While Kansas State athletic officials remain committed in their efforts to save the Big 12, at least one possible contingency plan seems to be developing should the Wildcats’ current conference crumble: The Big East.
A source told me today that the Wildcats currently view a move to that conference, especially if rival Kansas is involved, as an acceptable backup option should its current league crumble.
The source stressed the meaning of the word “backup,” though. A move to the Big East would put considerable travel demands on K-State’s athletic teams, and mean less television money than they are set to receive in the Big 12.
While making multiple trips to the East coast would be doable two or three times a year for football, it would be a headache for every other sport. Having in-state rival Kansas to play, and possibly Missouri would help ease those travel concerns.
But all sorts of different scenarios could play out in this current round of conference realignment (everything from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-12 and Texas to the ACC has been reported) and they would need to play out in a very specific way for K-State to seriously ponder membership in a new conference.
The top priority remains helping the Big 12 expand after the expected loss of Texas A&M. Should any combination of the Oklahoma schools, Texas or Texas Tech jump to the Pac-12 shortly after, there are differing opinions on whether the Big 12 could be rebuilt. But I’m told K-State also considers that a possible backup option.
The main thing K-State administrators seem to be in agreement on is that no matter what conferences look like when the smoke clears, the Wildcats will be a member of a BCS conference. Everyone I’ve talked to insists that.
“Whatever ends up happening,” said one source. “I’m very confident Kansas State will end up in a good place.”
“We’ll land on our feet,” said another.
The possibility of K-State ending up in the Big East was first presented by reports in the New York Times and the New York Post. According to the Post, the Big East has targeted K-State, as well as Kansas and Missouri as possible expansion candidates should Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech depart for the Pac-12.
Along with TCU, Louisville and West Virginia, they would form a six-team western division for football. The division winner would move on to a conference championship game with a spot in a BCS bowl on the line.
The Big East is currently an eight-team league in football, and a 16-team conference in basketball. TCU is set to join the Big East in all sports next year. Three more teams would bring the league up to 12 in football, allowing it to break off into two divisions, and a whopping 20 in basketball.
Sounds interesting, but there are hurdles in that plan. Reports have indicated that the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 10 could also be interested in Missouri. Other reports insist the Pac-12 and Big 10 have sent out feelers to Kansas.
On Saturday, Currie said K-State is working in concert with Kansas on these realignment issues. And though Ed McKechnie, head of the Kansas Board of Regents, told the Associated Press today he would like KU and K-State to stay together, there is no law binding them.
If massive realignment takes place, and the Jayhawks and Tigers go to different conferences without K-State, the question becomes: Would the Big East still be interested in the Wildcats on their own? What about a new combination of K-State, Iowa State and Baylor?
The New York Times, citing a source, reported over the weekend that Big East officials have opened up lines of communication to several Big 12 teams to express interest should they begin looking for new options.
K-State president Kirk Schulz, athletic director John Currie and a university spokesman have not responded to requests for comment on the report.
But Currie said Saturday that he has had no specific conversations with other conferences about anything related to realignment issues.
“Until somebody says the Big 12 is dead we’re going to be continuing to work with our partners in the Big 12 to strengthen the league and sustain and perpetuate the league,” Currie said.