COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Less than a year after leaving his job as president of the University of Missouri, Gary Forsee was part of a group of Kansas City-area business leaders that tried unsuccessfully to keep school from leaving the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.
The group featured blue-chip members of the city’s business community, including Cerner Corp. CEO and Sporting Kansas City soccer team owner Neal Patterson and Hallmark president Don Hall Jr., The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Sunday. The contingent was concerned about the economic damage to their city from Missouri’s departure.
Forsee, a former Sprint Nextel CEO, left the university in January 2011 to care for his wife after she was diagnosed with cancer. Emails obtained by the Tribune show that Forsee prepared a memo nine months later urging Missouri curators and chancellor Brady Deaton to remain in the Big 12. But Forsee’s appeal was never sent. One week later, Missouri announced it would move to the SEC in July 2012.
“I have written a 3-4 page response,” Forsee wrote to Patterson. “I’ll sleep on it…My sense is time is about up and I need to be clear. I have been trying not to meddle and they may have no choice…But if Big 12 got it close, no question what MU needs to do.”
Patterson, a graduate of Oklahoma State University and prominent booster, forwarded the email to school President Burns Hargis and Athletic Director Mike Holder. Forsee declined a Tribune interview request.
But the newspaper’s review of more than 1,500 emails obtained from several Big 12 schools under state public records laws shows the former Missouri president at a minimum helped guide the Kansas City contingent’s unfruitful efforts.
Forsee coordinated his strategy with public relations executive Roshann Parris, whose clients at Parris Communications include Forsee’s former company, Sprint Nextel. Ultimately, “Gary elected not to engage on this issue, and never sent a memo,” Parris told the Tribune.
The email review also found that the Big 12 considered filing a lawsuit against the SEC in Boone County Circuit Court. A 12-page draft petition obtained by the Tribune suggested the SEC illegally enticed Missouri to breach its contractual commitment to the Big 12.
The draft requested an injunction to bar the SEC from accepting Missouri before June 30, 2016, the final day of the current Big 12 member agreement.
Missouri held a pomp-filled ceremony on Nov. 6 announcing its decision to join the SEC, less than two months after Texas A&M also said it was going to the SEC. The petition suggested Missouri’s departure jeopardized the Big 12′s reputation and value, given that television partners Fox Sports and ESPN, for instance, could void or renegotiate nine-figure deals if the Big 12 had fewer than 10 schools.
The Big 12 had since added Texas Christian University and West Virginia.
Missouri, in turn, settled the terms of its departure with the Big 12 on Feb. 28. The conference will withhold $12.4 million in revenue from Missouri in 2012.
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