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Proactive approach critical for KU if Oklahoma and Texas really do leave the Big 12

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New Kansas head football coach Lance Leipold and athletic director Travis Goff sit for questions during an introductory press conference on Monday, May 3, 2021 at the KU football indoor practice facility.

New Kansas head football coach Lance Leipold and athletic director Travis Goff sit for questions during an introductory press conference on Monday, May 3, 2021 at the KU football indoor practice facility. by Nick Krug

Remember when the most important thing on new Kansas Athletic Director Travis Goff’s to-do list was to make sure he got the football hire right?

Well, the first-year AD got all of 78 days to enjoy the work he did on that front. And we don’t even truly know how that’s going to turn out yet.

But now, before new KU football coach Lance Leipold can even conduct his first official practice, it’s on to bigger and scarier things.

I know. Hard to imagine.

Yet here we are, with reports running wild that Oklahoma and Texas are preparing to leave the Big 12 Conference.

Goff, of course, has no say in what the Sooners and Longhorns do or don’t do. So he need not waste any time worrying about the moves they make.

However, now would be a great time to start putting together one of those flow charts for Kansas that says if X happens then Y or if A and B occur then C.

The guess here is that he’s already thought about it. I doubt the potential for future conference realignment was a big part of Goff’s interview process for the AD job. But I also would bet good money that the topic came up at least once or twice before Goff was hired away from Northwestern.

That’s not to say he has all the answers already. How could he? But finding them suddenly appears like it could be a very important part of his job.

While the potential for college athletics to revisit the tumultuous times of 2011 and 2012 has always been possible and never far from anyone’s mind, it certainly did not seem like anything was imminent that could threaten the existence of the Big 12.

Consider Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s comments about realignment from Big 12 media days just last week.

“It’s really moot on that question,” he said.

He then went on to explain how the last round of realignment was about cable households and, with digital production and streaming becoming a player in the broadcast revenue game, those household markers were not nearly as important any longer.

“The motivation is essentially gone,” he added, noting that conference restructuring was not something he was losing sleep over. “A lot of the motivation for realignment is no longer there.”

Bowlsby was smart enough to hedge, saying that it “could possibly happen for other reasons.” But he certainly did not come across like a commissioner who was at all concerned about any kind of imminent threat to the league he oversees.

And, yet, here we are.

The move for Goff and Kansas this time around is simple: Be proactive. And don’t apologize to anyone for doing so.

Last time, as the entire Big 12 waited with bated breath for OU and Texas to make their decisions to stay or go, KU got caught in a holding pattern. The narrative then was that the best thing for Kansas was a healthy Big 12 Conference.

Loyalty, history, familiarity and comfort all mattered more than taking on the appearance of a street dog fighting for table scraps.

Is the same thing true this time around?

Not without Oklahoma or Texas in the conference it isn’t.

I don’t care who you think the Big 12 could get to replace those two programs. There aren’t two schools out there who could come close to providing the same impact on the college sports landscape as those two power brokers.

Remember, we’re talking about brands and bucks more than trophies and records.

Without OU and Texas, the conference is in serious trouble. And KU would do well to start looking for a favorable landing spot early on rather than hoping for history to repeat itself and the conference to be saved.

In fact, if OU and UT really are out, it could be scramble mode for all eight of the remaining Big 12 schools. I’m just not sure that fighting to hold the league together with just half of its original members would be worth the work nor nearly as profitable when the dust settles.

Without OU and Texas, the new-look Big 12’s television contract in 2025 and beyond would be lucky to be half of what it is today.

It was a good 10-year run. After nearly meeting its demise a decade ago, the conference stabilized and made some good money after the departures of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri.

But things are different today. Name, image and likeness is a factor. Future television contracts look different than before, with Apple, Amazon and Hulu entering the game. And the future of the NCAA itself is in question.

All three of those developments put KU (and others across the country) in a much different position than it was in the last time around.

So the move now is to secure the future rather than hoping to preserve what soon could be a thing of the past.

No matter what you’ve heard, KU had options last time. And it likely will again if it comes to that. But snagging the best-case scenario will not come if KU again chooses to play the waiting game.

If OU and UT are out, KU has to be willing to follow their lead and be prepared to move quickly.

Comments

Steve Hillyer 2 months, 1 week ago

Agree! I’m not sure what our options were last time though I heard a lot of Twitter rumors, but I think KU was in a much stronger position last time than they are now.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

If the Big12 is gone, there really is only one quality landing spot for KU; the Big10. The SEC would be full and it doesn’t seem realistic for a team in the geographic center of the country to be in either coast conference.

There’s plenty of work to be done, though more on the part of OU (OSU) and UT (TA&M) than Goff.

What’s the chance the SEC takes OU and UT then boots TA&M to make room for OSU?

A more realistic question, has it really worked out for any of the 4 teams that realigned? When 3rd tier contract $ is included it sounds like a financial wash, and none of the teams seem to have accomplished much of anything in the past decade. Just more Ws for the rest of the conference teams.

Matt Gauntt 2 months, 1 week ago

If OU and UT stab everyone in the back and it happens, here's what I see happening:

KU and Iowa St. - Go to Big Ten - that would give them 16 teams

Baylor, OSU, TCU and Texas Tech go to the Pac 12 - That would give them 16 teams

West Virginia - Go to the ACC - That would give them 16 teams

K-State would be the ones left out in the cold. I see them going to the Mountain West, American Athletic Conference or Conference USA

4 Major Conferences: SEC, Pac-16?, Big-16? and ACC - all with 16 teams The rest are going to be second tier

Brett McCabe 2 months, 1 week ago

Matt, that all adds up well. The problem I see is that the right wing legislators in Kansas moving to pass some sort of tethering of KU and KSU. The Governor might veto it, but she’s not a KU grad so I’m not sure if she would care. Remember, we had some guy who got elected with 300 votes trying to legislate a bball series with WSU.

I also wonder if Iowa puts up a roadblock for ISUs admission.

Your two tier outline is both exciting and scary. This is not the time for KU to be under investigation in our legacy sport and operating at the lowest possible level in the money sport.

The Big Ten would be a great fit. I’d love to let the confederacy move on without us.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

You just can't help yourself with your slamming "right-wing" legislators. Go join a chat group on CNN or MSNBC where you'll fit in with the rest of the left-wingers who think President Biden actually has functioning brain cells.

Shannon Gustafson 2 months ago

I mean, I basically never agree with Brett but I can't argue that Kansas legislators aren't right-wing.

Suzi Marshall 2 months, 1 week ago

That's a very good observation. I'd love to recombine with NB and stick with ISU. ISU's resurgence in football is a golden ticket at the right time. Too bad it doesn't appear practical to get CU to go with us as Boulder is a terrific visit. A Bill Self led Kansas team in the Big 10 could be pure gold for the program...and for the players!

Chris Baker 2 months, 1 week ago

I like your thoughts here, and I HOPE it might play out that way. I think joining the Big Ten (Big Sixteen I suppose, they seem to like to spell it out these days) would be the best case scenario. In fact, If I'm KU, I would leave immediately for the Big Ten because I have always felt that was the stronger conference. I do share Brett's concern, that Iowa might block Iowa State. If they did, I wonder who the Big Ten might want instead? Surely not both KU and K-State together, even if the state of Kansas tried to require them to go together. (Meaning I think if Kansas requires that, I don't think either KU or K-State would get a Big Ten invite) I'm guessing they would go for OSU if they could get them. KU + OSU would be fantastic, but again that depends on whether Kansas or Oklahoma legislatures would allow it.

I think it's slightly more likely that the Big Ten would skip the Kansas schools and that we will end up in the Pac 12, but I sure hope you are right!

Brian Wilson 2 months ago

KU, KSU, and ISU make sense adding great in-state rivalries to an already great conference but from what I understand it would take a lot of changes for KSU and ISU to be accepted into the Big 10.
Not a great sub for power schools UT or OU, but another idea that I think was mentioned the last time around was to invite the independents to the Big 12.

Notre Dame, BYU, Army, and Navy.

Such a move likely lowers the rank of the Big 12, but finding top notch schools willing to jump conferences isn't easy and I also don't think KU has any thoughts whatsoever of ending the Big 12 and splitting everyone up and not maintaining history and power it has within the conference.

Benny Armstrong 2 months, 1 week ago

Matt, I think everyone thought that we'd be facing this as soon as the Grant of Rights expired after the last round of realignment. That being said, there are a couple of points that would seem to throw a wrench in this happening.

First, as others have noted on Twitter, wouldn't OU be required to take OSU with them similar to the relationship that KU and K-State had during the last go round? That would likely limit their draw to the SEC, or any other conference, if they'd have to make room for multiple schools that would unbalance the total number (Texas, OU, and OSU= 17 schools in the SEC). I'm not sure if the Oklahoma Board of Regents removed this restriction, but it would seem to complicate matters if it is still in place.

Second, why would the SEC willingly sign up for the prima donna that is Texas? As soon as they joined the Big 12, Texas started trying to throw their weight around and run things even though it was the Big 8 that saved them from conference obscurity when the SWC folded. If I'm Alabama/LSU/Georgia, I'm not voting to bring them in even if they would add to the tv contract because it's a matter of when not if that Texas decides they want to push the rest of the schools around. I don't see those schools wanting to diminish their power, but I could be misjudging how desirable a property Texas is. I'd also imagine as a condition of their joining, Texas would have to kill off the LHN, so they'd have to expect to get a significant revenue boost from the move to offset that loss.

Whatever happens, I think you're 100% correct that KU needs to be more proactive in shopping itself to other conferences and cannot hope/wait for someone to come calling. If nothing else, this will give us something to talk about and keep things interesting.

Chris Oestreich 2 months, 1 week ago

Many of you are leaving out the academic profile of the Big10. KSU, ISU and OSU don't fit. The Big10 would need to make a concession for any of those schools to be viable.

Bville Hawk 2 months ago

ISU is a member of the AAU, they would be an academic fit. KU and UT are the other current members of the Big 12 that are AAU members.

Spencer Goff 2 months, 1 week ago

Last time Texas had wandering eyes “allegedly” it was enough to make two other teams preemptively leave, and two more leave not long after.

If there is a grain of truth to these reports just burn it all down. Right now the Big 12 is doing well economically and in particular those two are killing it. If they aren’t happy now they never will be. By all means, help them pack.

I used to care where we landed, and now I just don’t. This feels like a really snobby girlfriend that just wants you to know she has options so she calls the shots. Get her gone, be happy.

Andy Tweedy 2 months, 1 week ago

"No matter what you've heard" was what I heard on kusports.com. So lay it on us, Matt, what exactly were those options?

Brian Skelly 2 months, 1 week ago

To me KU needs to be proactive to getting into the Big 10. Thats the most natural fit and was last time as well.

Hopefully having an AD who's been there and knows who to ask and what to ask folks will help.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 1 week ago

We are fortunate to have Goff on board at this time. I believe that he was at Northwestern when the conference added Maryland and Rutgers. He should have some solid connections, know who to call, and have a very good understanding of what the conference will seek if they want to add schools. And he will know how to position us as a potential member.

Michael Maris 2 months, 1 week ago

This scenario was addressed in 1993 by a writer from the Chicago Tribune...... That article alone begin the panick mode for the U. of Missouri - Columbia (and folks in Columbia begin the process of courting the Big 10 for the next 15 years, only to be trumped by the U. of Nebraska in the end)..

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1993-12-10-9312100144-story.html

Jason Brinker 2 months, 1 week ago

I think A&M will somehow block Texas from joining the SEC. OU will likely get in. UT knows it won't be welcomed back in the Big 12 so it will then look to the B1G or Pac-12. My guess is KU, UT, and maybe ISU to the B1G and they give Rutgers the boot. Rutgers will land in a lower tier conference where they belong. WVU to the ACC. Then Baylor, Tech, TCU, OSU, and KSU will be fighting for 4 spots to get the Pac-12 to 16. Or OSU could follow OU to the SEC and allow the other 4 to all get into the new Pac-16. RIP Big 12...

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

A&M is just one school. They can't single-handedly stop UT from getting into the SEC if 11 of the other SEC schools are on board with it.

Michael Maris 2 months, 1 week ago

What you say about aTm is true.

But, aTm will have 100% support of U. of Arkansas & Missouri (as both Universities knows all to well what the Longhorns are capable of). So, aTm, Arkansas & Missouri will start recruiting other SEC Schools to NOT vote for such an invitation to Texas & OU.

Those 3 schools will VETO any offer to Texas & OU. All they have to do is recruit 1 more school. And, that target is Auburn........

Auburn is the Red-headed Stepchild to Bama...... Auburn Alum and Fanbase know ALL to well what it's like to be 2nd Fiddle. And, that's all it will take.

Clarence Haynes 2 months ago

It is not a slam dunk to “boot” out Rutgers as it sits in the country’s largest media market.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

If football is the determining factor in conference realignment, then I don't see how Kansas finds a good landing spot in another Power 5 league. Kansas has had ample time since the 2010-14 realignment to get its football house in order, and instead the KU Lolcows have made an even bigger mess of its football program than before, with a revolving door of coaches and athletic directors that would boggle the minds of Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns. I imagine we'll end up in the American Athletic Conference or the Big East.

I'll cheer for the Jayhawk basketball team no matter where KU ends up for a new conference home. But it won't be the same playing in a Group of 5 conference.

On the other hand, if KU finds a home in the Big 10, that'll be an interesting arrangement for me, given that I cheer for the Iowa Hawkeyes in football. If KU and UI meet for football, I'll root for the Hawkeyes for sure! But if KU and UI meet in basketball, I'll root for the Jayhawks, no question!

Dirk Medema 2 months ago

There’s more than football.

Much more.

Spencer Goff 2 months ago

We say “football” but what we really need to say is “money.” Rutgers was only added so they could get cable access to New York. Which was a completely short sighted move in that the biggest bidders will not be chord companies. You can expect Amazon, Hulu etc to be in on this round big.

Amazon said three years ago they intended to throw so much money at this that the networks would be left out.

My only wonderment now is if the Big Ten would reform without Rutgers. It seems pretty unlikely, has a major conference ever removed a member, with/without cause? I cannot recall it ever happening.

Clarence Haynes 2 months ago

Jason Brinker, it is not a slam dunk to “boot” out Rutgers as it sits in the country’s largest media market.

Eric Brunner 2 months ago

The Big 10 dreamers are delusional. We're a net negative for a Power 5 football conference. College basketball means nothing (e.g. Gonzaga, Villanova, Marquette, Creighton, UConn, heck, the entire Big East) We're also a net negative academically for the Big 10, especially with the abysmal rankings of most of our graduate programs.

Brian Wilson 2 months ago

You are only somewhat correct when looking at all the schools in the Big 12.

But, KU's academics, research and graduate programs are above the standards you mention. There are only 131 private and public R1 rated research schools such as MIT, Cal State, UT, OU, etc., that are rated for it's very high research, and doctorate programs, by the amount of activity per University capita. From the Big12, right now only Baylor is not on the list. KU is on the list and is known for it's medical, science, and engineering programs.

From your list Gonzaga, Villanova, Marquette and Creighton are NOT R1 rated institutions. Only UConn is. That means that while Gonzaga, Villanova, Marquette, and Creighton may be great at teaching from a book, you get little opportunity for hands on research while earning your Doctorate. This is probably the reason Doctorates from such institutions can be such snobs and high and mighty about their programs...they have too much time on their hands pier reviewing other peoples work and not doing the work themselves. RCJHKU!

Brian Wilson 2 months ago

My point on the academics of the basketball schools you mention is that IMO they definitely do not fit the criteria required for the Big 10 where KU does.

Rae Bricil 2 months ago

was "pier reviewing" a joke--if so hilarious to use while disparaging people who dedicate their lives to higher learning...the irony is not lost.

Glen Miller 2 months ago

Those surprised shouldn't be. Until Texas is in the SEC you will continue to hear about them "talking" or "discussing" the move. OU and Texas will work in cohesion wherever they go because there's no way one leaves without the other. It's time to stop waiting for the flood to come and drowning. We have to be proactive and see where there is true interest and what our real options are so that we can do what is best for OUR University. Kansas State is not our rival, I'm sorry. There is no need for them to go with us. That is a forced thing, it always has been and always will be. I have never felt like that game meant more than the others on our schedule. We tell these conferences that KSU comes with us or we are out and we can just accept that we will be relegated to some 2nd tier conference with little financial positives.

Top choice is the Big Ten and I think we blew that chance the last time to be honest. Our football team has gotten worse since then and we've got this investigation hanging over our heads. The question is going to be does our basketball team carry enough and is our academic side strong enough (mainly the medical and AAU membership) to overlook those two things. Having Goff can't hurt as I'm sure he has relationships within that conference, but I just don't see this one happening at this time. Hope I am wrong.

Most likely scenario (just my opinion guys, I have no source or skin in the game here) is that we end up in the American, but a strengthened one due to more school movement and settle outside of what will be the Power 4 conferences. Revenue will drop and prestige will drop, so football probably will suffer in recruiting. Thus keeping us on the same path we've always travelled........ Our basketball team will carry us and our football team will have a good year here and there.

Robert Brock 2 months ago

Let the southern uglies join their Confederate brethren. And let KU join the B1G - basically the folks who once defeated the Confederacy.

Charlie Gaughn 2 months ago

I've predicted for years that we end up in the Mountain West conference if we didn't get our football program back to a competitive level. We're kidding ourselves if we think basketball is a big enough attraction to get us in the Big 10. The football recruiting base would shrink even smaller than it is now if a move to the ACC or PAC 12 should happen. Actually, the MW doesn't sound all that bad. At least we'd have fewer 11:00 football kickoffs.

Barry Weiss 2 months ago

The only way the b12 survives, and I think it won't, would be to go big and expand to 16 teams. As Matt indicates, no two teams can replace OU and Texas. But expanding to 16 would make them one of the new super conferences that are on the horizon. You can make an argument for KU to the ACC, B1G, Pac 12 (my dream) but I certainly hope we don't wind up in the Mountain West, I'd rather be independent.

Mallory Briggans 2 months ago

The crazy thing about OU / Texas is they hate each other but they are working together to make the move ....................then they can start hating other again once they move.

Bville Hawk 2 months ago

 If I am not mistaken Nebraska is the only B1G school that is not an AAU member.  They were an AAU member when the B1G invited them and they accepted.  They were subsequently dropped by the AAU.  What everyone forgets to consider is that the decision to invite a new school into a conference is not made by the AD, it's made by the president of the university and academics like to surround themselves with equal peers.

The last go-round on conference realignment all the sought after schools were AAU members: CU, Maryland, Rutgers, Nebraska (at the time), MU, Tx A&M. Even the SEC where it might be argued that the football coach is more powerful than the university president went after AAU schools and thereby doubled the number in the league to go with Vanderbilt and Florida.

If you think this is only about football, $$, and TV sets you are wrong. The one thing that might prevent KU from being invited to the B1G would be the size of our football stadium - it seems like the B1G has a requirement of 65,000 capacity or some such number.

Bville Hawk 2 months ago

Maybe I dreamed the part above about Big 10 stadium size requirements. Ours is on par with the lower half of the B1G stadiums:

https://wolverineswire.usatoday.com/lists/ranking-big-ten-stadiums-by-seating-capacity/

Paul Brittain 2 months ago

OU / Texas may hate one another on the field and in the stands but it would be a mistake to assume that extends to the upper reaches of university administration. Both are smart enough to know that, together, they’re an offer no conference is in a position to refuse.

Mike Nicco 2 months ago

Don’t forget the size of our athletic budget. According to a report I read we are only behind Texas and Oklahoma and 28th public school overall in the country. Imagine if our football team becomes competitive.

Bob Zielinski 2 months ago

I really like the Big XII so I am bummed to see it falling apart. This conference can't and shouldn't go on without OU and Texas. I would like to join the ACC. The Big Ten doesn't get me excited. I live in Nebraska, I get plenty of Big Ten games and nonsense up here. I don't think KU football is the albatross everyone thinks it is. Nebraska football is what they hang their hat on and they suck repeatedly. Nobody is confusing Maryland or Rutgers for real football programs and the Big Ten is filled with middling teams that play lower scoring games than what KU has to deal with in Big XII play.

I know KU football is down but one of the biggest obstacles for us has been the high powered offenses we meet every week in Big XII play. We would have a better shot against a Big Ten football schedule. But, again, I would really like landing in the ACC.

Thomas Harrison 2 months ago

I hope that the Big 10 will Consider KU! That conference needs A National favorite in basketball! KU academics fit with the Big Ten! Some mediocre football programs In Big 10 already! I am on pins and needles until Something happens for our great School!

Barry Weiss 2 months ago

I just read about a possible B12 and Pac 12 merger, forming a 20 team super conference. Go Big or go home!

Matt Lindaman 2 months ago

What is annoying about this process is the rush of side-deals without a big picture. The initial side-deal (Texas and OU) then creates a landscape that all other institutions and multiple sports must operate in. Mark Emmert made an interesting comment a few weeks ago, arguing it is time to start from scratch. By this he meant not only de-centralize, but review the entire D1,2,3 model.

The Power 5 might become the Power 4 for football, but we are talking about 64 or so schools. logical organization would be Matt G.'s projection above, only add OSU to the SEC. If one could arbitrarily move institutions, move Vanderbilt to the Big Ten would be a better profile fit. I'm not totally keen on Baylor, TT, and TCU to the Pac, but there is a good point to be made on the Pac getting a midwest time zone profile. Baylor v. Oregon might also be too much by way of uniforms.

In reality, there should be the 64 playing each other, but cupcakes...

The creation of the super conferences impacts all the other sports. For basketball, how do you divide up a 16 team schedule--everyone twice takes all of your games and then some. Play your half conference twice and the other side once takes 22 games--still a lot. For sports like cross country and track, you now have a very big conference meet, which creates a major competition right before they need to participate in a super regional and then for the best, nationals. All because football needs super conferences.

The basketball alignment is also out of hand. Are there now 300 plus schools who want to be called D1? In my region alone Upper Mississippi RIver West Bank U, and St. Mary's Seminary Tech recently announced their declarations for D1 status (this is sarcasm). This then drags all of their sports in the department to D1 status. I don't have all the answers, but any realignment must consider Title IX and have the goal of not eliminating sports. I would start with something like all in the Power 4 must field teams at D1 level. All others will be assigned a level based on scholarship or funding commitment. For example, if Northern Arizona funds approximately 60 football scholarships, they get D1A (or second tier) status in football, but they choose to fully fund men's and women's cross country, so they are D1 level there. They can have an unfunded men's soccer and women's lacrosse, and then get assigned a lower tier accordingly. If wanting that D1 designated basketball status, they would have to fund x number of other teams/field x number of teams.

This moves off on a tangent, but it always irks me how the whole system has to be set up around a Texas or OU trying to grab more money and exposure. Back to the real question--where will KU wind up? Sounds like talks with the Big Ten for both KU and Iowa State. I think it would be a great landing spot and I'm not just saying that because the Jayhawks would be within two hours of me, playing at two current Big Ten institutions.

Rodney Crain 2 months ago

Popcorn in hand watching this play out. Where is that NCAA decision? Let's get all the demons out in the open so we are not waiting for the other shoe to drop!

Barry Weiss 2 months ago

and now there is a report the SEC is trying to snag Ohio State and Michigan in their quest for a 20 team super conference.

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