Saturday, October 8, 2011

Money, not just school rivalries, at stake in Big 12 shake-up


There is tremendous interest in the musical chairs game currently being played by schools that have been, or currently are, members of the Big 12 Conference, as well as universities that may become part of the conference.

In most cities where these universities are located, the No. 1 concern is to do what is reasonable to keep the current conference alignment. It is a historic conference. It ties together a number of schools within a relatively close-knit geographic area. Friendships have developed during the years and, in most cases, there is a healthy, but intense, rivalry.

Fans and supporters of these universities and their athletic programs want to maintain the current conference arrangement and, if possible, make it an even stronger association of like-minded universities.

There are exceptions, however, in the motives of those calling for maintaining the current conference arrangement.

Kansas City is a case in point.

Granted, there are thousands of Kansas and Missouri alumni living in Kansas City, as well as thousands of Kansas State graduates. Aside from a number of Missouri alumni and fans who want their school to drop its association with the Big 12 and merge into the Southeastern Conference, the majority of KU, KSU and MU fans would like to see these schools continue their long-standing conference ties.

However, a powerful element in Kansas City isn’t motivated by ties to the three schools, or any other university in the Big 12.

Their primary interest is strictly monetary. All they are interested in is keeping the Big 12 postseason basketball tournament at the Sprint Center and the football game between Kansas and Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium.

These games bring millions of dollars to Kansas City in the way of hotel-motel business, shopping, restaurants and other expenditures, along with sales tax dollars to the state of Missouri.

These interests try to suggest they are calling for the University of Missouri to remain in the conference because of historic athletic ties to this part of the country and the number of Missouri fans who live in Kansas City.

This sounds nice, but the major reason actually is that KC business leaders know if Missouri thumbs its nose at the remaining schools in the Big 12, the postseason basketball tournament would become a thing of the past, as would the Arrowhead Stadium Border War game between KU and MU. These games represent a tremendous economic shot in the arm for KC businesses and the state of Missouri.

These business and convention interests are engaged in an all-out effort to keep MU in the Big 12.

Shouldn’t this open the eyes of KU officials to how much the KU-MU game means in dollars and cents to Lawrence and the entire state? Why don’t KU and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce officials work just as hard and, it is hoped, more effectively, to return the KU-MU football game to the university campuses in Lawrence and Columbia? That’s where they belong, not in the professional football stadium in Kansas City, Mo. How about showing some appreciation for what residents and businesses of Kansas and Missouri, particularly those in the vicinity of Lawrence and Columbia, mean to the universities?

• • • 

“What ifs” never count, but it is interesting to wonder what would have happened if a former KU athletic director, the late Bob Frederick, had been selected to lead the new Big 12 Conference, rather than Steve Hatchell, who had been commissioner of the Southwest Conference.

Frederick and Hatchell were finalists for the job. Once Hatchell secured the position, he moved the conference headquarters from Kansas City to Dallas.

This marked the start of the collective Texas effort to call the shots in how the conference would be run.

Hatchell also played a, if not “the,” key role in negotiating lucrative television contracts for conference athletic programs. Those contracts called for an unequal sharing of dollars among the schools.

Some try to deny the fact, but officials at schools such as KU, KSU, Iowa State and Nebraska didn’t like the way Texas schools tried to hijack the rest of the conference.

This triggered the early efforts by Nebraska to gain interest in the Big 10 and Missouri’s efforts to get into the Big 10.

Both schools have tried for years to join that conference. Nebraska made it; Missouri didn’t.

The new Texas Longhorn TV contract would send millions of added dollars to the school, and this seems to be the straw that broke the backs of many Big 12 athletic programs. Nebraska saw it coming and intensified its efforts to get into the Big 10.

There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on as to who is responsible for the breakup. But Hatchell and the move of the conference offices out of Kansas City set the stage. Texas officials and Texas AD DeLoss Dodds certainly have played a role. Chuck Neinas, who now has been tapped as interim commissioner of the Big 12 to hold the conference together, also was active in the conference and television affairs in the early days of the Big 12.

All of this begs the question: What would have happened if Bob Frederick had been selected as the first commissioner of the Big 12 Conference? Chances are, conference offices would have remained in Kansas City. It is not known whether he would have agreed to the unequal share of television revenues.

Would we have the mess we now have? Would the conference be stronger or weaker?


nuleafjhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

It doesn't matter if you're black or white... the only color that really matters is green." - Family Guy

baldwinjhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

Kansas City gets screwed (royally pun intended) if mizzou leaves. KU would have to lobby very hard to keep the basketball tourney there and even then i don't think it would work. I also don't think KU will play mizzou in any sport if they go to the sec. Sad but that's how it goes. We will have to learn to hate KState as much as they hate us.

Dyrk Dugan 6 years, 6 months ago

KU-MU should be back on campus, but not because of money. we're 1-3 in the games......we're at a competitive disadvantage. our one win was the Todd Reesing-Kerry Meier, pull it out of our tail last second victory.

the game at Arrowhead was a money grab by the schools...mainly Lew Perkins. Remember, his $4 million salary came in 2009.

of course MU should stay in the league because of the rivalries...the like minded academics and research of the schools. but in this day, and especially at all hype, look at me we're better than you attitude that is Moo, that doesn't matter at all.

look at what Texas is doing. complete revenue sharing, and no HS content on the LHN. what more do you want? I would make it 10 years on the commitment for the TV money and be done with it.

if Missouri leaves the Big 12, only Missouri will regret it. one day, they WILL regret it.

Saguaro_Jayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

iirc, the 4 TX schools, OU, CU and moo voted for Steve Hatchell to be Big XII's 1st commish. OU was concerned BF would not do enough to elevate football.

Hatchell was a former CU athletic dept employee and left on good terms. moo was blinded by the fact BF was a Kansas man.

Of those 3, BF might have had a chance of convincing OU he had great vision for football. Not sure he could have changed CU or moo's vote.

Jeff Coffman 6 years, 6 months ago

This was one of the worst articles I've read about conference realignment. It almost makes it seem like Missouri is the reason that the Big XII tournament is in the Sprint Center. I guarantee that if KU didn't say it should be there, MU would have no say in it.

Additionally, It makes it sound like there are the same amount of graduates from KU, KSU, and MU in the KC area, which is far from true. It is clearly KU. I'm sure you can find KU grads in St Louis and OKC, but that doesn't mean we have the same amount as MU and OU in those respective cities.

The headline makes is sound like money was a second thought to why this is occurring. Actually, it is the only reason this is occurring.

I could go on, but point taken, this was not a good article.

milehighhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

That's the one benefit of being publisher: zero people can tell you your article sucks & should not be printed.

kureader 6 years, 6 months ago

I certainly agree that Columbia and Lawrence have lost a great deal of money because of the Border Rivalry games in KC. Many students and alumni in both states missed the games, as well, because they were unable to travel and stay overnight in KC. I'd like to see the games return to their respective campuses.

As for Frederick, he was a great person, but I seriously doubt that he (or anyone else) could have stopped the Texas and Oklahoma schools from taking control of the conference. That was gonna happen no matter what.

The factor that doesn't get enough attention with conference realignment is the significant cost and burden of competing with schools that are located far away. Bill Self mentioned this yesterday in a radio interview. It's already difficult for student athletes to attend a full slate of classes when they're committed to their sport at least 30 hours a week. Long distance travel is a killer for the athletes (and fans). Some of the schools being discussed, like BYU and a number of east coast schools are just too far away. Though I hoped we could avoid adding another Texas school to the Big 12, at least TCU is in a central location.

Gregor Southard 6 years, 6 months ago

Mizzou is the 5 year old beauty pageant diva that can't believe she lost

Steve Brown 6 years, 6 months ago

Texas has 25 million residents, not sure we've saturated Texas yet. The Big 12 didn't expand to get a few good SWC schools, the SWC absorbed the two Oklahoma schools, changed its name and got a few northern shcools it doesn't care about.

Arrowhead experiment has failed. It was supposed to add $$$, increase national exposure, give a leg up in pro type recruits, launch us into better bowl games, and here's the rub, make KU a better product and increase demand so that the remaining home games are a hard ticket sellout, more than making up for the lost local pizza and beer on the every other year game. I had a few pals with first exposure to Kansas football were the 1st two years at Arrowhead who did come the next year to Lawrence for a couple games. Sorry it wasn't tens of thousands of them. The Arrowhead event was to help in every way, including increasing Lawrence Chamber revenue in other games as an offset.

Let KState Wildcats have the Arrowhead game with Missou. Careful what you wish for. Sooners Longhorns play off site, and suspect they would never consider reversing it.

Ryan Gerstner 6 years, 6 months ago

Rulz, you're right on. KU has 80,000+ alumni in KC while Mizzou only has 20,000. Plus, we have Lawrence and Topeka that are close so there are literally 130,000 alumni within an hour of the stadium. There's no excuse for the KU crowd not to completely dominate Arrowhead. It's just crappy fans.

The biggest issue with KU is our football has fallen off a cliff and our fans refuse to support it. Gill better have a major sense of urgency because when we're not even drawing 30k to the games, his seat is going to get really hot way faster than it should.

Migady 6 years, 6 months ago

Why do we have such an issue with not playing Missouri? If they want out of the conference, why would we do anything to please or benefit them? And why did Dolph decide to make this a political piece and reignight the argument over the location of the Border war? Players love that game because of the location. Missouri sucks. I would be happy to never again deal with the white trash fans they have to offer. So I may be bias.

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