After a few nerve-wracking weeks of seconds that felt more like minutes and minutes that felt more like hours, Kansas University stood Sunday night where it had at the beginning: wanting to stay in the Big 12, where its hottest rivalries can continue, travel remains reasonable and recruiting regions stay the same.
For the first time in what seems like a long time, it felt Sunday as if Kansas would get its way.
Commissioner Dan Beebe’s efforts to deliver enough TV dollars for Texas to want to stay put seemed to be progressing well, and a realignment within the conference would boost the national-championship aspirations of the Big 12’s two football powers, Texas and Oklahoma.
With Oklahoma shifting to the North and Texas staying in the South, the schools would increase their chances of meeting in the conference title game with undefeated records.
Nothing official was cemented Sunday, but with the TV dollars increasing, it doesn’t make sense for the Big 12 South schools to join hands with the Pac-10, especially considering Beebe has made it clear to Texas that the conference won’t block the school from starting its own TV network.
A 10-team conference that has Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Oklahoma in the North and Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the South makes sense.
For Kansas, none of the other possibilities pack as much punch. Going to the Pac-10 as the 16th team in the event Texas A&M goes to the SEC works well enough.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and his deputy, former Big 12 Big Cheese Kevin Weiberg, have been touring the country visiting with potential new members, flying to Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, College Station, Lubbock and Austin. They originally were scheduled to fly to Kansas City International Airport on Sunday night, but the scheduled flight either was diverted or never departed. (For what it’s worth, Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins gave Weiberg his first big break in the business, hiring him at Wichita State.)
Though not as appealing for Kansas as staying in the Big 12, a stealth exit to the SEC as the 14th team isn’t a wild idea, especially considering Arkansas could use a travel partner. The down side: Kansas doesn’t have many alumni in SEC country.
If a Big 12 South exodus to the Pac-10 — not feeling as likely at this point — that leaves Kansas behind occurs, there is always the option of staying in the Big 12 with the four other stranded members and inviting the Mountain West Conference schools plus one more. Kansas never seemed interested in this path.
Such a conference, with Houston as the 16th member, would break down thusly:
East: Baylor, Colorado State, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, TCU.
West: Air Force, Boise State, BYU, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, Wyoming.
Nine of those schools were included in the 2010 NCAA Tournament field, and nine played in bowl games. Even so, the TV dollars don’t stack high enough to cut 16 ways.
Best guess: The Big 12, minus Colorado and Nebraska, stays together.