Realignment Today: Why KU remaining patient (for now) is the right move as the ACC, Big Ten & Pac-12 formally announce new alliance

photo by: Mike Yoder

New KU Athletic Director Travis Goff, right, chats with KU Chancellor Douglas Girod during Goff's introduction on April 7, 2021 at the Lied Center.

Updated at 3:27 p.m.

Commissioners from the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 joined together on Tuesday to formally announce an alliance between their three power conferences.

While doing so, they made sure to point out that they’re rooting for the Big 12 Conference and emphasized that a thriving Big 12 is good for college athletics and the power conference landscape as a whole.

Not so good that they would want to include the remaining eight schools in the suddenly-on-life-support Big 12 in the alliance, mind you, but good.

Mmm hmmm.

In addition, the ACC’s Jim Phillips, the Big Ten’s Kevin Warren and George Kliavkoff of the Pac-12 all expressed admiration and confidence in Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and at least one of them, Phillips, said they all were willing to do whatever they could to help the Big 12.

Again, everything but securing its future by including the Big 12 schools left hanging by Oklahoma and Texas in the groundbreaking alliance, which, Warren said, was done in part to bring stability to college athletics.

That may well be true in those three conferences and with the SEC. But things remain anything but stable in Big 12 country.

The whole thing reeked of an awkward break-up, with one person saying really, really nice things about the person they’re dumping, first, to lessen the blow of the break-up, but, more importantly, to make themselves feel better about what they’re doing.

The details of the alliance remain a work in progress. Heck, there’s not even a contract, and Kliavkoff said there does not need to be.

That sounds like it’ll go well down the road.

At the center of it all, though, is the group’s belief that there will be scheduling advantages that lead to more television dollars, a shared belief that’s important to preserve the core values that have always existed in college athletics and the idea that academics should remain a key part of the puzzle.

They didn’t come right out and say that some of those things don’t seem to matter as much in the SEC anymore, but you weren’t alone if you read into it that way.

It’s unclear today how any of this might impact Kansas and the remaining eight schools in the Big 12.

Things continue to look bleak in terms of the conference surviving as the power conference that we have known it to be for the past couple of decades.

And those eight schools whose futures hang in the balance have very different paths forward. Some, like KU, may be best served by remaining patient and seeing how things play out for the next year or two or four.

Others, like Kansas State, may have to be a little more aggressive, both from the perspective of self-preservation and in saving what they can of the Big 12 Conference.

That’s why you’re hearing K-State AD Gene Taylor offer up his thoughts and hopes for K-State’s future and also why you’re not hearing much of anything coming from KU.

It’s not because the Kansas administration — and, remember, this whole thing will play out at the university and athletic department levels — is sitting on its hands and carrying on like it’s business as usual. Conversations are being had. Strategies are being considered. And there seems to be a strong and sincere confidence that KU will be fine — whatever that may mean — when all of this is settled.

You don’t have to like it, but it is a part of their strategy. And it’s probably a smart move.

If KU is going to land somewhere other than a revamped Big 12 Conference in the near future, it is not going to get there by rushing into an agreement now with schools that either aren’t, have not been or will not be power five type programs.

This has to be attacked from the long-range approach, not from what makes you feel safe and secure in the present.

Let’s take every KU fan’s biggest dream of seeing the school land in the Big Ten as an example.

It does not appear that there is anything concrete happening there at the moment. Nor has there been. That does not mean that things could not change if — or is it when? — the Big Ten decides to expand sometime in the future.

If KU were to lead the charge or even just throw its full support behind inviting new schools into the revamped Big 12, it could find itself locked into an agreement (like the soon-to-expire granting of rights deal) that extends for a decade or longer.

That would backfire big time if, in three or four years, the Big Ten came to KU and said, ‘Hey, you want in?’

The answer then would still be yes, but there would be exit fees and a big mess to work through to make it happen, much like the situation you’re seeing with Oklahoma and Texas today.

It might not be a popular approach among the fans, but waiting patiently, keeping all of your options open and, most importantly, not locking yourself into anything concrete for at least the next year or two seems like the smartest plan of attack for KU at this point.

That all changes if the Big Ten, or even the ACC, were to come to KU in three months with a formal invitation to join. But short of that happening, remaining fluid is the best move.


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