The three scariest words in college football…KANSAS IS INVOLVED!
It looks like by this time next week, we’ll be discussing the very real situation of the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners, two blue-bloods in college football, ditching the Big 12 and heading to the SEC. It is a seismic shift in the sport and will have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the FBS.
Texas & Oklahoma will notify Big 12 next week of intention to leave the league, sources told @Stadium. “The feeling is they’ll then notify (the SEC) next week (to officially apply for SEC’s league membership),” source said
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 23, 2021
What will the Big 12 do to survive (will it even be able to)? Which other Big 12 schools will leave the conference now that the two best football teams, and brand names, have moved on? What will the Big Ten do to try and keep up with the SEC? Is this the beginning of the end for regional college athletics conferences that have ancient rivalries and silly traditions and local bragging rights on the line?
Let’s try and answer these questions one by one.
What will the Big 12 do to survive (will it even be able to)?
I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I don’t see any scenario where the Big 12 survives this move. Losing the two best football programs, two top men’s basketball programs, one top volleyball program (Texas) and two respectable women’s basketball programs in the conference does not exactly scream CONTINUED VIABILITY to me.
What schools could you even convince to join the conference at that point? Would Cincinnati be interested? UCF? Bring Mizzou or Texas A&M back from the SEC because they’re pissed that Texas and OU joined the SEC? None of those seem likely at all. The best option? Maybe trying to take all of the Texas schools leftover and Oklahoma State and merge with the Pac-12.
The Big Pac-12 has a nice ring to it, no?
Which other Big 12 schools will leave the conference now that the two best football teams, and brand names, have moved on?
To go along with the answer to the first question, I think all of the Big 12 schools will “leave” the conference. None of the remaining schools are “name” athletic brands, outside of Kansas men’s basketball (but their sad sack football program brings them down several notches), so there will have to be some package deals worked out.
KU REALIGNMENT HEARINGS:
KU has a call set up with the Big Ten.
— Mike Vernon (@M_Vernon) July 23, 2021
It would appear that the Jayhawks are already being proactive about their prospects. Schools like Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, West Virginia and the rest of the Texas schools (TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor) need to figure something out too. Would the Mountaineers try and get into the ACC? What about K-State? They seem to be kind of an odd man out here. They are losing their main rival, potentially to the Big Ten, but does the Big Ten want the Wildcats? I’d wager no.
It might come down to what the Pac-12 decides to do in regards to any expansion. The west coast conference would certainly want the three Texas schools for recruiting purposes and expanding their media footprint too. But Stillwater, Oklahoma and Manhattan, Kansas don’t really move the needle on either front there. Only one of those schools will presumably get a Pac-12 bid and the other will…I don’t really know.
What will the Big Ten do to try and keep up with the SEC?
All of the rumblings online indicate that Kansas is going to be a team that the Big Ten considers. As we’ve noted, the men’s basketball team is the crown jewel of that move. The Big Ten is already considered the best men’s basketball conference in the country and adding the Jayhawks would only bolster that claim.
The Kansas athletic department earns more revenue than Illinois, Purdue, Maryland and Rutgers and is within $10M of Indiana and Minnesota despite being in a conference that pays out $20M less per year in revenue sharing.
Kansas would be a HUGE get for the Big Ten. https://t.co/LXl0n6mYkM
— Matt Burnell (@mdburnell) July 23, 2021
The women’s hoops team has hit a rough stretch for the past six years, only finishing above .500 once in that time frame, but they made the Sweet 16 in both 2012 and 2013 which is far more than the Badgers can say. The volleyball team is average in the Big 12, which probably puts them at the bottom end of the Big Ten, and their softball team is average too. The football team is a damned disaster but it would be fun to have head coach Lance Leipold (formerly of UW-Whitewater) in the conference.
In my humble opinion, the other option to bring the Big 10 up to 16 teams (lol) is to package Iowa State along with KU. The Clones have a rising football program, one that should challenge for a Big 12 title this year and be in the top-10, a solid (if recently disappointing) men’s basketball team and a perennial NCAA Tournament women’s basketball team and volleyball team.
Kansas and Iowa State are the only two AAU certified schools in the Big 12, so they’d fit in with the conference academically. They aren’t completely “out there” geographically either, which is nice. Iowa State already has an intense rivalry with Iowa and Kansas will have the Cyclones and Nebraska as familiar faces that they’ve played before. If I’m remembering correctly from the last realignment hullabaloo, there will have to be some maneuvering at the Iowa State House before Iowa State is allowed to switch conferences, but with the Big 12 potentially dissolving it would make sense to allow the Cyclones to jump on a good opportunity.
Are there other options to the east? I think Cincinnati would be a great fit. Virginia would be fun, if unlikely. Boston College? Syracuse? Eh, I’m not as interested in them.
Is this the beginning of the end for regional college athletics conferences that have ancient rivalries and silly traditions and local bragging rights on the line?
Short answer? Yeah, it is.
College sports have been trending towards being professional minor leagues for a long, long time and this is just the next step. While some changes (NIL, for instance) are good, others aren’t as good.
The move of Texas and OU to the SEC signals the start of what could be a whole new landscape in football. Things are now trending towards four 16-team super conferences that is basically what the European Super League tried to do in soccer a few months ago. There was major outrage both in Europe and around the world about that decision and, while college football isn’t as big globally as European soccer, there should probably be similar outrage among college football fans.
The reasons college sports are special have a lot to do with how regional they are. There are legitimate culture clashes between a conference like the Big Ten and a conference like the SEC. That’s what makes things fun though!
I love learning about the local traditions of LSU or Alabama when Wisconsin plays them. I also like living in Minnesota and wearing a Wisconsin t-shirt and bantering with people about it. We’re neighbors who are a lot more alike than we are different, but we’ll never admit that.
That makes college sports fun too!
Playing the same teams, year after year, and bringing up decades old slights at a tailgate makes college football fun. Playing Maryland in Madison in November? Kinda less fun tbqh. I know that change is inevitable, and for the most part I embrace it, but there are some things that are going to made worse be the inexorable march of “progress.”
I guess we’ll see how things shake out in the next week, but rest assured…it will all be extremely stupid (another reason college sports are so fun!).