The school with the second-most skiing championships in NCAA history will spend its future competing on the sunny shores of the West Coast.
Thursday, a day after reports surfaced about the University of Nebraska’s expected departure to the Big Ten, the University of Colorado trumped the Cornhuskers by becoming the first school to leave the Big 12 Conference.
Colorado’s intentions were confirmed early in the day, when the Pac-10 released an official statement on its website.
“This is an historic moment for the conference, as the Pac-10 is poised for tremendous growth,” Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said in the release. “The University of Colorado is a great fit for the conference both academically and athletically and we are incredibly excited to welcome Colorado to the Pac-10.”
The move ends years of flirtation between the two parties that have kept a close eye on one another since the Big 12’s early days, when Colorado balked at a previous chance to join the Pac-10. There was no delaying this time, as CU moved swiftly to ensure that it would not be left out of the realignment that now seems certain to happen in some form or another.
“The University of Colorado is a perfect match with the Pac-10,” CU president Bruce D. Benson said. “Our achievements and aspirations match those of the universities in the conference, and we look forward to a productive relationship.”
Realignment talk figures to heat up again at 1 p.m. today — if not sooner — when Nebraska officials are expected to announce formally their intentions to join the Big Ten. It’s safe to assume that talks will continue throughout the day in Big 12 cities around the country. That includes Lawrence, where news of Colorado’s departure was met with mixed emotions.
“I’m sure Colorado is believing the domino effect has occurred and (CU) didn’t want to be left behind,” KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self said. “They obviously were attractive to the Pac-10 for their respective reasons. I am not upset with individuals but more upset that, in the purest form of competition, things are being driven so much by where you live or how many homes are in your state.”
With the league potentially folding around him, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe said Thursday that he remained committed to his conference.
“I continue to work through the process that was agreed upon last week by our Board of Directors to address membership issues,” he said, “and am working tirelessly towards the long-term viability of the Big 12.”
The rumor mill has left no shortage of options as to what that might include.
Reports out of Texas have indicated three different scenarios for the majority of the state’s schools: 1. Attempt to keep the Big 12 together with 10 schools; 2. Join Colorado in what some are calling the Pac-10/Big 12 merger, a move that would send Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-10; or 3. Apply for membership into the Big Ten, a rumor that developed late Thursday afternoon. Of course, impeding the progress for any of those scenarios might be the rumored interest in the Southeastern Conference by Oklahoma and/or Texas A&M.
Any one of those options would bode well for KU, whether it meant remaining in the Big 12 or opening up a spot for the Jayhawks to slide into the Pac-10.
Representatives from Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech met Thursday, but reports said the foursome could not come to a consensus about which direction to head.
No matter what happens, Self seems confident that the Jayhawks will remain in a high-profile conference when all is said and done.
“They talk about the Nebraska brand that I’ve heard mentioned several times,” Self said. “But the KU brand is pretty good, too. Wherever we play, we’re going to win.”
Adding a hint of confusion to KU’s future was Thursday’s retirement announcement from athletic director Lew Perkins, who will remain with the school until September 2011.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little pledged to continue to work with Perkins throughout the process and urged KU supporters to remain patient and confident.
“I know this is an anxious time for Jayhawks,” Gray-Little said. “I want to reassure our fans that we have been proactive throughout conference-realignment discussions, and our efforts to advance the interests of KU will remain extremely aggressive. I don’t have anything specific to report at this time about offers or options that we have. Both Lew Perkins and I have been very involved in talking with ADs and chancellors and presidents of other universities.
“If you’d have asked us a couple days ago, I would have said I would love for us to be in the Big 12 as it was. Since that is not possible, then I certainly hope that we will be in a conference that has similar strengths for our team and for our athletes.”