Jalon Daniels’ status as Kansas football’s starting QB is a significant part of the program’s rebuilding efforts
On Wednesday morning, at the indoor practice facility adjacent to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, KU football coach Lance Leipold jokingly shouted to media members in attendance that junior Jalon Daniels was the team’s quarterback.
It came off as a joke because Leipold had basically said as much one day earlier. But the declaration is no laughing matter for Kansas fans, who have become accustomed to waiting until the first snap of the season to find out the identity of the team’s starting quarterback.
Leipold knows the history. And he also is not the type of coach who makes moves because of it.
So you can be sure that if he said this week that he expects Daniels to start Week 1 for the Jayhawks, it’s because he means it.
Daniels still has to get to the finish line. And there’s been no indication that he plans on letting up because of his lead in the QB battle. But if he gets there, he’ll be the first Kansas quarterback since Montell Cozart in 2014 to start a season after being named the starter well in advance of the season opener.
That year, Cozart won the job during the spring. Since then, it’s been a serious stretch of who’s-it-gonna-be questions for Kansas fans and the team’s QB.
Cozart was the starter again in 2015 but did not know it until two weeks before the season opener. He started the season opener for a third time in 2016 but was not officially named the guy until game day in Week 1.
It was another game day announcement with Peyton Bender in 2017 and Bender won the job in 2018 during the third week of preseason camp.
Carter Stanley was revealed as the starter at kickoff of the opener in 2019, and Thomas MacVittie — remember him? — was announced as KU’s starter during the pregame festivities in 2020.
Last season, current Jayhawk Jason Bean officially was named the starter about 6 hours before kickoff in the season opener.
So even though Leipold’s claim that he expects Daniels to start Week 1 this season is not exactly the same as him officially naming him the guy, it certainly qualifies as rare territory by Kansas standards.
The decision to add to the momentum of Daniels’ strong finish to the 2021 season, along with the fact that the fan base can spend the next few weeks anticipating the play of KU’s starting quarterback instead of wondering if the Jayhawks even have one, can only be good for the program as it continues to battle through its latest rebuilding effort.
Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said identifying a starter at any position — but especially quarterback — this early in camp was a great sign.
“You identify guys that you have confidence in, and we have confidence in him,” Kotelnicki said. “When you can go out there and say those sorts of things, it gives everyone confidence that that’s a person that we believe in.”
Kotelnicki said Daniels being pegged as an early answer at the game’s most important position was another sign of progress within the program.
“One of the things we’re trying to do here is definitely not have anyone start by default,” he said. “We always want to have competition. When you see that two people are competing in a healthy way, that trickles into all the positions on the football team in all three phases.”
And that leads to confidence. Daniels is nothing if not confident, and he, as well as several of his teammates, believe that they’re on the brink of something special.
Confidence is a key part of winning football games for any team, and it might be the biggest factor in how big of a step these Jayhawks can take in the months ahead.
A home win against Tennessee Tech is a must. After that, it’s two tough road games at West Virginia and Houston. A win in either game — or even just a solid showing in one or both — could grow the team’s confidence. Blowout losses could cripple it.
We’ve seen that movie before. But getting a glimpse at the KU starting QB this far in advance is relatively new.
It should be fun to see if that makes a difference.
Kansas basketball to face North Carolina State in opening round of Battle 4 Atlantis event in November
Organizers for the Battle 4 Atlantis college hoops tournament in November recently released the bracket for this year’s event in the Bahamas.
KU will play North Carolina State at 11 a.m. on Nov. 23 in the opening game of the tournament.
The winner of that game will face the winner of the Round 1 matchup between Dayton and Wisconsin the following day.
North Carolina State is led by sixth-year coach Kevin Keatts. The Wolfpack finished 11-21 last season (4-16 in the ACC) and are 1-11 all-time in the series with Kansas.
KU lost to Dayton last year in the second round of the ESPN Events Invitaitonal in Orlando and also faced the Flyers in the championship game of the Maui Invitational in 2019, when KU won an overtime thriller.
The other side of the Atlantis bracket features USC taking on BYU and Tennessee facing Butler. The winners of those games will also play on Nov. 24 and the finals are set for Nov. 25.
Dennis Evans, the No. 11-ranked prospect in the 2023 class per Rivals.com is planning to visit KU for Late Night in October.
His AAU coach Elvert “Kool-Aid” Perry recently told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com that Evans was planning to attend KU’s annual season kickoff event. He also noted that KU has offered a scholarship to the 7-foot-1, 210-pound center from Hillcrest High in Riverside, California, and that Evans is interested in the KU program.
KU assistant Kurtis Townsend has been the lead recruiter for Evans and, according to Perry, their relationship is a big part of the reason that Evans plans to visit Lawrence in a couple of months.
Perry told Wildeboor that KU, TCU, Minnesota, California Riverside, Missouri, Florida State, San Diego State, Texas, Oklahoma State and Georgetown have shown the most interest in Evans thus far and that KU, Minnesota and TCU were “probably the three main schools.”
The Jayhawks also recently made the cut for Class of 2023 prospect Jazz Gardner, who recently narrowed his list to a final eight.
The 7-foot, 225-pound center from West Ranch High in Santa Clarita, California, has a final eight of Kansas, Dayton, Missouri, Pepperdine, St. Mary’s, Texas Tech, UCSB and USC.
Townsend has been the lead recruiter for Gardner, whose father, Jelani Gardner, was recruited to Cal by Townsend back in the 1990s.
Gardner averaged 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks per game as a junior at Los Altos High while leading his team to a 26-7 record. He transferred to West Ranch High for his senior season to play with his brother, Jai Gardner, who will be a freshman this season.
Former Kansas basketball assistant coach Jerrance Howard has resigned from his position on Chris Beard’s staff at the University of Texas, according to a report from Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman.
Howard played for KU coach Bill Self at Illinois and worked under him at Kansas for eight seasons before leaving for Texas in April of 2021.
Howard played a key role in recruiting during his time with the Jayhawks and was equally as important to the Longhorns’ recruiting efforts during his one season in Austin.
The 42-year-old native of Peoria, Ill., was named one of college basketball’s “40 under 40” most influential figures by ESPN following the 2019-20 season.
Davis’ report noted that Howard had “wiped all UT references from his Twitter account” and also did not respond to a message seeking comment. A UT spokesman told Davis that Howard “has been pursuing other opportunities.” Davis reported that Howard’s name also had been removed from the UT directory.
Those who knew Howard at Kansas knew that he wanted to be a head coach one day and had looked into potential head coaching openings in the past.
Whether that’s where his departure from UT leads or if he stays in the coaching profession at all remains to be seen.
Howard responded to a text message from the Journal-World on Thursday night by saying he would share information about his next step soon.
I have yet to see new KU commitment Chris Johnson play basketball in person, but watching his highlight clips showed me everything I needed to know.
Johnson is the guard version of current Kansas forward Jalen Wilson.
Big, physical, tough and fearless, Johnson plays a brand of basketball that is similar to the way Wilson plays. Give him another couple inches and 30 pounds and you might think you’re seeing double.
You wouldn’t be alone either. Johnson told me Wednesday afternoon that even his own mother, Sheryl, has drawn the comparison between the current and future Jayhawks.
“My mom says he and I look like twins,” Johnson said.
Maybe the hair style or the demeanor or the unrelenting confidence led Sheryl to that conclusion. But it’s definitely the game, as well.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re probably not going to see Johnson playing the 4 for the Jayhawks any time soon. But much in the way Marcus Garrett could hold down that spot when asked during his college days, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.
Johnson’s a guard, though. And a good one. By the time the rankings in the 2023 class are finalized, I fully expect him to jump into five-star territory.
The comparison between Johnson and Wilson, at least in my mind, is 100% tied to how physical both players are. Johnson said Wednesday that he loved to play defense and liked to use his physicality on that end so the players he’s guarding are sure to feel him when he’s out there.
Wilson has uttered similar words in the past, more about his rebounding and relentless desire to turn the corner and get to the basket, which, by the way, Johnson’s pretty good at doing himself.
One of the things that attracted Johnson to Kansas was the fact that Bill Self and his staff have shown in recent years that they’re willing — and may even favor — to play a positionless style of basketball.
Guards and wings all over the floor. Whoever gets it off the glass brings it up. Shooters and athletes with Kansas across their chest spreading the defense and creating driving lanes for each other, with the defense never really sure where the point of attack will be.
All of that fits perfectly into the style that Johnson feels most comfortable playing. And that’s what makes him as good of a fit for the KU program as any I can remember Self landing in recent years. Plenty of guys have developed into exactly what the Jayhawks needed them to be after they arrived on campus. But few were as ready, from a stylistic standpoint, as Johnson seems to be. Devon Dotson was one. Josh Jackson was another. And maybe a big guy or two.
It’s unlikely that Johnson and Wilson will ever play together for the Jayhawks. But don’t be surprised if the staff brings more players in just like them in the years to come.
Whether they fit the twin billing will be up to their mothers. All the coaches care about is that they can play. And Johnson, like Wilson — another Texan, by the way — has that part down already.
For months, Kansas football strength coach Matt Gildersleeve pushed the Jayhawks to dig deep for every rep, throw up as much weight as they could and sculpt their bodies into athletic specimens.
So it goes during the college football offseason.
With that being the goal of the past eight months, however, Gildersleeve recently decided that the Jayhawks could use a little reminder about what they’re here for. On Tuesday, KU coach Lance Leipold shared the meat of that message.
“Nobody came here to play weightlifting,” Leipold said Gildersleeve told the players. “You came here to here to play football; now it’s time to go do it.”
Tueday marked the opening day of preseason camp for the 2022 Jayhawks, and they now have an official countdown to the season opener — 7 p.m., Sept. 2 vs. Tennessee Tech at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Many of the players have had their own countdown going since the end of the 2021 season, but veteran linemen Sam Burt and Mike Novitsky said Tuesday that the recent reminder from Gildersleeve came at a great time.
“As much as we strive to have these strength gains and weight gains, it is all about football,” Burt said. “That’s why we’re doing this. And I think that was a good introduction to camp.”
As is customary, the first few days of camp will feature players in shorts and helmets, as the players get acclimated to the heat and the schedule. The Jayhawks will get going in full pads later this week, and Novitsky said that was something they had been looking forward to.
“In the offseason, you’ve got a lot of months where you’re just training and you’re not actually strapping up a helmet and playing football. So you kind of get a little distracted,” he said. “But this is why you work all those months in the offseason, to get here.”
Doing so was easy under Gildersleeve, Novitsky said.
“He’s been a great fit here and he cares about his players a lot,” Novitsky said. “It’s awesome. Every day he comes in with energy and you’ve got to match it. He’s going to pull the best out of you every day.”
Despite Gildersleeve’s reminder, it’s not abandon-ship time for the Jayhawks and their weight training routines. Regular trips to the weight room will continue to be a part of their process as they fine-tune their bodies and minds to get ready to play 12 games this fall.
Little by little, however, their focus will ramp up to being all about football, from perfecting drills and techniques to game planning for opponents and filling out depth charts.
Leipold said he was thrilled with the roster Gildersleeve handed him for the start of preseason camp, noting that some of the concerns and trepidations he had at this time last year were no longer present.
“We know what we have with our players,” Leipold said. “This group’s excited.”
The second-year KU coach boasted Tuesday of “great results” in the weight room throughout the offseason and even noted that there were some “benchmarks” where the Jayhawks “doubled where they were a year ago.”
That, Leipold said, was an indication of a team working hard to close the gap in the Big 12 Conference, and he said Gildersleeve also shared with the players different areas and positions in which they had made progress on the rest of the conference from a physicality and measurables perspective.
“(I’m) extremely, extremely pleased with that,” Leipold said Tuesday. “Now we’ve got to go out and make it work.”
Four-star combo guard Chris Johnson, who visited the University of Kansas earlier this week, will announce his college choice on Tuesday, according to his Instagram page.
Johnson’s Instagram story on Saturday night featured a countdown to his commitment time.
Ranked No. 24 overall by ESPN.com, — 32nd by 247 Sports and 58th by Rivals.com — Johnson arrived on KU’s campus on Monday evening for an official visit.
He recently told Rivals.com that he was considering visits to Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut and Texas, and others, including Auburn, Kentucky, Houston, Memphis, Mississippi, Tennessee, UCLA, all of which have been reported to be showing heavy interest in Johnson.
As of Saturday, he had not named a list of finalists or narrowed his list in any way, so the fact that he’s ready to announce his commitment so close to his visit to KU is at least noteworthy.
Also of note is the fact that two Rivals.com publishers and one publisher at 247 Sports recently entered FutureCast and Crystal Ball picks for Kansas in Johnson’s recruitment. No other school had received a pick as of late Saturday night.
A recent recap of Johnson’s KU visit by Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com certainly pointed to KU being the pick, as well.
“His focus is there,” Johnson’s father, Chester Johnson, told Wildeboor of KU. “The way he talked to me; I think his focus is going to Kansas. What I hear and what he told me, and this is just him and I talking as father and son, he told me there's no reason for him to go and visit another college. So, we’ll go from there.”
The elder Johnson made it clear that he had his made his choice after the KU visit.
“Me, personally, as his father, I’m hoping that he does sign there,” he told Wildeboor. “I don’t see another place that is going to treat him like he was treated and be real with him. One of the most winningest coaches ever and when you get that kind of publicity and somebody wants you like that, I don’t think you can ask for anything more.”
Johnson, who is originally from Fort Bend, Texas, currently plays at Montverde Academy in Florida. He is listed at 6-foot-4, 175 pounds by ESPN.com, 6-6, 192 by Rivals.com and 6-5, 180 by 247 Sports, and he is drawing interest and attention from several of the top programs in college basketball.
Second-year KU assistant Jeremy Case has been the lead recruiter for Johnson.
“Chris really liked how all of the coaches interacted with each other,” his father told Wildeboor. “It seemed like more of a family instead of just a school. Chris left with a couple of players during his visit and he really enjoyed the players. He en-joyed talking to them and they talked to Chris about what’s going on with the school. Chris really enjoyed the visit, and I know that I really enjoyed it. I know that I felt comfortable and I think we all did. They made it seem like we were more like family. One thing that I really liked, (KU coach Bill Self) is real. Tell me the truth and don’t sugarcoat it and tell me what he needs to do and then we get along. I think (Self) was genuine with everything he was saying.”
Kansas does not currently have any commitments in the Class of 2023.
With summer workouts now in the past and the 2022-23 Kansas basketball roster set, we have a little better idea of how Bill Self’s squad will look when it hits the floor to defend the 2022 national title later this year.
The Jayhawks will feature a returning core of veterans in Jalen Wilson and Dajuan Harris Jr., and Self and company are eager to see what returning role players like Zach Clemence, KJ Adams, Joe Yesufu and Bobby Pettiford can do in their second seasons with the program.
Then there are the newcomers. It’s not 11 new faces like it was a season ago. But it’s a decent amount nonetheless, headlined by Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar Jr. as well as five-star freshmen Gradey Dick and MJ Rice.
The 2022-23 Jayhawks have even more depth in the front court in the form of freshmen Ernest Udeh Jr. and Zuby Ejiofor along with super-senior big man Cam Martin, who transferred to KU from Division II Missouri Southern State last season but elected to redshirt.
But it’s still too early to know what any of those three will bring to the lineup, and no one quite knows what to expect from second-year Jayhawk Kyle Cuffe Jr., who also redshirted last season.
What is known, however, is that the Jayhawks themselves believe they have the kind of roster in place that can make a real run at defending the title and getting the Jayhawks back to the Final Four for a second consecutive year.
Now that we’ve seen some of these guys play and recently talked to nearly all of them, let’s dive into exactly what this team looks like entering the rest of the summer.
Here, in no particular order, are three obvious strengths and three potential question marks surrounding the 2022-23 Jayhawks.
• Leadership – Harris is a natural leader because of the way he plays the point guard position and he has vowed to be more intentional about his leadership next season, as well. But all signs point to Wilson as the biggest reason this team will be in good shape in the leadership department. Not only is Wilson the team’s top returning player, but he also may be the most competitive and should be the face of the program. He’s hungry to improve his draft stock and show the world that the Jayhawks are still among the top teams in the country, and he’ll push both himself and his teammates to try to prove that to the rest of college basketball. And then, of course, there’s Self, who, despite the still-looming NCAA investigation, just seems to be getting better and having more fun all the time. Both of those elements benefit his teams in a big way.
• Backcourt and wing depth – In Wilson and McCullar, along with Dick and Rice, the Jayhawks have four uber-talented wings with a good mix of experience. All four of those guys can play multiple positions and each brings something slightly different to the roster. Dick is arguably the team’s best shooter and a terrific athlete. Rice is a three-level scorer with physical maturity beyond his years. McCullar is a defensive menace. And Wilson’s intangibles are headlined by his rebounding prowess and ability to push the ball in the open floor and drive to the rim. Add to that the top trio of guards in Harris, Yesufu and Pettiford, who also are interchangeable in the backcourt, and you’re looking at a roster that figures to have all kinds of flexibility in terms of both who plays and how they play.
• Perimeter defense – There’s plenty of hope (and reason to believe) that Pettiford and Yesufu can both be elite, impact defenders on the perimeter. But the Jayhawks already know that Harris and McCullar are. That duo, along with KU’s typical progression of improving its team defense from week to week throughout the season, should give this squad the potential to be pretty solid defensively. After being ranked in the 40s midway through the season in KenPom.com’s defensive efficiency numbers, the 2021-22 Jayhawks climbed all the way up to 17th by season’s end. The 2022-23 squad should start closer to that number. How high the Jayhawks climb will be largely dependent on how they defend down low. But their perimeter defense — especially if they play small — should be a strength on Day 1.
• What happens inside? – It sure looks like sophomore Zach Clemence is going to get the first crack at starting at the 5 for the Jayhawks and the table appears to be set for a breakout season. Clemence, who is highly competitive and supremely gifted as an offensive player, is hungrier than ever and what little experience he gained by going along for the ride last season should help him have a better understanding of what the team needs from him and what it takes to play big minutes as a big man. He’ll be pushed by both Udeh and Ejiofor, who are athletic, explosive and versatile in their own right. Martin remains the wildcard here, and how much he plays likely will be determined by how well he defends. That’s probably the case for all four KU big men. None of them can be classified as true rim protectors, and all of them will have to embrace the physical nature of playing down low to show the coaching staff that they deserve minutes. We could be looking at a committee approach at the 5 in the early going. But if Clemence comes out of the gate on fire, he’s got the best chance of the bunch to grab the starting nod and never give it up.
• 3-point shooting – There are talented shooters on this roster, but they’re also replacing some absolute marksmen. No single absence will be more important to make up for than the ability to replace what Ochai Agbaji could do as an outside shooter. Dick, Wilson, Rice, Clemence and even Harris, along with a few others, all have the ability to knock in shots from the perimeter. But it remains to be seen if any of them can do it quite as well as Agbaji. Or Christian Braun, for that matter. Those two first-round draft picks combined to shoot 40% from 3-point range last season, with Agbaji knocking in 103 3-pointers and Braun draining 51. Nobody else on the roster made more than 30. Even Jalen Coleman-Lands (44.8%) and Remy Martin (38.2%) proved to be dangerous 3-point shooters capable of making some critical shots. It’s next man up in that department for these Jayhawks, and how well they deliver figures to play a huge role in how good this team can be.
• How will the young guys handle being hunted? – There’s a reason that Dick, Ejiofor, Rice and Udeh made up the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals.com. They’re all incredibly talented. But given the fact that all four of them could be playing key roles on next season’s team — and three of them certainly will be — it remains a worthy question to wonder just how well — and how quickly — they’ll adjust to the college game and the task of defending a national title. All four are competitive, confident players who have been through plenty of big moments. But playing in front of 16,300 fans at home night in and night out and drawing vicious roars from opposing fans on the road is a whole other animal than these guys are used to. All of them seem ready for it. Those challenges are actually part of the reason each came to KU in the first place. But we won’t know for sure how they perform in those situations until they’ve actually experienced it and the rest of us have seen it.
Projected 2-deep lineup as of July 29, 2022:
PG – Dajuan Harris Jr. — Bobby Pettiford
• Harris is one of two no-brainer plug-ins when predicting this year's starting five
2G – Kevin McCullar Jr. — Joe Yesufu
• McCullar has the ability to play 1 through 4 and Yesufu should be more comfortable in Year 2
3G – Gradey Dick — MJ Rice
• I go back and forth on this one more than any other but Dick's outside shooting often seems to be the difference
4 – Jalen Wilson — KJ Adams
• Wilson is the other easy and obvious choice at his position in the starting five, but I do think KJ Adams will play a ton, perhaps at 3 different positions
5 – Zach Clemence — Ernest Udeh Jr.
• It's Clemence's spot to lose, but Udeh's going to surprise a lot of people
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff did his best to sound like a man with confidence in his conference’s future on Friday morning.
But anyone who’s been paying attention probably heard his words as desperate and defensive more than anything.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of people out there who believe the Pac-12 still has a chance to survive in the latest round of conference realignment chaos. And, who knows; it very well might.
But there’s also the possibility — it might even be likely at this point — that the conference is in serious trouble after the departures of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten.
It was the Big 12, which has been rumored to be a potential safe landing spot for at least some of the Pac-12’s 10 remaining universities, that drew most of Kliavkoff’s ire on Friday, as he made multiple jabs in that direction.
“With respect to the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that,” Kliavkoff said early in his remarks at Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles. “We haven’t decided whether we’re going shopping there or not.”
Those words, of course, came in response to new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark saying two weeks ago that the Big 12 was “open for business” at his conference’s media days.
It should be noted that Yormark made clear that his comment then was not solely about realignment and included all areas of business that could strengthen the Big 12. It’s also worth noting that Yormark was much more tactful with his words when asked about realignment.
Rather than targeting or referencing any other conferences, he simply said the powers that be within the Big 12 were evaluating all options and that if the conference made any moves in terms of expansion it would come from the position of adding value and not watering down the conference just for the sake of expanding.
As things progressed on Friday, Kliavkoff became even feistier, saying he had spent the last four weeks “trying to defend against grenades being lobbed in from every corner of the Big 12 trying to destabilize our remaining conference.”
He added: “I understand why they’re doing it, when you look at the relative media value between the two conferences. I get it. I get why they’re scared, why they’re trying to destabilize it.”
With all due respect to Mr. Kliavkoff, who is, after all, in just his second year in college athletics, I’m not so sure it’s the Big 12 that sounds scared here.
It’s hard to blame anyone in the Pac-12 for being a little on edge right now. The conference is in serious danger of falling apart and there are several reports out there that indicate that the 10 members that remain in the conference are more divided than united.
So Kliavkoff had to do something on Friday that made it look like he and his conference were operating from a position of strength. I’m just not sure that throwing stones at the Big 12 and acting like a big, bad bully actually did that.
Isn’t it the Big Ten, or even ESPN and possibly the SEC, that Kliavkoff should really be angry with? After all, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren flat-out said just this week that his conference had not closed the door on expansion.
And, if the Big Ten does expand again, there are plenty who believe that Pac-12 programs Oregon, Stanford and Washington are on the short list of most likely candidates to get gob-bled up.
But, sure, go ahead and play tough guy with the Big 12, George. It’s already been made crystal clear by your two flagship programs that the Pac-12 and Big Ten aren’t in the same league so there’s no use in trying to punch up.
Some people surely bought into Kliavkoff’s approach on Friday. And maybe he made a corner of Pac-12 country feel better about the current state of things with his comments. He really had no choice but to at least try to make some kind of a splash. His conference’s survival is on the line.
In addition to going after the Big 12, Kliavkoff also noted that the Pac-12 was actively exploring expansion opportunities. Again, it seemed as if that was said to make it sound as if the Pac-12 is in control here. Most believe the opposite is true, though.
It’s already been made clear that no one from the Big 12 is interested in leaving for the Pac-12. And talk of a coastal merger between the Pac-12 and the ACC didn’t seem to have any real steam behind it either. That leaves programs like San Diego State, Boise State, Fresno State, SMU and Memphis, among others, as the best schools available for the Pac-12 to scoop up if expansion is deemed necessary.
Say what you will about the current Big 12 roster, but all four of the programs the Big 12 is bringing in (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida) — and others, if the Big 12 adds anybody from the current Pac-12 lineup — are more attractive and add more value than any of the schools mentioned above.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Kliavkoff certainly seemed desperate on Friday.
Here was a man lamenting that the collegiality of college athletics had been compromised in recent weeks taking direct shots at another conference.
He even walked that back a little, saying at one point that he was “just tired” of the talk of the Big 12 potentially swiping Pac-12 programs and that those rumors inspired his comments on Friday morning.
“That’s probably not the most collegial thing I’ve ever said,” he added.
Tough times out west. We'll see how much longer they last.
Realignment battle lines continue to be drawn by conference commissioners; it’s adjust now or regret it later
It’s musical chairs if we’ve ever seen it in the world of college athletics, with big time schools in major conferences carefully walking around the circle desperately hoping that there will be a chair for them to land on when the music stops.
While this latest round of conference realignment has brought about more wild rumors and speculation than ever before — I know; hard to believe, right? — it seems that this stretch is about much more than just teams trading conferences and mailing addresses.
College athletics is in the middle of a major shift. Rules have been erased and restrictions lightened. Players are now able to cash in on countless name, image and likeness opportunities. And rosters, in all sports, are being reshaped at the college ranks the way free agency redid the look of pro sports.
Holding on to the ways of the past will not work and it’s critical that coaches, administrators, athletes and others — think parents, media outlets, fans, etc. — show the ability to adjust to whatever it is that lies ahead.
Earlier this week, at the Big Ten’s annual media days, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said as much while discussing the conference’s expansion plans and the addition of USC and UCLA.
In short, Warren said he was not interested in closing the door on expansion and it was the adjust-or-else approach that was at the heart of his comments.
“From a strategy standpoint, this is not the old college athletics,” Warren said in a statement that sounded obvious but still seems to be hard for some to grasp. “For the individuals and the conferences and schools that are not thinking that way, they’re going to be Sears and Roebuck. That’s straight, blunt. That’s where this deal is going. We have about three or four more years of perpetual disruption. During that period, either you’re going to embrace change and build a business and get stronger, or not.”
There’s so much to unpack in that one statement. But as a whole, it’s pretty direct.
Whether you’re talking about extinction through the Sears reference or the promise of unending disruption, Warren made it clear to whoever wanted to hear it that now is the time to prepare to make adjustments, rethink the norms and get used to a new way of doing business. And, yes, business was an important word in there.
Although Warren spoke from a position of power and security, his comments were not that far off from those uttered by new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark a couple of weeks earlier.
Yormark also emphasized business in his introductory remarks at Big 12 media days, and he sounded like a leader who would be willing to do whatever he needed to do, considering any and all initiatives and ideas that come his way, to ensure that the Big 12 Conference is as strong as possible as it enters this new era.
Action will matter far more than words when it comes to the Big 12’s future. But fans of the conference, as well as the 10 members currently in it, the four coming on board next year and any schools out there (Pac-12 or otherwise) that might be considering it as a landing spot in the madness, should feel good about how closely Yormark’s approach lines up with Warren’s words.
To a lesser degree, the same goes for Kansas fans and the vision and approach of second-year athletic director Travis Goff.
Both men understand that the future is not tied to the status quo or longing for the days of old. That ship has sailed. Michigan will never play USC in the Rose Bowl again. Money is undeniably king now. And many people have stopped the pretending. Four-year players, in all sports, will become more and more rare as the years pass by. For goodness’ sake, the Kansas men’s golf team just lost a key player to the transfer portal. And he transferred to conference rival (for now) Oklahoma of all places.
The powers that be are telling these kids that the time has come for them to get theirs and worry about the rest later.
The conferences that follow that advice will likely be the ones that survive and thrive in the new world.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff is slated to speak at 10 a.m. Friday at his conference’s media day in Los Angeles. Awwkwaaard.
Pay close attention to Kliavkoff’s words and you just might find a few clues for how much longer the Pac-12 that we know today will be around.