Tim Weiser, the Robin Hood of deputy commissioners?
Only in the small-budget schools’ dreams.
In his move from the No. 1 athletic position at Kansas State to the No. 2 job at the Big 12, Weiser is closer to the vault that stores the treasure of TV contracts, bowl games and other such income.
He’ll even negotiate future contracts worth tens, maybe hundreds, of millions.
But advancing to the league’s front office means the Big 12 will lose one of the biggest advocates of change to boost small-budget programs. “I definitely think that when you take a position in a conference office, you make no mistake about your neutrality of an issue,” Weiser said. “I have my personal thoughts and opinions, but they’re secondary to what’s best for a conference.”
Some background: For all the success the Big 12 is enjoying in this school year, a feeling prevails among small-budget schools that because the members don’t pull rope in the same direction, the conference can’t flex a full financial muscle.
The Big 12 shares revenue equally except television appearance money. Half of that income is distributed equally. The other half goes into an appearance pool.
Teams with the most air time make the most money, and think large budget vs. small here. Typically, glam programs Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas A&M get the lion’s share of football TV love, and the rich get richer.
Weiser, as K-State’s athletic director, has questioned the fairness of the system, claiming the Big 12 should be an equal-partner proposition.
The bigger-budget schools have countered that it’s a market-driven issue, and play some non-conference opponents worth televising while you’re at it.
The difference could mean as much as $1.5 million annually to a school in conference-distributed revenue, and although it might seem like a drop to Texas, with an athletic budget approaching nine figures, it means plenty to the Iowa States and Baylors with wallets half the size.
Weiser likened this transition to his Colorado State days. Then, his athletic administration groused about not sharing Bowl Championship Series loot.
Then he got to Kansas State, and suddenly those big-bowl dollars flowing almost exclusively into the BCS conferences weren’t such a bad deal.
Also, revenue sharing isn’t a decision for the Big 12 office, although commissioner Dan Beebe and now Weiser can have an influence. The schools came up with the formula more than a dozen years ago as an incentive to keep the Longhorns and Aggies from flirting with other conferences. They had choices, and the Big 12 wasn’t going to fly without them.
The issue has picked up steam in recent years. Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, who came from the equal-sharing Big Ten, insists the Big 12 hurts its long-term financial prospects by playing one-for-you and two-for-me.
Pollard has had an ally in Weiser, who now has to play it straight.
“I would hope people see me as an ally for all of their causes,” Weiser said.
It’s important to understand that the revenue-distribution issue isn’t a deal-breaker. Nobody has threatened to bolt because of the status quo or the prospect of change.
And in the Big 12, things are changing in a level playing field kind of way. A football program that never had a winning conference season, Kansas, won a BCS bowl game. The Jayhawks and Missouri set school records for victories.
Two men’s basketball programs that haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament as Big 12 members, Kansas State and Baylor, are headed in that direction.
Hey, when Nebraska beats the Wildcats in a basketball game and the students find it important enough to rush the court, good things are happening.
Besides, Weiser is leaving, but don’t expect silence from Manhattan. K-State’s new athletic boss will continue to answer to President Jon Wefald, who once said Texas represented arrogance and celebrated with fans at midcourt after a basketball victory over the Longhorns.
The fight will continue.