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September 22, 2011

Tigers talk but say little



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Anyone expecting Brady Deaton's press conference on Thursday night to offer finality and resolutions to the future of the Big 12 conference will have to wait another day. Deaton opened the press conference confirming the resignation of commissioner Dan Beebe, who has been replaced on an interim basis by former Big Eight commissioner Chuck Neinas.

Deaton then said that, as chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors, he had been asked to form "a special working group to address a variety of other issues to further strengthen conference stability."

Deaton said the Big 12 teleconference earlier today did not address any of the specific issues that has led the Big 12 to the edge of extinction for the second time in 16 months.

"We agreed not to be discussing any specific issues this evening, but to simply recognize that there's a number of steps we need to take. There's work to be done," Deaton said. "The Big 12 itself is an ongoing entity…This evening we have said let's just form a small working group to get at this task and bring recommendations back to this board."

Deaton said some of those issues have been aired publicly and others have not. After standing in on Deaton's press conference, Mizzou Athletic Director Mike Alden was asked if it was accurate to say tonight marked the beginning of a process with no resolutions rather than the end of that process.

"I think that would be safe to say," Alden said. "I think there's a lot of work to be done."

Given repeated opportunities to confirm that Missouri would be a member of the Big 12 for the long-term, neither Deaton nor Alden exactly did so.

"The University of Missouri is going to continue to work for what is best for the University of Missouri," Deaton said. "We have seen that aligned with the big 12 Conference and we will continue to work with the various issues we have within the conference to carry it forward."

Not exactly the "proud members of the Big 12 Conference" endorsement that became synonymous with Missouri last year. Last summer, Deaton and Alden repeatedly denied any contact with or interest from the Big Ten Conference as that league looked to expand. On Thursday night, there were no such denials.

"People were calling people all over the country," Alden said. "That's just to get the pulse on things, what's going on."

"During these last few weeks, it's fair to say that every major institution in the country has had one type of communication or another with essentially every BCS conference. I think that's a fair statement for most," Deaton said. "Certainly we've had those contacts as well. I don't want to go into any specifics there."

With Missouri, those specific conversations have heated up surrounding the Southeastern Conference over the last few days. Some have reported that Missouri had an offer from the SEC and the Birmingham News went so far as to say the Tigers had an "informal agreement" to join the league as a member of the West Division.

"That's one of those hypotheticals," Deaton said when asked about the SEC stories. "As I indicated, I didn't want to go there with those tonight."

Pressed whether the Tigers had ruled out joining another conference, Deaton responded: "Well let me say that's again a hypothetical that could occur. In a sense, anything is possible. That's all recognized. That's what has led to the discussions that we've had over the last few weeks."

On Wednesday morning, Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel called the situation around the Big 12 "embarrassing" and said it was not a lot fun.

"Gary made some comments that I very much support," Alden said. "We all know that there are issues out there that we have to try and work through. They haven't been resolved yet."

"I wouldn't use the term embarrassing. I do understand that term, let me say," Deaton said. "Coach Pinkel and I had a very good discussion today."

Sources have indicated there are numerous people in positions of power at Missouri that strongly want to leave the Big 12. Alden said everyone is on the same page, but clearly there are ongoing discussions behind the scenes at Mizzou.

"There are people that are focused on working together to hopefully bring all those issues to a conclusion," Alden said of the future of the Big 12. "But to be able to have that as a finality tomorrow? No. That would certainly be understandable that people would say there's still some work to be done. That's the case."

Stay tuned.

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