Kansas University baseball coach Ritch Price was in Phoenix when he heard the reports last Thursday that the Big 12 might be dissolving.
“It was like somebody stabbed me all weekend,” Price said. “I told my secretary Marcia (Bagby) that it absolutely ruined my weekend. I went from one field to the next.
“Every time I got into the car, listened to talk radio for an hour — that’s Arizona State, Pac-10 country — and when you’re a Kansas Jayhawk, and you have the pride that I have, it was really hard to deal with.”
It’s why, like many KU coaches, Price was overjoyed at the news Monday that the Big 12 was, in fact, staying together as a 10-team league.
“The kids came here to play in the Big 12, and I came here to coach in the Big 12,” Price said. “I’m not a Mountain West fan, so I’m thrilled I get to finish my career in the Big 12.”
On Tuesday, many other KU coaches expressed satisfaction that their teams would remain in the same conference.
KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard said he couldn’t imagine not playing Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Missouri each year.
“We lose some friends from Colorado and Nebraska,” Bechard said, “but at the same time, some of the consequences from the league falling apart would have been pretty devastating for a lot of folks involved.”
For Price and Bechard, the travel schedules of a move to a different conference would have been grueling.
Price was especially worried about the rumors that potentially had KU shifting to the Pac-10.
“I’m a Californian. When I read that stuff about the Pac-10 ... I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Pullman, Wash., but that might be on the farthest part of America. You’d miss school on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to play something like that,” Price said. “Obviously, the best scenario for us travel-wise was remain in the Big 12. That was the best for student-athlete welfare.”
The 2011 season also might start a somewhat awkward relationship with Nebraska — one of the two schools, along with Colorado, that will be leaving the Big 12.
Bechard would still like to play NU because of proximity and also because of recruiting benefits.
Price said NU would make for a good non-conference opponent for midweek games, but he also indicated that scheduling the Huskers might be out of the coaches’ jurisdictions.
“It will all depend on (KU athletic director) Lew (Perkins),” Price said. “Lew made a comment when Missouri was talking about going to the Big Ten (that) if they left, we weren’t going to play them.
“I work for Lew Perkins. Whatever he tells me we’re going to do, we’re going to do.”
KU football coach Turner Gill and women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson had other reasons to be in favor of the new Big 12.
The new conference schedule in football will mean that KU will play more games in Texas, which has been a rich recruiting ground for the Jayhawks.
“It is a great opportunity for people in Texas to see their son,” Gill said, “and not have to travel a whole lot.”
Henrickson, meanwhile, will still have the benefit of KU playing in what is widely considered the best women’s basketball conference in the nation.
“As we move forward, we are all confident that the Big 12 conference will continue to become even better,” Henrickson said.
Price said he’s just glad that he doesn’t have to worry any more about the potential fate of the Big 12.
“That might be the most bizarre week in the history of the NCAA,” Price said. “I’m just glad it worked out great for KU, because we’re too great of a university and we’ve got too great of an athletic program to be on the outside looking in.”
— 6Sports reporter Andrew Baker contributed to this report.