Big 12 looks east, way east, adds school
By BHNP, Black Heart Gold Pants wire service reporter
In a surprise announcement, the Big 12 Conference announced early Monday morning that Libya's Benghazi University had accepted an invitation to join the athletic association. The Benghazi University Rebels will begin conference play in the fall of 2012.
In a far-reaching and, until now, secret process, the Big 12 has completed a series of high-risk moves that could alter the college sports landscape forever
"We're happy to add the Rebels to the nation's premiere athletic association," said Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe (seen below) in a prepared statement. "Student athletes at Benghazi University will no doubt continue the tradition of excellence already laid out by their peers from the University of Texas. Student athletes from other member schools will participate as well."
And if that wasn't enough, here's the stunner: In a statement issued a few hours ago, Benghazi University announced that it intends to hire Auburn University coach Gene Chizik (seen below) to assemble its fledgling football program. One Benghazi University official confirmed that Chizik has agreed in principle to a 10-year, $10 million dollar a year contract, a figure which does not include the buyout of his contract with Auburn. This move comes less than two weeks before the start of the 2011 season.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to share my exciting brand of football with the best fans in Africa," said Chizik on his Twitter feed. "This is a dream job and the best day of my life. GO REBZ! DEATH TO THE OPPRESSOR!"
At least one unconfirmed rumor put Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson in the chair now held by Chizik. Former Southern Methodist University headman Ron Meyer reportedly turned down an offer to be athletic director at the Big 12's newest university.
The move comes as the conference struggles to bounce back from defections by the University of Nebraska and the University of Colorado to the Big 10 and Pac 10, respectively. The Big 12 also finds itself in a fight to hang on to Texas A&M University, which recently made an unsuccessful bid to join the football powerhouse Southeast Conference. Those knowledgeable about the decisions leading to Monday morning's announcement say the invitation to Benghazi was made in a effort to add a "name" school and bolster flagging morale among current member institutions and fans.
"Benghazi is a perfect fit academically, athletically and culturally," said one anonymous observer close to events. "Beebe could not be happier. He's busting. This is a coup for him, maybe the defining moment of his career."
Despite the hoopla, many questions remain. Benghazi competes only in men's soccer at an intramural club level and women's athletics are non-existent. Libya (see map, below) is seven time zones ahead of the central United States, making travel and television viewing a somewhat dicey prospect for even the most dedicated fans. Also, the nation, oil rich yet profoundly destitute, is embroiled in a civil war.
"We want to assure UT fans that they won't be traveling to Africa to watch their beloved Longhorns for several decades to come," said Beebe. "The Rebels have agreed to give up home games with Texas until 2042. But in the interest of competitive balance, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State will be traveling to Benghazi twice a year in all shared sports until 2042."
Officials at K-State and Baylor expressed surprise at the news, stating that they had not been involved in conference growth discussions of any kind. A phone attempt to contact the Iowa State Athletic Department connected with the Lumberyard, an "exotic entertainment" establishment located in Des Moines, Iowa (See below). Further attempts to contact ISU officials have been unsuccessful. Benghazi University will add baseball, making Iowa State the only Big 12 school without a scholarship baseball program.
The Big 12's expansion plans may not be complete. One source close to Beebe believes the commissioner would like to add the University of Miami, currently the target of what could in time be the largest, most damaging NCAA investigation in the history of that organization. Beebe may also be locked in on the University of Phoenix, which owns a world-class football/soccer stadium but sponsors no scholarship sports.