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A look at KU's options if departures by Oklahoma and Texas put the Big 12 in jeopardy

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The Jayhawks line up for a moment of silence before their 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

The Jayhawks line up for a moment of silence before their 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. by Orlin Wagner

It may — and may not — still be a little premature to look at possible landing spots for Kansas in the event that Oklahoma and Texas leave the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.

But the timeline that has been reported and the mere fact that this is even being discussed in the first place make it a worthwhile endeavor.

So here it goes.

The way I see it, if (when?) OU and UT leave the conference, KU would have five options. Those options are listed below in the order of what I believe is most likely to least likely.

That’s today. A lot can change. And a lot of this list is based on what I learned the last time realignment hit the conference. A lot has changed on that front, so it’s hard to know if the realities from a decade ago are still relevant today.

Time will tell. On with the list.

• Move to the ACC

There are plenty of obstacles associated with Kansas moving to the ACC, but also plenty of benefits. Travel is certainly no picnic and would make things hard for both sides unless the ACC wanted to further expand somewhere in the Midwest. Assuming they can get past that, which is no sure thing, the move to align with the best basketball programs in the country seems to make a lot of sense. We all know that it’s football that drives realignment, but unless you’re joining the SEC — which KU isn’t — you’re already playing for second place in that department. So why not be the best in the world in the other major sport? The ACC probably already believes it is. Adding Kansas would solidify that. Beyond that, KU AD Travis Goff’s close ties to ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips could be beneficial in negotiations. Could.

• Move to the Big Ten

A top-tier athletic and academic conference with most of its schools in close proximity to KU’s campus, KU landing in the Big Ten would be a dream scenario. I’m just not sure it’s the most likely scenario. While the current state of the KU football program would still be problematic when it comes to facing the Ohio States, Michigans and Iowas of the world, the lower half of the Big Ten is not untouchable. Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois and Nebraska all have struggled at times. KU can’t worry about that right now, though. If there’s a way to get into the conference, you do it. And you trust that the Lance Leipold hire winds up being good enough to at least make you competitive with most of the conference. The Big Ten could certainly be inspired to look elsewhere, but adding Kansas and Iowa State would not be the worst thing it could do either, provided it's even interested in expanding.

• Be a power player in keeping the Big 12 together

Although the Big 12 as we know would cease to exist with Oklahoma and Texas no longer in it, there figures to be a pretty strong push to try to use the brand to salvage some kind of Power 5 spot. There are plenty of quality teams a new-look Big 12 could add. None of them would come anywhere close to bringing would OU and UT do. But you could add major markets (Houston, Cincinnati and Central Florida), schools with nationwide recognition (BYU) and teams that some believe are on the brink of breaking through with the right opportunity (SMU, UCF and others). If that doesn’t do it for you — or, more likely, for your television partners — then you get greedy and you try to poach teams from other existing Power 5 conferences, with Arizona and Arizona State sitting at the top of the list. I put this one third because, for KU, finding a way into either of those first two conferences makes the most financial sense. Neither is a lock, though. And, beyond that, there are going to be plenty of people out there who are willing to fight for the survival of the Big 12. If that turns out to be what KU deems is its best path forward, then KU needs to flex its muscles and become in the new Big 12 what OU and Texas were to the old one. That will be harder to do with the state of the football program, but they have to try. One other crazy option to consider: If SEC programs Missouri and Texas A&M wind up voting no on inviting OU and Texas into that conference, could that seal their fate for the future in the SEC and would moving back to the Big 12 be a smarter play?

• Move to the Pac-12

Money and time zones make this a tough option, but if the Pac-12 is interested in expanding farther east, maybe with KU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Colorado and Utah providing a solid footprint from the Rockies to the Midwest, something could be thrown together. The most sensible move would be some sort of combination of the best of both conferences. Even with its football program in the state that it’s in, KU would be on that list. But the lack of a recruiting base out west, along with the cost of travel and the late game times in local markets would not make this an ideal option.

• Move to a basketball conference

I don’t know how you manage this, but people will mention it as an option. The only way this works is if you join the Big East and team up with Villanova, Creighton, UConn, Georgetown, Butler and others and then allow your football program to play as a pseudo-independent. Sounds messy, though. Because even as much as the fans — and opponents — might like to joke about KU dropping football, that’s not in the best financial interest of the athletic department. The tricky part about joining a basketball-centric league is two-fold. Not only are you risking the potential gain from the football dollars, but you’re also asking the impossible of the program to keep football going. Right now, Kansas is not enough of a draw for television networks to get excited about the Jayhawks playing anybody. So KU does not bring a whole lot of TV juice to the table. From the KU side of things, if the Jayhawks take a bunch of tough games for the national exposure and big pay days, that’s only going to make it more difficult for the Jayhawks to get back on the winning track.

Tough times are ahead for a whole bunch of college athletic programs if OU and Texas do in fact leave the Big 12, setting off another round of conference realignment.

And while KU’s future may still lie in a revamped Big 12 Conference, it’s in the school’s best interest to do everything it can to try to find a better landing spot before settling for that option. And by school, we're talking exactly that. First-year AD Goff will play a big role in this whole thing, but don't forget that Chancellor Douglas Girod and the Board of Regents also swing a mighty sword here.

Money talks, too. So if the powers that be who are seeking to keep the Big 12 alive find a way to get guaranteed annual TV money in the range of $20-25 million per member (the Big 12 paid out roughly $35 million last year), that might make that move easier to stomach.

Even then, the annual payout of nearly twice that much in the ACC or Big Ten would make another round of settling for the best the Big 12 can do a lot tougher.

Buckle up, and let’s see what happens.

Comments

Michael Maris 1 month, 4 weeks ago

So, take that for what it is....... In the end, I don't believe that Jayhawk Nation will be on the outside looking in (I felt this way back in 2010 and still do).

If not, what the hell can I actually do about it? It's NOT worth my time setting in a Hamster Wheel Scenario worrying about where the College Chips eventually end up.

The OLD Big 8 & SWC people who brokered the Big XII Conference Deal actually made a deal with the Devil University of College Athletics...........

And now, that same Devil still has it's eyes on other University Athletic SOULS.......

aTm finally figured that out and exited the stage (when the real escaping opportunity presented it's self). Remember this, U of T-Austin sits in the State Capital of Texas. Largest Texas County population of Demoncrats....... They espouse equality all day long, until it directly affects them. Then, they GO FULL BLOWN CAPITALIST......

If U of T - Austin truly believed their hyperbole, then the Big XII would STILL include aTm, Colorado, Missouri & Nebraska. And the LHN would've been the Big XII Network.

So, NEVER Trust a LONGHORN......................... Texas always includs OU, because Texas Football isn't ANYTHING without the Sooners Football team. Poor Sooners LOVED their Red River Rivalry a LOT more than their Thanksgiving Weekend Rival with the Cornhuskers. But at some point and time, OU will end up paying for their Loyalty to the LONGHORNS....... I don't know when, but it will come......

I'll finish with this, ESPN said back in the past Conference Realignment Scenario that the Midwest provides the best Time Zone for College Athletics.

The below posted 2013 story from Adam Rittenberg / ESPN Senior Writer (back in 2013).

https://www.espn.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/71477/time-zones-might-shape-b1g-divisions

Everyone sit tight and hold on.

Brian Wilson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Maybe a sweetheart offer to:
Texas A&M Arkansas Mississippi and Missouri

A Yahoo Sports writer's opinion piece says Texas A&M is not happy about UT and OU joining the SEC. they also say Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri are not especially happy and are considered "step childs" by the rest of the league.

.

Robert Brock 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Texas and OU will fly the Stars & Bars of the Confederacy. It’s just their nature.

Brett McCabe 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Heard on WHB today that Bowlsby should be fired for being asleep at the wheel. Probably a good place to start.

As much as I would like to see us in the Big Ten or the Pac 12, my gut tells me that the big 12 adds four teams quickly and keeps plugging along. Going to 16 by picking off the 8 best options out there might help you make a case that you are still P5, and keep you in play.

I’ll repeat that I’m glad Goff is here. Given his work on the football hire, I’m confident he will land us in the best place we can be.

Suzi Marshall 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Big 12 Adds: 1) TAMU, 2) MU, 3) NU, 4) CU, 5) ASU, 6) AU, 7) Houston, 8) CFU. Trade UT for TAMU...Great trade. Trade OU for the AZ schools ASU/AU....not great but pretty good. Bring in MU/NU/CU to rejoin most of the old Big 8. Add UH for a major metro area and TAMU rival. Add a major up and coming Florida school. This makes a new Big 12 look extremely formidable.

Matt Gauntt 1 month, 4 weeks ago

I know we don't have a great football program at the moment (perhaps understatement), but look at the expansion with Maryland and Rutgers.

It was fall of 2012 that Maryland and Rutgers voted to join. They became members in 2014. In 2011 and 2012 Maryland was 2-10 and 4-8 respectively. Rutgers in 2011 and 2012 was 9-4 both years, granted Rutgers was playing in the Big East Conference, not exactly a football powerhouse.

I'm more optimistic and that would be a good fit for the Big Ten.

Brian Skelly 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Matt -

Just curious more than anything else,  but my guess is KUSports hit counter goes crazy when the realignment stuff starts.    In your time at the LJW and KUSports,  outside of National Championship hoops stuff,  is the highest traffic you guys get here usually when these topics come up?

Also, feel free to bust out the percentage wheel whenever your comfortable!!!

Continued good works sir.

Matt Tait 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Hey Brian... Thanks for the question. There's no doubt that realignment has been one of the biggest traffic drivers in my time at the paper. If I remember correctly, my blog back in 2011 topped 1,000,000 page views in like 2-3 months. Pretty crazy.

As you might also guess, all of the coaching search blogs (and AD searches too) have been pretty popular traffic generators. I can only imagine how insane that would be if Coach Self were to ever leave.

But, yeah, the realignment stuff is and always has been massive. I try not to take that for granted and always attempt to avoid writing something just for the sake of writing something. Sometimes that's necessary. But with these topics, I generally want to make sure I'm offering SOMETHING even if it's just my take on some kind of news.

The whole thing was born from the idea of me trying to keep it all straight in the first place. I thought back then that the best way to make sure I was following it all was by making sure our readers could follow it. That helped me tremendously and it took on a life of its own.

And now here we are again. Wild stuff. Should be crazy interesting to watch this all play out.

Chris Oestreich 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Matt, I am sure you have tried but has there any way to get info out of the KU athletic department or from your other sources around the league? I am guessing at this point people are scrambling????

Dirk Medema 1 month, 4 weeks ago

It would seem to me that going to a BB conference and independent in football might be the easiest way to return to winning. It would mean Bill Snyder scheduling, but we’d have a better chance than playing the majority of our schedule against B12 teams. Play a couple games against each of the bottom dwellers of the other conferences and we have a chance.

Armen Kurdian 1 month, 4 weeks ago

I don't think the ACC would want us...too many blue bloods in one conference. As for the Pac-12, that is the absolute last thing I would ever want to see.

Maybe I'm one of those very old-fashioned people who value loyalty. I want this conference to stick together. I'm sick and tired of schools jumping around looking for more money, leaving less powerful schools in the lurch. I might be a free market capitalist, but consolidation of power at the top of the ranks is bad for the sport as a whole.

Matt Gauntt 1 month, 4 weeks ago

I want the same thing.....but the unprincipled bastards in Austin, TX and Norman, OK seem to have other thoughts on the matter.

Len Shaffer 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Thanks Matt, for your take on everything; I appreciate your perspective.

I don't think I saw anything in your predictions about KU and KSU being packaged together. Isn't that something that the Kansas legislature is requiring?

David Klamm 1 month, 3 weeks ago

The Kansas BOR can't require KU and KSU to stay tied together. They can threaten to removal financial resources but it would be really hard to make that argument if KU were going to somewhere like the B!G where their AAU status would be enhanced. The BOR would be potentially sacrificing both schools if they forced them to be tied together and that isn't happening.

Dirk Medema 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Matt - Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t one of those anonymous SEC sources say that OU/UT came to them to talk about joining the SEC? That the SEC did not approach them?

This sounds a lot like when mizzoo went lifting its dress to the B1G. Ultimately that didn’t work out though it did reveal the heart of the defectors.

Matt Gauntt 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Word on Twitter is that KU has a call set up with the BIG.

Wouldn't it be funny if KU and ISU left for the Big Ten, WVU left for the ACC and then the Oklahoma and Texas legislature forced Oklahoma and Texas to stay put (bills are already pending)? Then Texas by their hubris would have screwed themselves.

Rodney Crain 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Lots of hurdles to cross still. It will be very interesting to see how the SEC vote goes. Matt a little advice - now would be a great time to gently ask for a raise! I think you going to be a lot busier for the foreseeable future. Benton too!

David Atchley 1 month, 3 weeks ago

"Texas and OU officials plan to inform the Big 12 on Monday they won’t renew when the league’s grant of rights expire in 2025, a step that clears the path for the SEC to formally consider adding Texas and OU. Texas and Oklahoma have another viable option one industry source said Texas and Oklahoma could go independent and do an exclusive broadcast agreement with a partner like Fox, and create schedules full of Big Ten and Pac-12 opponents, because Fox already has media rights agreements with the Big Ten and Pac-12. Fox could probably put up some big numbers to make that kind of a deal really worth Texas and Oklahoma’s while,” the source said." Either way, it appears Texas and Oklahoma are exiting the Big 12.

https://247sports.com/college/texas/LongFormArticle/Texas-Longhorns-Oklahoma-Sooners-leave-Big-12-join-SEC-conference-realignment-Texas-OU-football-Texas-AM-168151146/

Thomas Harrison 1 month, 3 weeks ago

The lack of a football program will cause us great pain in trying to fit into a substantial athletic conference .Those of us who graduated from KU years ago, have always complained about a ONE SPORT university, even though we are the best at that sport!!

Brian Wilson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

So KU should just go Independent. It don't think it would hurt KU's Basketball program or it's revenue and I can't imagine that things would be any worse if KU football could make a schedule and play whomever they want.

Paul Rupp 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Matt,

Honest question--What does the AAU designation get you as a university? Research money? Something else? If so, does that compare with TV money for sports? Just trying to understand the dynamics of the $$ conversation.

On the sports--a move to the B1G leaves us with a yearly basketball schedule with Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Maryland, Ohio State, Indiana, and others...a "Great Eight" game, every other game. That could be fun.

(I know we already do not shy away from the toughest schedules--just looking for positives).

Barry Weiss 1 month, 3 weeks ago

hey Matt, I just read about a possible merger between the Pac 12 and the remaining 8 members of the B12, forming a 20 team Super Conference. Think that will get tractions? This thing is getting wild. I will say that a conference needs to get bold at this point. Adding a team or two is what will get you left behind.

Ervin O'Neal 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Matt,

OU and UT are saying they are going to fulfill their rights thru 2025. That is a long time. If each of the remaining 8 schools decides their future fate over the coming months (B1G, Pac-12, AAC, etc), could the end of the Big 12 come sooner than 2025? In other words, each school would be penalized if they left earlier than 2025. But how would all of the schools be impacted by the current TV contract if all of them decided to dissolve the conference in say 2022? Thanks.

I'm seeing articles about the B1G potentially overlooking the AAU requirement if OSU wants to join. Not sure they would do that. But it would certainly only leave one open slot for the conference to get to 16 teams. ISU has a natural rivalry with Iowa. But they wouldn't add a lot of TV markets that U of Iowa doesn't already cover.

Personally, I can't see any school ever leaving the SEC or the B!G.in any college football environment much less the current one. Maybe CU, AZ and ASU would leave the Pac 12. If you could keep all eight remaining schools, add these 3 Pac 12 schools, add BYU and possibly Utah (if they would agree to be in the same conference with BYU)

If I had to place a bet today, my guess is that some of the remaining Big 12 teams (plus possibly BYU) will merge with the Pac 12 for a 16 (or 18) team conference with east and west divisions. But if the TV money divided between all these schools is not competitive with the ACC, B1G and SEC, it might put us back in this same position if the other conferences decide to expand beyond 16 teams. Going to the B1G would be the best move for KU IMHO..

Ervin O'Neal 1 month, 3 weeks ago

It sure would be nice to have a new stadium under construction right now to show our commitment to improving our team. We have a Top 15 setting for a football stadium. But our stadium is in the Bottom 15. If you don't build it, they (recruits) won't come.

Brian Wilson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Problem is the proposal was not really for a brand new stadium. It basically was a revamp of the old again. They need to tear everthing down to the original front facade and then start all over again. Right now It's a mish-mash patchwork. The fans are not close enough, they ruined the "hill" and it needs to be rethought, and the concrete and stands underneath... they are just worn, dirty, and not modern enough. They need to cut out the goodstuff...names from the Ring of Honor, etc. and then reinclude them into a brand spanking new facility.

Ervin O'Neal 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Completely agree. The only path should be to start from scratch in the same location.

Chris Baker 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I agree with Ervin, The Big Ten would be the absolute best case scenario as a landing spot for KU. In fact I think that's true even if the Big 12 isn't on the verge of dissolving.

I also recognize that the death of the Big 12 has been predicted before and lived to fight another day, but I do think this is the end of the league, or at least it should be. Trying to survive by adding a few lesser programs, even in an unlikely scenario where the Big 12 somehow robs from the Pac-12 to maintain 10 schools or even grow to 12, we would still be just as unstable as ever if the Big Ten or even ACC were to come calling looking to grow to 16 schools, or even the SEC wanting to grow to 18 or 20. I don't think we would be any better off than we are right now.

Texas and OU are officially saying that they will honor the existing grant of rights agreement, even though it's obviously going to be impossible for them to actually do that. Either the Big 12 will crumble and no school will have to pay any exit fee's to a non-entity, or the Big 12 will survive and OU/TU won't be able to afford to pay those fee's anyway. OU/TU are privately hoping that the Big 12 collapses so that they don't have to pay anything, but if it doesn't collapse, then their lawyers are going to get involved to try to negotiate their way out of the agreement. They just can't afford to give all of their extremely Tier 1 and 2 revenue to the Big 12 for the next four years while playing in the SEC and getting no revenue in return. I'm also REALLY curious how they are going to deal with the Longhorn Network, which the SEC (at least with the current rules) wouldn't allow to exist. LHN brings in close to $150million per year however, so Texas must have some plan in place or handshake deal with the SEC to allow for it.

In any case, yeah I wish we had a new stadium remodel already under construction, or that a new major donor could step in today and offer up $100 million or more for a new remodel to begin next year or something, just as a show of commitment to improving the program. This would certainly be the time to make that commitment. Maybe we can dig up the artists renderings of the stadium plan that Sheahan Zenger cooked up in his final days at KU and share those around and hope nobody notices the dates?

Layne Pierce 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Actually as fans we feel pretty helpless, as far as ku football goes, but if we sold out the stadium for one year, and demanded a better football team, I guarantee the team would improve or else.

RCJH

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