Intentionally quiet throughout most of the conference realignment chaos that had plagued the Big 12 conference during the past six weeks, Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger was happy to speak up following the positive news that came from the league office on Thursday.
“This is a good day for the Big 12 Conference,” Zenger said. “The news of granting of rights and equal revenue sharing and league expansion bears testament to the hard work of our board of directors and the stability sub-committee within the Big 12 Conference.”
The first happy moment for the league came late Thursday morning, when the Big 12 confirmed its pursuit of Texas Christian University to be the 10th member. With Missouri in limbo, there remains some uncertainty whether TCU would be the 10th or ninth member of the league. Also unclear is where the league goes from here, with or without Missouri in tow.
“We all believe that Texas Christian University is a great addition to the Big 12,” Zenger said. “Their geographic proximity to the rest of the schools, their academic credibility and their athletic achievements make them an obvious fit.”
Zenger said the addition of TCU provided KU with extra reason to celebrate.
“The University of Kansas has a strong alumni base in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and continues to attract students from that area, as well,” he said. “For us as an institution, that’s an additional benefit of this news.”
A couple of hours after expansion news broke, the Big 12 also announced that it had unanimously agreed to a formal grant of television rights for a minimum of six years.
Both votes were unanimously approved and Missouri sat out each time.
KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who served on the league’s four-member stability committee, released a statement Thursday afternoon. In it, she, too, pointed to Thursday being a great day for the Big 12 and the Jayhawks.
“This is an outcome KU has sought throughout this process,” Gray-Little said. “And it is one that I’ve been seeking as a member of the conference’s stability working group. Stability heightens the appeal of the conference as we look at expansion.”
Sources told the Journal-World that the Big 12 continues to look at all of its options, including staying at 10 or jumping back to 12 members. One source added: “All of the obvious schools are still in the picture, but, at this time, there is no next in line.”
Those “obvious schools” include BYU, as well as Big East members Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia, which, because of TCU’s likely departure, are left scrambling to solidify the future of their league. Although TCU was scheduled to join the Big East in 2012, the Horned Frogs will not have to wait the 27 months required by the Big East for a team that leaves. Sources said, however, that TCU will be required to pay Big East exit fees, which some have estimated to be around $5 million.
Gray-Little said she hoped TCU would begin competing in the Big 12 next season.
Should TCU’s exit from the Big East lead to its collapse, Notre Dame, which competes in the Big East in all sports but football, likely would seek a similar arrangement in another conference. A source with ties to the Big 12 said the conference, which has courted the Irish in the past, would be interested in exploring the idea of adding Notre Dame to the Big 12.