can’t wait to watch it. I just loooooved ‘Monday in the life of Texas football.’ ”
Q: Bob Stoops and Gary Pinkel have expressed concern about Gruden working for The Longhorn Network during its Friday high-school coverage — he will obviously be commenting on recruits — then turning around on Saturday and coaching for Texas. Do you share their concern?
“I don’t think it’s a big deal. Knowing Jon, he’ll have plenty of energy to do both jobs at a high level. I just hope he finds time to get some sleep!”
Q: Without A&M in the mix, what are your plans for that Thanksgiving night time slot this year?
“Well, we’re really excited about moving Texas Tech-Missouri to that night. For years, I’ve felt like that rivalry didn’t receive near enough attention. We finally have the opportunity to shine the spotlight on it. According to everyone I’ve talked to, the change ended up being a positive.
“Gov. Nixon is actually here today with the Mizzou contingent. Jay, stand up and be recognized! Oh, Jay’s on the phone. Sorry. Who is he talking to? Mike Slive? They’ve been talking a lot lately. Huh. Must be college friends.”
Q: Is there any truth to the report that Iowa State has engaged in discussions with the MAC about conference membership?
“At the spring meetings, I had a very frank conversation with our presidents about where we’re going and who’s going to be on the plane when we take off. Everyone pinky swore not to leave.”
Q: But an Iowa website this morning said the deal is done. The Cyclones wanted more stability.
“Well, Chip Brown tells me there’s no chance. None. And he has tremendous sources in my office.”
Q: So why isn’t anybody from Iowa State here today?
(The Commish pauses. Pulls his BlackBerry from his pocket. Checks his one new e-mail: “Orangebloods.com is exclusively reporting that Iowa State will leave the Big 12 Conference, unless they don’t.” Beebe turns to the audience.)
“As I said earlier, we’re more unified than ever. But I’ve always liked the idea of an eight-team conference.”