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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Don’t panic,’ Girod says of Big 12 unrest; stakes are high for KU, but school must avoid making a rash decision

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod speaks during a KU forum about budget cuts at Eaton Hall in this Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, file photo.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod speaks during a KU forum about budget cuts at Eaton Hall in this Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, file photo.

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The decision by Texas and Oklahoma to pursue a move to the SEC came like a thunderbolt. The response to that decision shouldn’t, University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod said in some of his first public comments about unrest in the Big 12 Conference.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Girod indicated the Big 12 is in a better position than some may believe due to the contract provisions that essentially allow the Big 12 Conference to control the media rights of Texas and Oklahoma into 2025.

“First, you don’t panic,” Girod said of how KU and other members of the Big 12 move forward following Tuesday’s announcement that Texas and Oklahoma don’t intend to renew their media rights with the Big 12 once they expire in 2025. “We are talking about change that could take four years to come to fruition.

“They are locked in for another four years. We have to make sure we are thoughtful about this and create the best path forward given that the landscape is shifting very quickly.”

While Tuesday’s announcement created the possibility that Texas and Oklahoma would remain in the Big 12 until 2025 — the schools perhaps would have to pay penalties totaling upward of $100 million to leave early — there’s also been much speculation that the Big 12 could fall apart well before then as other schools bolt in fear that the conference won’t hold much appeal to the big-dollar media companies once the Longhorns and Sooners leave.

Girod on Wednesday, however, was touting the need to go slower rather than faster.

“We are not obligated to make any decision today, nor should we,” Girod said. “Collectively, the group will be talking about what is the best path forward. But the biggest mistake we could make, in my opinion, is to make a rash decision.”

Girod said the questions surrounding this potential conference reorganization are much bigger than what KU and others have faced in the past, including in 2010 when Colorado and Nebraska left the Big 12, and in 2011 when Texas A&M; and Missouri acted to leave the conference.

Girod, who became KU’s chancellor in 2017, said the big difference between then and now is that the future of the NCAA itself is uncertain.

“Unfortunately, we are doing this in an environment that is changing so fast with what is happening at the NCAA,” he said. “In 24 months, I don’t think collegiate athletics is going to look like it does today. This is not like the last go around with ‘what conference do you want to be in?’ This is 'what is college athletics going to look like in two years?' It is a much bigger question than it has been historically.”

What is easy to understand is that the stakes are high for KU and others. Girod said being in a Power Five conference brings value not only to KU but to the entire state “and the economic impact of that is quite significant.”

But there are plenty of direct dollars at stake for KU too. You don’t have to look too far to see how a large state university has a much different athletic department due to the fact that it has been shut out of a Power Five conference. Colorado State — which, if it were in Kansas, would be the largest university in the state with its enrollment of 32,000 students — had an athletic department budget of $56 million in 2019, before the pandemic wreaked havoc on athletic finances. KU, on the other hand, had an athletic department budget of $121 million, according to NCAA filings made by the school.

But the real pain in those numbers becomes evident when you take a closer look at where Colorado State gets its $56 million. About $16 million came in the form of general university funds — the type that otherwise could be used to pay instructors or other general educational purposes. In addition, Colorado State charged its students about $6 million in fees that went to the athletic department.

KU, on the other hand, provided about $1.5 million in general university funds to the athletic department, and student fees for athletics totaled just less than $300,000 in 2019.

In other words, KU paid less than $2 million in support to its athletic department, while Colorado State paid more than $20 million in support to its athletic department.

The biggest difference between the two schools is that KU received Big 12 Conference and media distributions totaling $42 million, while Colorado State, with its membership in the Mountain West Conference, received just under $5 million.

Some schools, even those with powerhouse basketball programs, have fared worse. The University of Connecticut — whose men’s team has won four NCAA national championships and whose women’s basketball program is widely considered the greatest in history — is famous for having a money-losing athletic program. In 2019, the university had to provide nearly $37 million in direct support to the athletic department and charged students about $6.5 million in fees.

Girod on Wednesday acknowledged that KU is at risk of facing tough decisions about athletic department budgets if it is not able to stay within a Power Five conference.

“We are blessed that we are in the 5% of athletics that at least breaks even for the most part,” Girod said. “That in itself is a rarity, and that is only because of being in a Power Five conference and the success of our basketball program.

“Falling out of the Power Five would make that very challenging given that higher education funding and enrollments are challenging across the country. All of these issues are going to come into focus very significantly in the next couple of years.”

Comments

Bville Hawk 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Sounds like the 'big guy' has it all under control...

Matthew Pyle 5 months, 3 weeks ago

His comments are scary as hell. Time to take the reigns and get active.

Brian Skelly 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Being proactive, irregardless of the end results seems like to be the course of action to take. I don't even care if we hear anything publicly or not. There needs to be efforts on the inside happening.

Dirk Medema 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Brian - That’s funny to see you say that it’s not important for you/us to know. I agree but also recall plenty of times when people commented on deserving the right to know everything.

It’s also interesting to hear that UConn is a net negative athletic program.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

bob bowlsby is a F'n embarassment & a f'n 🤡🤡🤡🤡

Barry Weiss 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I just don't see how slow walking this helps. I guess he has all the inside scoop, but I think you go big or you go home this time around. Wow, I did not know the Mountain West paid so poorly.

Ted Hume 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Exactly. I hope this clarifies to people that KU cannot, and will not, end up in a non-power conference like the Mountain West, AAC, etc. It would be an utter disaster and death knell for all other sports at the University other than BBall. Either the Big 12 rebuilds and stays together, or we're joining the Big 10, period. No other options are even a remote possibility

Jonathan Allison 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Big 10, ACC, PAC-12

In that order.

If all of those fail, then KU is hosed. I would tend to believe that KU could turn the Big East into the most marketable basketball league in college sports, with rivalries with Nova, UConn, and Creighton but going independent in football is probably an anchor that will sink the ship. KU Basketball is way more valuable than UConn, but not enough to offset a football team that will almost certainly lose money year after year.

Suzi Marshall 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I say KU should soak OU and UT for every penny owed under the GOR/Bylaws while simultaneously suing the hell out of ESPN for tampering (or whatever legal arguments can be made). This would make KU the leader and hero to the rest of the league. While this is all going on, the league should be negotiating with various platforms and let other teams come to them with an eye on Houston/CU/MU/BYU/ASU/AU/Utah/TAMU.

Jonathan Allison 5 months, 3 weeks ago

This would seem to be the top priority of the league and all it's members. But not sure how you attract schools to come to the Big 12 (especially from other P5 leagues) considering that the Big 12 without OU and UT doesn't look much like a power conference.

Lee Stanford 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I like what you have suggested, Suzi.

KU needs to assume a role of leadership throughout all of this in order to protect its own interests. So it will be fundamentally important to hold OU’s and UT’s feet to the fire, including securing every last cent those two schools owe to the Big Twelve. No stone should be left unturned - including exploring possible litigation against ESPN for tampering. In being a champion for the rest of the league, we would be taking steps that could contribute to the Big Twelve’s ultimate survival. At the same time, we would demonstrate to the rest of the nation - among other things - how much we value membership in a conference to which we are commited. In short for this last point, other conferences - which eventually we may want to join - might view it favorably if we handled this predicament well.

As far as realignment is concerned, I do not see TAMU or others in Power Five conferences moving to the Big Twelve. A&M’s Board of Regents recently voted 8-1 to direct the university’s president to vote for admitting OU and UT to the SEC.

Nevertheless, I believe there is ample opportunity here for creative solutions. You mentioned “negotiating with various platforms,” and I would like to briefly comment on that later. Here, I am focusing on prospective new members for the Big Twelve.

I would begin by suggesting something I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere, namely inviting all three service academies into the league: Army, Navy, and Air Force. Every December, the Army-Navy game gets nation-wide coverage as well as broadcasting to armed forces and federal government interests around the world. It would be great to see Air Force thrown into the mix with regularly scheduled games with the other two. All three service academies have fielded very respectable football teams for many years. And as I mentioned, there would be a world-wide interest in all games played by these teams in a major conference.

Then we would add well known up-and-coming schools who were literally knocking on our door back in 2016 when Big Twelve expansion was last considered: Memphis, Houston, Cincinnati, UCF - and for the final slot in a sixteen-team league, either Brigham Young or Uconn.

Call our new league the National Athletic Conference.

(I have run afoul of the 3000-character limit, so I will divide this into two posts)

Lee Stanford 5 months, 3 weeks ago

(continued)

Among many other reasons for keeping alive the Big Twelve is the “Texas pipeline”. So long as Kansas remains in a league that includes Texas schools, it should be much easier to recruit from Texas. Case in point - after Nebraska moved to the Big 10, their recruiting in Texas dried up. I wouldn’t like to see the same thing happen to us.

As far as “negotiating with various platforms” is concerned, I love this idea. So many new possibilities exist with all the various new media outlets - perhaps it is very fertile ground for some lucritive new contracts. Recently I read some where how ESPN and Disney are scrambling to counter Amazon’s entry into these media markets. Given that ESPN may have instigated this predicament, it would be great to get a strong deal from Amazon or other rivals of theirs.

Finally, I think that as fans, we underestimate our own individual and collective influence and power. I would love to see fan-driven initiatives or even movements emerge - even advocacy groups or watchdogs. Girod’s admonition here - that this is going to be something markedly more broad and significant than mere realignment - is poignant. And the more each and every one of us gets involved, the better it will be for KU as well as everyone else.

Spencer Goff 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Bowlsby went on the attack towards ESPN today, and somehow this has not made news on this website. Is this an ESPN affiliate?

At least somebody finally had the nuts to call out ESPN for the last decade of this crap.

Jason Spangler 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Seriously, how is Bowlsby’s letter to ESPN not is bright red flashing lights on this website?

Rodney Crain 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Girod - folks all that has happened is we hit an iceberg. There is plenty of time, have faith in me to steer this ship. You can trust me! We can wait a few years before we even have to deal with this. Please keep in mind that I am due to get something right after so many wrong decisions. Where is my ice tea?

Ervin O'Neal 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Sounds like exactly what Girod and the other 7 school leaders should be saying publicly. But behind the scenes, be ready to make an announcement concerning where each school is headed just after we take the exit fees from OU and UT.

Rodney Crain 5 months, 3 weeks ago

In regards to ESPN tying to break up the B12 so TX and OU can leave free and clear, You have to back that up with some evidence. Bowlsby can't just lob that to AP without a name, a school, or how he found that out. That he beleives it with certainity and not say why or provide proof makes him look weak.
ESPN has to have interns running their website. There are always issues with timely information being posted. It's on the site now. Their Oly medal tracker has not updated by athlete since Sunday, F1 standings are always 4-5 days late, they have let too many people go due to Disney.

Brett McCabe 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Girod and Bowlsby. Dynamism at the highest level. And Suzy thinks the answer is a shark attack in court, followed by a meaningless list of letters. Yeah. It’s somebody else’s fault, nimrod.

Talk about taking a knife into a gunfight. We are carrying a knife made by Nerf.

It’s so upsetting to watch my university crumble as a result of beans and toast leadership from incompetent and impotent white men. Girod. Self. Brownback.

Girod should be fired tomorrow. Self should be in the G League. Major milktoast has “led” us into this mess. He needs to be cut loose. Right now.

And please give David Booth his money back. Any a-hole who wants to buy a legacy should just kiss my a….

Dale Rogers 5 months, 3 weeks ago

This is much like any large business. The top guy says don't panic, take it slow and make a good decision. Outsiders misread that and think that nothing is going on, just sitting back and waiting. Meanwhile, you can bet your booties there is a lot going on under the cover of those statements to find the best option for KU.

This is almost like the football coach searches. Do you pull a Zenger and zip about the country, saying you're not coming home until you have a coach and you then sign Charlie Weis? Or do you do it the smart way and end up with Lance Leipold?

Coming from a business background, I believe Girod is making the right decision to take the time to make sure we get it right. Is Girod the right guy for this? I have no idea. I never met the man, never worked with him. But I saw how he handled the AD and HC searches and that makes me think he'll move this along in a path that proves to be the best for Kansas.

My biggest concern in the BOR or even the state legislature deciding both KU and KSU have to be in the same conference.

Dale Rogers 5 months, 3 weeks ago

oops, somehow posted on the wrong article. content deleted since it won't let me delete the post.

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