Although most of the action regarding Texas A&M;'s decision to leave the Big 12 Conference has taken place in Texas, Kansas University chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and athletic director Sheahon Zenger have been involved in a variety of ways in ensuring the survival and continued success of the Big 12.
Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours after A&M; announced officially that it would break away from the Big 12 beginning in 2012, Gray-Little and Zenger released statements in a joint release sent out by the university.
Most of what they've said was consistent with KU's stance throughout conference realignment, not only this round, in which A&M; appears to be headed to the SEC, but also last summer's wild round that resulted in Colorado and Nebraska leaving the league for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively.
“Today Texas A&M; notified the Big 12 of its intention to leave the conference at the end of the 2011-12 season. The Big 12 had already started actively examining expansion opportunities and KU fully supports this effort," Gray-Little said. "The high level of competition in the Big 12 provides tremendous value to its member schools and excitement for fans around the country. We’ll aggressively pursue the best interests of the University of Kansas, our student-athletes and fans, and that continues to be for the Big 12 to remain strong and competitive.”
Zenger shared the chancellor's view and stressed that he and the university would do whatever it could to help ensure that the Big 12 remained strong.
“We have known for some time that this was a possibility," Zenger said of A&M;'s departure. "We have nine institutions firmly committed to the Big 12 Conference. Chancellor Gray-Little and I will continue working together with (Big 12) Commissioner (Dan) Beebe, the Big 12 Board of Directors and the other conference members as we take the necessary steps to ensure the continued strength of this conference.”
Earlier in the week, at his regularly scheduled press conference that precedes this weekend's football opener against McNeese State, KU coach Turner Gill expressed extreme confidence in Gray-Little and Zenger.
"The biggest thing for me is I have all the confidence in the world in our chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little, and our athletic director, Sheahon Zenger, to represent KU well no matter what happens in the Big 12," Gill said.
Asked if all the talk about A&M;'s departure and the future of the conference had been a distraction, Gill was direct with his answer.
"No, not at all," he said. "It doesn't have a direct impact on getting our football team ready to play a football game. You've got speculation running all over the place. I kind of hear the little mumblings and stumblings about it and that's about it."