Neill Woelk
Neill Woelk
To no one`s surprise and almost everyone`s relief, the divorce was finalized Tuesday afternoon.

While it may not have been an amicable parting, neither was Colorado`s separation from the Big 12 particularly acrimonious. The two will go separate ways beginning in 2011, meaning this year will indeed be the Buffs` swan song through a conference it played a major role in forming.

The Buffs` share of the alimony payment will be $6.86 million; fellow Big 12 escapee Nebraska will pony up $9.25 million.

Thankfully, there were no child custody arguments. The Big 12 gets to keep homes in Ames, Stillwater, Waco and Lubbock; Colorado gets the vacation spots in Tempe, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

You tell me who won.

Financially, it`s a good result for the Buffs.

When Colorado first announced its plans to go west, initial reports said the Buffs could owe as much as $15 million to $18 million for their exit fee.

Wrong.

Instead, they`ll pay about 36 percent of two years` worth of conference revenue, a significantly lower portion than some of the rather ludicrous reports that were being circulated even as late as Tuesday morning.

Give Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano a well-deserved pat on the back for this one, and a healthy assist to athletic director Mike Bohn.

DiStefano quietly but emphatically argued Colorado`s case with the Big 12, and came away with a settlement better than manyexpected.


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There`s no doubt the Big 12 expected more in terms of an exit fee -- and no doubt Colorado would have liked to pay less. But as the Big 12 pushed the issue and threatened to make it too expensive for Colorado to leave in 2011, DiStefano didn`t blink.

Instead, he patiently stuck to his guns. When the Big 12 realized that forcing Colorado to stay another year as "punishment" for its desire to leave was penny-wise and pound-foolish, the conference agreed to an arrangement that was acceptable to all.

Colorado was gracious in its exit; the Big 12 was likewise. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe made it clear that the conference did not want to entangle itself in a protracted legal battle. The airing of dirty laundry would have helped no one.

"Everybody had a strong desire to make sure we worked this out collegially and without any legal process involved," Beebe said. "That was a primary motive."

But there were some folks who seemed to be itching for a little courtroom drama. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, who suggested from the beginning that the departing schools didn`t owe the Big 12 a dime, admitted that he wouldn`t have minded seeing the issue going to court.

"I still think we had a very significant legal argument that would have prevented them from imposing any penalties," said Perlman, a former law professor. "... I`m disappointed, as an academic, that my curiosity about the legal claims won`t be resolved. (But) I think it made sense in this setting to get this behind us."

Indeed. That`s one thing Colorado didn`t need -- a lengthy and costly legal battle.

No doubt, it will take the Buffs a few years to make up the exit fee. Colorado won`t start receiving a full share of Pac-12 revenue until 2012, when new television contracts kick in, but will have a loan from its new conference on future revenues to cover up any shortfalls in the interim.

In the long run, it will prove to be a financially sound decision for Colorado, as its revenue shares should increase substantially.

There will be some immediate positive effects. An increased alumni presence, the novelty of new opponents and the general overall feeling of a fresh start should energize Colorado`s fan base. If CU officials maximize the potential there, it should soften the immediate blow of the exit fee.

Bottom line?

Tuesday was the latest major step in a game plan Bohn and the CU administration have been formulating for more than a year. It was a carefully orchestrated, well-executed strategy that has ultimately put Colorado in terrific position to begin a new era. 

This morning, the fact that it will begin as soon as humanly possible is something Colorado fans can wholeheartedly embrace.