When Dan Beebe addressed the media one month ago today, he sounded like Louis XVI defending the French monarchy while the third estate tore cobblestones from the streets of Paris. His voice betrayed exhaustion and defeat. With Colorado and Nebraska already announcing their departure from the Big 12 Conference and most of the South Division peaking out the door, the commissioner's words insisted he had hope for the league, but his tone sent another message.
Beebe worked a miracle in keeping even 10 of 12 teams in his conference. He found a way to satisfy the puppeteers, and in doing so forced every other school to fall in line. But the way it went down, with Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M set to get pretty payoffs but Oklahoma State and Texas Tech left in the cold, assumed complacency on the parts of the Cowboys and Red Raiders.
He should have known better.
Tech's administration did not need to verbalize its opinion about its raw deal. Tech got hosed, plain and simple. Beebe knew it. The fans knew it. And as we found out last week, Tommy Tuberville knew it, too.
In an interview with recruiting website Rivals.com, Texas Tech's first-year football coach frankly stated that a 10-team league lacks staying power, not because it is too small to hold a conference championship game, but because of the way it was duct taped back together.
"I don't think this conference will last long because there is too much disparity between all the teams," he said.
The juicy part came when he all but called Beebe out by name as the source of the problem, saying unity starts with the commissioner, and the Big 12 hasn't done much to get every school and team "on the same page."
Tuberville wasn't the first to think this, of course, but saying it out loud was enough to draw a response from Beebe. The commish issued a public reprimand on the Big 12 website Friday night, basically threatening Tuberville with a big fat fine should he say something mean again.
I'm not sure why he did it.
Tuberville stood up for himself, his players and the Texas Tech fans. No, it wasn't a very politically correct thing to say. But yes, it was warranted. Maybe reporters from Austin and Dallas kept calling the Big 12, wanting to know what Beebe thought of the coach's fighting words. If so, the better response would have been to affirm his own faith in the conference, issue a sincere-sounding message that he hoped Tuberville's opinion would change, and leave it at that. He should not have scolded the coach then barred him from issuing a response.
Beebe basically camped out in DeLoss Dodds' breast pocket last month, doing whatever he could to save his rear end, even if it came at the expense of the rest of the conference. He had every right to do so. It was a shrewd, tactical business move that helped him save face and his job. But if he honestly thought Tech would smile and take it, he must not spend much time in West Texas.
The greatest irony might be that the reprimand has made this story bigger than it was before Beebe chimed in. I get paid to write about Texas Tech, and even I had a good laugh about it with coworkers then moved on. Now this story is back in the news, and Beebe looks no better for having said his piece.
Beebe should have called Tuberville, given him a good lecture, and made him promise to fall in line. It would have been just as effective, and would have allowed his comments to fade into history.
Tuberville's right. It's going to take big change for the Big 12 to stay afloat, even if Beebe doesn't like to hear it.
COURTNEY LINEHAN IS THE A-J SPORTS EDITOR. HER COLUMNS WILL RUN SUNDAYS AND WEDNESDAYS THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER. SHE CAN BE REACHED AT firstname.lastname@example.org.