The last time conference realignment threatened to blow up the Big 12, a move to the Big East for four schools, including Kansas University, came closer than most realize, according to an insider with strong ties to one of the conferences.
The plan called for the Big East basketball tournament remaining at Madison Square Garden in New York and the football championship game alternating between Giants Stadium in New Jersey and Arrowhead Stadium.
Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri would have headed to the Big East, forming a 12-team football league.
The Big 12 stayed together, and the Big East added TCU, bringing to nine the number of football schools it will field in 2012. It would rather have 12. That’s why Kansas and Missouri need not worry about getting left out of the BCS musical-chairs game, with the Big East being a nice fall-back position. The New York Post reported that the Big East already has extended an offer to KU, K-State and MU. Iowa State will have to look for another home, probably not a BCS one.
Yet, before KU and Mizzou head east, the rivals might want to take one last shot at heading north, each school lobbying hard for the other, trying to sell the Big Ten on the value of locking up the college-intense Kansas City market. Missouri alone doesn’t bring enough of Kansas City to warrant an invitation without KU, which has a stronger KC presence. Illinois and Missouri would give the Big Ten nice penetration in St. Louis, but that’s more of a pro market.
The problem: Kansas and Missouri bring one new TV market and don’t have stadiums large enough to make the Big Ten members interested in sharing revenue equally.
The Big Ten is the least likely destination, ranking behind the Big East and Pac-12. ESPN Radio reported that Texas turned down the Pac-12. That might make that conference interested in adding Kansas and Missouri along with soon-to-be-new members Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Here’s how the divisions would look in a Pac-16, grouped by travel partners: West: UCLA and USC, Cal-Berkeley and Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. East: Arizona and Arizona State, Colorado and Utah, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Kansas and Missouri.
The Big East football divisions, with three new members from the Big 12, likely would shape up this way: East: Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. West: Cincinnati, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Missouri and TCU.
With just one Texas school in the Big East, recruiting football players from Texas becomes tougher for KU.
Should Kansas land in the Pac-16, non-revenue sports likely would play games against teams from their own division and might not face the others until the postseason tournament in order to reduce travel time and costs.