Dan Beebe’s office is in Kansas City, not far from the Intercontinental Hotel on the Country Club Plaza, where the conference he once governed and twice nearly fell apart, held its annual spring meetings.
But the Big 12 Conference was headed for safe ground when Beebe was ousted as commissioner in 2011, and although there was disappointment, he was never bitter, and he didn’t take a $4.5 million settlement and disappear from the sports scene.
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He remains active heading the Dan Beebe Group, a layered organization that has a hand in consulting college athletes — Beebe helped organize the new Big East Conference — but has a primary focus in risk management.
It specializes in training related to sex abuse, hostile work environments, wrongful termination, harassment and humiliation in the workplace.
Because the workplaces Beebe knows well are sports organizations, his clients include the Houston Texans and the Auburn and Florida athletic departments.
On Thursday, Beebe spent most of an hour-plus address to the Kansas City chapter of the Boston College Alumni Association on the business venture that at its core helps people who think there is nowhere else to turn. Employees might be afraid to blow a whistle, even if the company provides avenues.
“When we go into an organization, and we tell them we’re a third party, we’re not from here, didn’t get my degree from here, don’t buy season tickets, we’re not depending on this place for my livelihood,” Beebe said.
This way, Beebe said his company can protect those at the top — from lawsuits — and the most vulnerable.
“We do the assessment, look at policies and procedures, analyze those to try to fill in gaps,” Beebe said.
In college sports, stories of harassment and hostile environments have made headlines recently, some with tragic conclusions, from the firing and settlement of abusive basketball coach Mike Rice at Rutgers, to the alleged abusive tactics of a Louisville lacrosse coach in the past year.
Beebe wonders if the mother of all scandals — Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing boys at Penn State — might have ended sooner than it did if Penn State had employed a group similar to his.
Would the janitors who reportedly saw Sandusky abusing a boy in 2000 have been more inclined to report the crime had they perhaps not feared for their jobs? The Sandusky abuse occurred through 2009.
Could a group such as Beebe’s have saved the life of Yeardley Love, a Virginia lacrosse player whose boyfriend was convicted of second-degree murder in association with her death?
Love had received threatening emails and texts from the ex-boyfriend after breaking up, and the family filed a $29.45 million wrongful death lawsuit against the university, claiming gross negligence on the part of the coaching staff that knew of the threats and didn’t act.
Two years ago, Beebe couldn’t have seen himself in this position. The Big 12 had lost Nebraska and Colorado for 2011, but that summer the league announced a huge television deal with Fox that appeared to be the league’s life raft. The ink had barely dried on the deal when Beebe saw more trouble. A Texas A&M delegation led by president R. Bowen Loftin met with Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive.
“We came out of the June meeting in Kansas City with positive feelings about the conference, and then we learned (in July) that the Texas A&M president had met with the SEC commissioner, after everybody had pledged to remain in the conference,” Beebe said.
That, to Beebe, was a low point. The Longhorn Network, Texas’ agreement with ESPN, had become a sticking point, especially when the prospect of broadcasting the high school games of Texas recruits was floated.
The Aggies were gone, and when Oklahoma president David Boren said on the day before the 2011 season openers “I don’t think OU is going to be a wallflower when all is said and done,” Missouri officials met the next day and began discussing their future in a new league.
“I really wish Missouri had found a way to stay in the Big 12,” Beebe said. “I’m from Missouri. I have family that went to Missouri. It was just a personal feeling. But Missouri did what it felt it had to do.”
Before the end of the month, Beebe was out.
But he’s never been down, and today his contributions to sports never seemed more important.