Conference realignment threatens the Big 12

By Paul Badke on June 13th, 2010

Big 12 Conference

The ultimatum imposed by Conference school presidents on Nebraska and Missouri to state their intentions on whether they would remain committed to the , or move elsewhere, has been met. The Conference accepted Nebraska’s application to join their league, and the Huskers will join the in 2011. Colorado accepted an invitation to join the Conference and will head west in 2012.

While Nebraska and Colorado head off to their new homes, with few things nice to stay about their former conference allies and no regrets, the fate of the Big 12 is apparently in the hands of Texas. Reports on Friday indicated that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were prepared to join the Buffaloes in the Pac-10, with announcements coming as soon as Monday.

Recent developments, however, suggest that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is making what may be a final push towards keeping the 10 remaining teams together. Beebe has informed the schools that a new TV deal, even without Nebraska and Colorado, could bring in money comparable to what schools earn with their deal. And Texas is listening.

While it had been thought that all of the Big 12 South schools were ready to follow the lead of Texas, on Sunday sources indicated had turned down an offer from the Pac-10. It has also been reported that the SEC is after Texas, Oklahoma and , but that the Longhorns are not interested. A&M apparently is in favor of joining the SEC, but may ultimately prefer to stay in a 10-team Big 12.

If the Big 12 does indeed fall apart, left in the rubble will likely be K-State, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor. However, there has been speculation that if the Aggies decide in favor of the SEC, a Pac-10 invite could be waiting for the Jayhawks.

Outlook for the Possible Leftovers

While outsiders K-State, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor cling to the hope that Texas will save the Big 12 and apparently remain committed to moving forward with 10 schools, they are preparing for the breakup. There are numerous scenarios, rumors and lots of speculation on possible destinations for the leftovers.

Rebuilding the Big 12 if Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M bolt

It’s been speculated that those left behind could rebuild the conference by merging with schools from the , Mountain West and Conference USA. Adding the best from those conferences in terms of athletic performance and TV sets could be a reasonable option. With the majority of the former Big 8 teams in tact (minus Nebraska and Colorado) plus Baylor at the core, the new Big 12 could consist of bigger market schools such as TCU, Memphis, Houston, Cincinnati, Louisville, UNLV, and the list goes on.

Comments from officials at K-State and Kansas would lead people to believe that rebuilding the Big 12 brand may be the preferred choice.

Merge with the Big East

There have reports that officials from the Big East Conference have talked with or talked about adding those left behind in the Big 12 breakup. The Big East currently consists of an 8-team football and a 16-team basketball conference. Reports have suggested the league could add K-State, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa State, or substitute the for Missouri or Iowa State and create a 12 team football league.

It would also create a 20 team super-basketball conference, which is already considered by many to be the best basketball conference in the nation — the additions of Kansas and Memphis would further solidify that thinking.

The Big East also has the coveted BCS affiliation, good TV deals and East Coast media coverage. The downside, though, is that some members of the Big East could be targeted by the Big Ten should it look to expand even further, which could leave the leftovers in a deteriorating conference again in the future.

Join the Mountain West

The Mountain West Conference added Boise State to its league on Friday and has been on the verge of gaining BCS status for a while. The addition of the Broncos will certainly help, but adding the Big 12 leftovers could tilt things even more in the MWC’s favor. One of the negatives of joining the MWC would be traveling across multiple timezones and how it would work with sports outside of football that do not play on Saturday.

A Free-for-All

A big question is if the former Big 8 teams will work together to rebuild, find a new home together, or panic and go their own ways on the hunt for a new conference to play in. In these uncertain times, it’s not unlikely that the schools will jump at the best opportunity that presents itself to keep from being left alone in the cold college sports world. It’s everyone for themselves. Loyalty to long-time partners is non-existent. Nebraska and Colorado have already proven as much.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the reports, rumors and speculation that is coming out at a blistering pace in this digital age, in reality it could be weeks, months or years for things to completely shake out and for college sports to settle. With Sunday’s reports on Beebe’s last stand and A&M declining a Pac-10 offer, hope remains that the Big 12 can continue on with the 10 remaining teams.

If anything, Beebe’s play may at least slow the movement of and give the schools and fans alike a chance to catch their breath, analyze exactly what is the best thing for each institution and make rational decisions. Nevertheless, the fate of the Big 12 will likely be determined in the coming days.

What do you think about the Big 12 breakup and K-State’s possible options? Leave a comment below or discuss it in the forums.