Now that the Big 12 has formed a search committee to find a permanent replacement for Dan Beebe, it’s time to line up a list of candidates.
These four have been most often mentioned in administrative circles and published reports: Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowksy, West Virginia AD Oliver Luck and NCAA interim vice president of championships and alliances, Greg Shaheen, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick.
--Banowksy, 51, is so highly thought of that his name was dropped by Neinas in September during his introductory teleconference. Banowksy is in his ninth year with Conference USA, which is currently in talks to combine and form a new conference with the Mountain West. There is already speculation that Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson would retain that title with the new conference, ostensibly leaving Banowsky free to take the Big 12.
--Luck, a former NFL quarterback, has extensive administrative experience. In 1991, he made an unsuccessful run for Congress in West Virginia. Following that, he was general manager for two different teams overseas in the World League of American Football. Luck, 51, was the WLAF's president from 1996-2000 before the league rebranded as NFL Europe. From 2001-2008, Luck was CEO of the Houston Sports Authority and president of the Houston Dynamo of the Major League Soccer. Since June 2010 he has been West Virginia's AD. The school is in the process of moving from the Big East to the Big 12. Among his accomplishments at WVU is successfully implementing beer sales to increase revenue.
--Swarbrick reportedly finished as runner-up to Beebe the last time the Big 12 went searching for a commissioner in 2007. He was also a finalist for the NCAA president’s job in 2002. Swarbrick, 57, has a legal background having practiced law for 28 years before taking the Notre Dame job in 2008. He is credited with consulting on the NCAA’s move from Overland Park, Kan. to Indianapolis. Since he joined the Irish, football has continued its mediocrity. Swarbrick has had to fire Charlie Weis. Brian Kelly has yet to find traction in getting ND to the championship level. Heck of a question: Which job is considered better in the world of college athletics – Notre Dame or Big 12?
--Shaheen might be the most intriguing candidates. He is seen as one of the brightest minds in sports today. As NCAA vice president of basketball and business strategies, Shaheen was credited for the basketball-in-the-round concept that allowed the Final Four to be played in football stadiums. Also, during his watch the NCAA in general has become more open and media friendly. I reported in March 2009 that the Pac-10 twice took a run at him to be its commissioner before hiring Larry Scott.