The Kansas University athletic department long has been running in place underneath a black cloud that last week burst with embarrassing specifics regarding a shameful ticket scandal.
The full extent of the fallout from that won’t be known for some time, but this much is certain: The department can’t continue to run in place. The college athletics world doesn’t stop to wait for Kansas to figure out how it can restore integrity in the process of how it serves its loyal customers and stops making them feel like loyal servants to the department.
Unless Notre Dame decides to join the Big Ten, a massive conference realignment could take place, and if Kansas and Kansas State aren’t careful, they could be left behind, forced to cobble something together that would be far less attractive than membership in the Big 12.
Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins, who always has come across as out-of-touch when discussing details of the priority points system of selling tickets, is more in his comfort zone playing the part of college-athletics power broker. In a sense, Perkins is Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe’s greatest ally as he tries to keep the conference together, Tuesday through Thursday at the Big 12 spring meetings in Kansas City.
For one thing, Perkins and Beebe want the same fallout from the conference realignment possibilities being discussed from coast to coast. Perkins wants the Big 12 to stay together and wants the other 11 schools to remain the same. So does Beebe.
Texas athletic director Deloss Dodds, like Perkins, is connected. Beebe believes Texas wants to stay in the Big 12, but with the school ranking as such an attractive conference member for a number of reasons, the most important being the number of tuned-in televisions, the conference will need to fight off potential suitors.
In Perkins, Beebe has a pair of eyes who were in the room when on a Monday officials from Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech said their schools were committed to staying in the Big East. By Wednesday, the schools bolted to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Big East recovered nicely.
Amid so much chatter about Missouri and Nebraska bolting for the Big Ten, Beebe recently made a statement that challenged Big 12 members to prove their loyalty now by saying, “We need to talk about where we’re going and who’s on the plane when it takes off.”
The whole speculation about Missouri ditching the Big 12 for the Big Ten always has seemed more Missouri-driven than anything else. The best answer to the often-asked question, “Why does the Big Ten want to add Missouri?” is, it doesn’t want Missouri. Sure, more television sets in St. Louis would be tuned to the Big Ten Network, but thanks to nearby Illinois, the conference already has a decent college presence in the strong professional-sports town.
Here’s the part that’s tough to figure out regarding Missouri: Why court the Big Ten when the outcome will be a disappointment and will leave the Tigers playing the part of the unwanted school? Is it just a threat to the Big 12 to stop short-changing Mizzou on football bowl invitations? If so, that seems a little petty, a little desperate, doesn’t it?