Could Mountain West merger save Big 12?

The Big 12 and SEC will have a new football game for its league champions beginning in 2014.

The Big 12 and SEC will have a new football game for its league champions beginning in 2014.

June 13, 2010


With each day that passes it appears as if the Big 12 Conference moves one step closer to extinction.

However, a scenario emerged Saturday that might go a long way toward saving the conference.

An report early Saturday morning quoted Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson as saying that the MWC was frothing at the mouth to scoop up whatever Big 12 schools might remain should Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State head to the Pac-10, as expected.

Sources within the Mountain West, however, told the Journal-World late Saturday night that the exact opposite actually could happen. Instead of the MWC taking the Big 12’s castaways — Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor — the Big 12 could absorb all 10 members of the Mountain West, including newly acquired Boise State, and move forward as a revamped Big 12.

“That has some merit because it would allow the remaining Big 12 schools to protect things like their NCAA Tournament basketball shares and the automatic qualifying bid to the BCS,” the source said. “If that’s how this goes down, I know that both sides are going to be very sensitive to how that part’s handled so that it doesn’t jeopardize the BCS bid or any of the basketball shares that those schools have earned.”

That alone, along with the other advantages that would come with the Big 12’s leftovers sticking together, such as geography, friendly time zones and tradition, could be enough to make the offer appealing to those schools that remain. One other potential benefit of staying with the league and adding the MWC schools would be the fact that the Big 12 — whatever it would be called from here on out — would be around to collect the departure penalty payouts from the schools that leave.

As for the Mountain West schools, which, like the Big 12, have been together barely more than a decade, the idea of leaving the MWC behind would not be tough to swallow, the source said.

“With the opportunity to become a BCS conference, nearly immediately, and the fact that this conference, which has been on a united front throughout this whole thing, would remain united, I think the sentimentality carries very little weight,” the source said. “I think in a lot of ways it’s a best-case scenario for everyone involved.”

The kicker, of course, is that, as of now, the Big 12 still has 10 teams in it, with only Colorado and Nebraska out the door for certain. That could all change as soon as Tuesday, when four Big 12 south schools reportedly will announce their defection to the Pac-10.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg visited with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State officials in person Saturday, ostensibly with invitations to join the league. Up next is a trip to Texas A&M;, Texas and Texas Tech today. An OU press release described Saturday’s meeting with president David Boren and AD Joe Castiglione as “very cordial and informative. It would not be appropriate to comment further on the content of the meeting at this time. There will be a special meeting of OU’s board of regents Wednesday to weigh possible conference options available to the university.”

The press release had most pundits 100 percent convinced OU is Pac-10 bound.

The wildcard here remains Texas A&M.; The Aggies originally were in the proposal outlined by the Pac-10, however, A&M; has since become torn over whether to join its Big 12 brothers in heading west or set out on its own into the SEC. reported Saturday there were enough votes of A&M; regents to approve a move to the SEC.

There are conflicting reports whether the SEC would want A&M; and ESPN reported Saturday that the league was not interested in KU, though some KU officials have been intrigued by the possibility of joining that league.

There’s also been talk of KU, K-State, Missouri and Iowa State joining the Big East but that has yet to build up much steam nationally.

Should A&M; head to the SEC, that would leave Kansas in an interesting position of whether to pursue becoming the 16th school in the Pac-10 or to stick with the potential Big 12/Mountain West merger that seems to be gaining momentum.

A source confirmed to the Journal-World reports that officials from KU, K-State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor met via teleconference on Saturday to discuss the possibility of remaining with the Big 12 via merging with the Mountain West. The athletic directors may meet Monday to ask questions of TV officials about possible contracts and what they would be worth for such a league.

Although the losses of Texas and Oklahoma would be tough to stomach, taking on the Mountain West schools could actually expand the markets the Big 12 reaches, especially if the Big 12’s five and the MWC’s 10 went after Houston or SMU, as the source indicated they would, as the 16th team in the revamped Big 12.

That, in effect, would be creating the very thing that current Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe has warned against throughout the entire realignment process. It would be interesting to watch if, with his conference saved, Beebe would be willing to oversee one of the 16-team power conferences he’s lobbied against in recent weeks.

“I think it’s something that we, as a community of leaders, better be very careful about,” Beebe said. “I think if we come to a day where there are four 16-member conferences and there’s a clear departure of those conferences from the rest of the institutions in higher education and athletics, that it’s going to be a sad day and it’s going to be very difficult to not have a lot more intervention and legal issues attached to those institutions.”


anon1958 7 years, 8 months ago

"Although the losses of Texas and Oklahoma would be tough to stomach, taking on the Mountain West schools could actually expand the markets the Big 12 reaches, especially if the Big 12’s five and the MWC’s 10 went after Houston or SMU, as the source indicated they would, as the 16th team in the revamped Big 12. "

From a population demographic and tv market share perspective, which is all that really matters to people in charge, and servicing the 45 million dollar debt that KUAC has wracked up, I call BS on the "expanded market claim". A combined MWC and Big 12, whatever you name it, it is still a second or bottom tier conference.

Inquiring minds want to know what happens when the "independent KUAC" cant pay its bills in a few years.

jayhawkato 7 years, 8 months ago

MWC? No thanks! I don't want KU to be associated with mid-major schools. MWC/Big12 merger will bring nothing but hurt to KU basketball program. Is this the best solution that Lew can find? If so, he should give up his bonus and leave now. KU should rather go independent in basketball and either drop football or join Big East ( for football only)

RogueThrill 7 years, 8 months ago

Well, if you are OK with KU becoming the Gonzaga of the Midwest, adding MWC teams would be great. The name is only as good as the product and we wouldn't be on many TV sets after December (assuming we could schedule the off season well).

The only good thing our athletic department (or maybe the University as a whole, which is sad) has going for it right now is Bill Selfs charm and we will likely lose him the first time an NBA team comes calling or the next time an MSU-esque job opens up.

LogicMan 7 years, 8 months ago

The merger makes sense, especially if KU doesn't get a PAC-16 bid. If A&M goes to the PAC-16, then the merger is the only option IMHO. But if A&M goes to the SEC, or for the short-term stays in the Big 12, then the PAC-16 would likely grab Kansas, or Utah from the MWC, which would hurt the merged conference's long-term performance.

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 8 months ago

The MWC idea is just pathetic. I shudder to think of the ramifications of that.

newmedia 7 years, 8 months ago

No offense but KU can do better than the MWC.

slowplay 7 years, 8 months ago

"The merger makes sense"... I agree, especially from a basketball standpoint. I don't see A&M passing up a Pac 10 invite. The MWC/Big 12 consolidation would be a perfect fit. TCU, BYU and Utah are quality football programs and NMex, BYU, UNLV and San Diego St, bring solid basketball programs. We keep the BCS status. The only downside would be the bottom of the conference, but it's not like Col., TT, IS, OK., or Neb added any value Big 12 basketball.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

The big twelve split is a done deal. It's over.

According to many news agencies.

Who has invited KU or K State?

This massive KU insider corruption with outsider support(some among the Lawrence Real Estate/Building community) cannot be doing KU any favors.

No matter what happens to KU the criminals and KU will still be in Lawrence,Kansas. This may linger in the minds of many important NCAA thinkers.

slowplay 7 years, 8 months ago

merrill, You know nothing about athletics, so keep your idiotic ramblings to yourself.

Graczyk 7 years, 8 months ago

I think the scandals loom larger in the minds of the fans and the press than they do in the minds of conference commissioners. This is nothing in the long term.

KU_Alumn_2003 7 years, 8 months ago

MWC is not Mid Major. BYU, UofU, and Air Force are high quality academic Institutions that are heavily recruited by corporate america. The recent success of Boise State, TCU, BYU, and UofU in football show that these schools have established programs. The only reason anyone would think the MWC is mid-major is because of BCS bidding. Well, we all know how effective the BCS has been over the past several years with regarding MWC vs. high ranked BCS schools in the bowls. If we could bring an automatic BCS bid and a national brand to the MWC/Big 12 merger, then I think it is an excellent option to consider provided the financials work out.

jaywalker 7 years, 8 months ago

Sorry, alum, but they most certainly are a mid-major. The term has nothing to do with the quality of academics, it's an athletic label. For an example, if KU were to end up in the MWC, do you think it would be a step up? A lateral move? Nope, it'd be a step down. Competing w/ UT, OU, Nebraska, A&M is not akin to Utah, BYU, and Air Force.

Rich Noever 7 years, 8 months ago

I totally agree. Anyone who thinks the MWC is mid major hasn't been paying attention.

Rich Noever 7 years, 8 months ago

I should have said that the BCS has already said they plan on making MWC a Automatice Bid conference.

RogueThrill 7 years, 8 months ago

It's a step down in revenue. It's a step down from fly-over status to "what conference is Kansas in again?" status. It's a step down for our football program in terms of competition and a step off the cliff in terms of our basketballs relevance.

jaywalker 7 years, 8 months ago

If we can keep the rest of the Big 12 from bolting, adding Arkansas and TCU or Utah sounds best to me. Heck, keep it the way it is and be the new Big 10. I can't stand the thought of "super conferences"; look at the Big East and the SEC. They'll go years sometimes not playing fellow conference schools in football which is a crock.

grassman 7 years, 8 months ago

Arkansas leave the SEC? You're kidding right? If you know of a good reason they would want to leave, please do tell.

jaywalker 7 years, 8 months ago

Ummm, 'cuz they've been talking about wanting to join the Big 12 for the last two years???!!!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

How will the split impact the Lawrence economy?

RogueThrill 7 years, 8 months ago

Negatively. The only way Lawrence doesn't get hosed on game days (as well as KC, really. Between Big XII Tournament revenues and the loss of readers for the KCStar) is if we join a conference full of ridiculous, travel happy fans like the SEC. Which is neither going to happen or likely affect basketball. PAC-10 teams will not travel here or us there except for alumni or games in places like LA or LV. And considering MWC fans don't even watch their crap on TV it's unlikely they will come to Lawrence.

LogicMan 7 years, 8 months ago

"They'll go years sometimes not playing fellow conference schools in football ..."

Which would be possible in the new "Big West 16" too. But dividing the newly-merged conference into East (KU, KSU, MU, ISU, CSU, Baylor, WyU, and Air Force or UNm) and West [or "Great Plains" and "Rocky Mountain" divisions to have more colorful/unique names] would allow KU et al. to continue to play their traditional rivals each year. Including via nonconference games with NU, CU, OSU, etc.

The Big West 16's headquarters must move back to Kansas City as part of the deal. I'd recommend the old NCAA building. And the BB tournament to Kemper, but the FB championship game could rotate between Arrowhead and Mile High stadiums.

LogicMan 7 years, 8 months ago

"How will the split impact the Lawrence economy?"

Some. If we play smaller or more distant teams, fewer their alums will travel here.

No matter what we need to make KU an even more attractive place for others to schedule away-games. Expanding the airport so that team-jets' can fly-in, improving roads to and parking at Memorial Stadium (the north side; sorry folk those houses gotta go for the greater good of the community), and, if we end up in either the PAC-16 or eventually the Big Ten+, we'll need to add the south bowl or upper decks as well as the east suites to Memorial.

esteshawk 7 years, 8 months ago

You cannot be serious about removing a viable neighborhood for the sake of 5 Saturday's a year? Besides, my guess is that KU does not have eminent domain powers, which means any one of the property owners could hold out, unless the City got involved. That would mean the City of Lawrence would have to purchase all those houses, pay to raze them, then pay for the parking lot. You're looking at $10 mil, easy. For a few parking lots that would sit empty 358 days a year.

LogicMan 7 years, 8 months ago

"You cannot be serious about removing a ... neighborhood"

Yes. The City and the State have ED power. I think you underestimate the importance of KU and KSU, and their sports programs, to the people of the State of Kansas which lacks many other big attributes. One group of mostly transient renters and landlords can't stand in the way of giving hope for the future, if the Big 12 dies.

Some of the physical houses could be moved to other locations, but many are already well past their appropriate service-lives and would have already been razed if we had stronger codes and enforcement. With bus service, the new parking lots would be used heavily by students, just like the lots that were eliminated to build the two practice fields north of Memorial.

esteshawk 7 years, 8 months ago

More parking isn't the answer. A consistently better on-field product is the answer. I haven't been to Manhattan for a game in 30 years, but I remember the stadium being on the edge of campus with a huge parking lot next to it, and it sucked. Arrowhead - huge parking lot and no ambience. Coors Field? Not a shred of parking anywhere around and it's one of the best places to see a game because of it. Same with Cubs.

Mkultra 7 years, 8 months ago

If any of you truly believe that the Mountain West is the best course of action you should be immediately adjudicated mentally incompetant.

jonas_opines 7 years, 8 months ago

By all means, share your wisdom with us, then.

Rich Noever 7 years, 8 months ago

"It" can't. "It" doesn't have any wisdom.

blakus 7 years, 8 months ago

Calling MWC schools mid-major is laughable. Utah, BYU, New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV basketball programs have been solid the last couple of seasons, with some of those teams breaking the top 25 in the last two years and making the NCAA tourney. BYU, TCU, Boise State and Utah again are solid on the football field. TCU has finished in the top 10 the last two seasons and we all are familiar with Boise's success. This is all football driven, and KU football is subpar. MWC would certainly add quality teams immediately to fill the void left by the likes of OSU, Nebraska, A&M, Tech... let's be honest, there is no one that can replace Texas and OU in terms of football.

RogueThrill 7 years, 8 months ago

The best adjective you can come up with is "solid." Thanks for giving us the hard sell, skippy.

drnater 7 years, 8 months ago

@Jay-the SEC only has 12 schools

Anybody who thinks that this is a bad idea needs to look at it a different way. Boise St and BYU both have beaten OU in the past couple of years. TCU only lost to Boise St. last year. Boise, BYU, TCU, and Utah all finished in the Top 25 last year for football. This is all about football, and while the loss of Texas and OU would hurt the new conference would still have the football prowess that the Big 12 is known for, and with the new schools they have a better track record of not choking in the bowl games. (OU, Texas Tech, etc.) With the new league Boise St. who has been arguably the hottest team in the past 5 years would finally get there chance to be in the equation for a National Championship, which due to there conference has hindered them. As far as basketball goes, Memphis does fine in a weaker league, but we'd still have KSU, Missouri, and Baylor, all of whom made the tourney, add in Nevada, SDSU, UNM, and BYU who all made the tourney and look the Big 12 has 7 teams in the tourney again. The Big 12 while taking a step back could get just as good, while still managing to broaden its viewing audience. Then maybe they'll make a tv station thats actually worth something and shun the schools that decided to defect from a conference that was among the top in all sports.

grassman 7 years, 8 months ago

Well stated. It is the best possible situation for the remaining 5 of the XII. Too many individuals think there are conferences just begging these schools to join on with them. It's not happening. A merger is the best that possible situation. It should be embraced.

jaywalker 7 years, 8 months ago

Gee, thanks for the info. Living down here for the last ten years I never would have known that. The fact remains, the folks down here consider themselves a "super conference", and treat the scheduling as such. 'Bama won't play UGA for three years in a row, Auburn won't play Florida for 2 or 3 years, and so on and so on.....

esteshawk 7 years, 8 months ago

No way KU ends up in the SEC - that's a football conference, pure and simple. KU is a hoops school. The SEC would not be interested in KU because of that. It's all about the dollars, and the fact is f$$tball makes a lot more cash than hoops.

Absorbing the MWC might be the best course of action if the South Division bolts. Those that think "KU can do better" need to look around - ain't no Big/Pac-10 been knocking on our door.

At this point, beggars can't be choosers might be the phrase of the day.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 8 months ago

Yea, it would be ironic, to say the least, for the Kansas (Free Stater) Jayhawks to be in a league consisting mostly of schools from the old confederacy. (How many of these states still have the Confederate Swastika, err..., sorry, the Stars and Bars, in their flags?)

LogicMan 7 years, 8 months ago

"At this point, beggars can't be choosers "

Well said. But we must hope, plan, and act for a better future too.

Prairielander 7 years, 8 months ago

The SEC isn't calling. They have better options: TxA&M, VaTech, Miami, Clemson, Florida State, maybe West Virgina. Even Missouri would be a better fit.

The Big Ten might call, but only after calling Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and, yes, Missouri first.

The PAC 10 is possible, if TxA&M goes to the SEC. This would be the second best option for KU, but it would mean splitting with Missouri and KState.

The best option for right now is to keep the remaining 10 teams in the Big XII and add two teams such as TCU, SMU or Houston (I know, just what we need is more Texas teams!). The problem with that, is the trend seems to be towards 16 team conferences. The PAC 10 is trying to be the first. If they fail to attract the 5 Big XII schools, they would almost certainly go after some of the MWC (Utah, BYU, maybe UNLV, Boise State or New Mexico). To get to 16, the Big XII would probably also have to head to the MWC. The only other option would be east to some of the big city schools like Memphis, Louisville or Cincinnati.

BTW, the LJW didn't list the MWC schools in this article. For reference they are: Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico, BYU, Utah, UNLV, San Diego State, TCU and newly added Boise State. They have conference sports in: Baseball, Football, Basketball (M&W), Golf (M&W), Cross County, Track and Field, Soccer (W), Swimming and Diving (M&W), Volleyball (W), Softball and Tennis (M&W). I couldn't determine if Cross Country is M&W or just Mens. KU has women's CC, but no Men's Swimming. Otherwise the only sport missing that KU currently fields is Women's Rowing.

cg1029 7 years, 8 months ago

You can call it what ever you want, but the MWC joining the Big 12 means that KU is still playing inferior competition and will greatly hurt recruiting. If KU can't join a real BCS conferance then they need to take the best of several teams and creat the new big 12, but that does not include all the MWC teams.

Prairielander 7 years, 8 months ago

If the Big XII merged with the MWC it would BE a BCS conference.

happyrock 7 years, 8 months ago

Let me pose a few questions: 1. Does not it take nine votes to dissolve the conference? If so, then as long as KSU, ISU, MU and KU stick together, the conference survives. The seven members jumping ship may owe the remaining five upwards of $100 million (I am guessing at this number as I saw a report that CU and NU will owe the remaining ten teams $32 million over the next two years). 2. How long does BCS have an agreement to take a Big 12 team. If the conference continues to exist, then one of the five remaining teams would get a bid to a BCS bowl game. That sounds crazy, but the Big East has continued to receive a bid despite the fact that Miami and Boston College jumped ship. Obviously, we cannot survive as a five team conference, but before we wave the white flag perhaps we do have some aces up our sleeve.

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 8 months ago

Methinks the leftovers will take the best deal they can get...if it's the MWC, it's the MWC.

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