Chuck Neinas: CU Buffs bring good value in realignment – The Denver Post

With all the rumors and scenarios being thrown around, it’s difficult to predict what happens with the Colorado Buffaloes and the Pac-12 Conference in the wake of Southern California and UCLA departing for the Big Ten.

One thing is clear, however.

“Let’s face it, television is calling the shots,” said Chuck Neinas, the former commissioner of the Big Eight and interim commissioner of the Big 12.

In that regard, Neinas believes CU brings good value to the Pac-12 or Big 12, if the Buffaloes were to make that move.

“Boulder is an attractive place,” Neinas said. “Now, that doesn’t mean you’ve got good football but they have had good football (in the past). Tad (Boyle) has done a great job with basketball. … The football has obviously been up and down, but they’ve been a good member of the Pac-12. They didn’t keep up with Utah, but the point of the matter is, it’s a good member; it’s an attractive institution; it has basically good athletics.”

Neinas added that it “doesn’t hurt” CU to be in the Denver market. Although only about seven percent of the country lives in the Mountain time zone, Neinas said, “Still, it’s important. (Conferences) want to be all over the country, no question.”

One of the most influential administrators in college sports history, Neinas, 90, is now enjoying retirement in Boulder. He remains plugged into what’s going on nationally, but admitted, “I’m glad I’m on the sideline.”

For years, however, he was in the middle of the action.

Neinas was the commissioner of the Big Eight from 1971-80 and then spent 17 years as the executive director of the College Football Association (CFA). From 2011-12, he was the interim commissioner of the Big 12.

In the mid-1980s, he negotiated TV contracts with major networks for CFA schools. During his time in the Big 12, he helped the conference after the departures of CU, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M by adding TCU and West Virginia.

He was also a consultant who helped several schools land football coaches, including Gary Barnett at CU, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and Mack Brown at Texas.

Although no longer on the front lines, Neinas knows the influence TV networks have had on college athletics for decades.

“The reason the Big 12 was formed (in 1996), is that the Southwest Conference and the Big Eight were jointly negotiating a contract and ESPN called and said, ‘Look, we want all of the Big Eight, but we don’t want any more than four of the Southwest Conference,” Neinas said.

ESPN wanted Texas and Texas A&M from the Southwest Conference. Texas politicians had influence in Baylor and Texas Tech being included, as well, Neinas said. Those four schools wound up joining the Big Eight: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Last year, ESPN was essential in leading Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 to the SEC (beginning in 2025). And, Fox was the main player in guiding USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten (beginning in 2024).

With all the politics behind the scenes, Neinas said, it’s tough to project what will happen in this latest round of realignment, which has CU and the rest of the Pac-12 scrambling after losing USC and UCLA.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

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CU and the rest of the Pac-12 are evaluating options.

Possible scenarios include some of the Pac-12 teams (including CU) going to the Big 12, or some of the Big 12 going to the Pac-12. Or the two conferences merging. The ACC and Pac-12 have reportedly discussed some sort of partnership.

Neinas said there are two important aspects to the Pac-12/Big 12 scenarios.

First is that the Pac-12 announced this week that it is immediately beginning negotiations for its next media rights agreements.

“It’s probably a smart move,” he said.

The other is that Bob Bowlsby is still the commissioner of the Big 12 — for now. He’s stepping down next month but will assist new commissioner Brett Yormark in the transition period.

“(Bowlsby) is one sharp cookie,” Neinas said. “It’s fortunate that he’s still there because this is no time for a rookie.”

The TV networks will likely determine CU’s fate, but Neinas doesn’t hide his bias when asked where he would like to see the Buffs land.

“My wife and I say we may be the only two people in Boulder who miss K-State, so I’m probably not objective,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a Big 12 guy.”

He’s also glad he’s only observing this time around. While Neinas has been at the forefront of some significant changes in college athletics, the current college sports landscape is more chaotic now than he’s ever seen.

“Yeah it is,” he said. “Things are happening so quickly. The camaraderie and the trust that I could enjoy during my days are no longer there. It’s out of control, that’s for sure.”

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