Cotton Bowl Countdown: Realignment redux

Arkansas and Kansas State have been on opposite ends of the conference realignment shuffle.

Over the past two years, Arkansas fans have kicked back and laughed as schools across the country scrambled to find the best possible place for their athletic departments. When the Big 12 reportedly reached out to the Razorbacks a few months ago and asked if they had any interest in leaving the SEC, the answer was a simple “Thanks, but no thanks.”

K-State fans, meanwhile, have sweated out the departures of four teams from the Big 12. First Nebraska and Colorado. Then Texas A&M and Missouri. Everything seems to be stable in Big 12 country now that the conference has added West Virginia and TCU. Texas and Oklahoma have agreed to equal revenue sharing, and the league had a fabulous football season. But there were some tense times in there.

Why were their experiences so different? Arkansas decided to get in on conference realignment 20 years early.

In 1990, the SEC was looking for new teams. After shopping all over the region, it added the Razorbacks and South Carolina. The move allowed the SEC to play its first conference championship game in football.

Up to that point, Arkansas was a long-time member of the Southwest Conference. Read More »

Where K-State stands with realignment

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.
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A few conference realignment thoughts

Made a few calls Friday about the topic of conference realignment, and wanted to pass along two tidbits.

1. A Kansas State source told me he was in favor of BYU joining the Big 12. The source’s reasoning was that the Cougars, currently a football independent and member of the West Coast Conference in all other sports, would be a solid addition for a conference in need of a new member with a strong football tradition. Beyond that, the source said BYU joining the Big 12 would bring the conference some much needed positive publicity at the national level. That would increase the Big 12′s chances of attracting two more new members and returning to a 12-team league.

There are other obvious reasons for the Big 12 to covet BYU, which the Salt Lake Tribune reports is in talks with the Big 12. The Cougars have a strong national following, and could enhance the league’s TV appeal.

Other possible Big 12 expansion candidates are Air Force, Louisville, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Arkansas, Houston and SMU.

2. The possibility of Kansas and K-State splitting up and joining different conferences in the event that the Big 12 crumbles is a very complicated matter. Though KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told the University Daily Kansan the two could separate, the Kansas Board of Regents would need to approve such a move for it to actually happen.

Though Topeka regent Dan Lykins told me yesterday he’s not sure how the board would vote in such a situation, it’s hard to imagine the regents supporting a move that isn’t beneficial for both schools.

Wednesday K-State links

We have linked to numerous stories about Brandon Banks’ hot start with the Washington Redskins lately. So today we look at some other former Kansas State football players in the pros.

– For starters, here’s a look at how Jordy Nelson is fitting in with the Green Bay Packers.

– Darren Sproles missed the Chargers’ preseason opener with a bum shoulder, but the injury is not believed to be serious. When he returns, San Diego coaches expect Sproles to help make up for the backfield loss of LaDainian Tomlinson.

– Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who led the Wildcats in sacks last season, was cut from the Chiefs yesterday. Too bad. The Chiefs’ next preseason game is against Tampa Bay. He could have been reunited with former K-State tight end Jeron Mastrud and former quarterback Josh Freeman.
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A few minutes with … Kirk Schulz

Because you can’t get enough conference realignment, here is a double dose of questions and answers with Kansas State president Kirk Schulz:

First off, what is it like around the office right now? Are people a little anxious about all this?

I think certainly a little anxious is a good way to put it. We knew there was going to be some time of significant discussion after the Big 12 presidents meeting last week. The way things are unfolding and with the Pac-10 being as aggressive as it is, our fan base is certainly apprehensive.

Does the pure amount of speculation out there surprise you at all?

This doesn’t surprise me a great deal. We could see it coming to a head. With the Big 10 starting the discussion and the Pac-10 really accelerating it’s time table. The Big 12 has some decisions that we simply must make. We need to get some long term resolution for Big 12 membership. It’s probably good that this happened. We just need to settle it and move on.
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