Kirk Schulz excited about West Virginia

For the second time in a few weeks, Kansas State president Kirk Schulz proudly welcomed a new member to the Big 12 today.

This time, he welcomes West Virginia, a university out of the Big East that has won two BCS bowl games and recently went to the Final Four.

“They immediately bring very competitive athletic programs to the conference,” said Schulz, who serves as the chair of the Big 12′s expansion committee. “They are consistently the top football program in the Big East. Under coach Bob Huggins they have been outstanding in men’s basketball, as well. They have been successful in other sports. They bring a lot to the table, immediately.”

Schulz also said West Virginia will be a nice academic fit with the Big 12.

The Mountaineers won’t, however, be an easy geographical fit for the Big 12. When the conference added TCU, it added a school from within its footprint. No matter where you are, it’s easy to get to Fort Worth for a game. But Morgantown, W. Va.? That’s a different story.

“It clearly is a concern,” Schulz said. “Part of the conversation we had was really focused around the additional travel time we would face with them in the conference, but at the same time we felt that the other positive attributes about West Virginia were more important than the travel considerations.

“… As a conference, we’re competing against the Pac-12 and the SEC. The only way to do that is to bring in the strongest programs that we can. That’s what we’ve done.”
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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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K-State issues statement on Big 12

Kansas State officials said they were committed to the Big 12 when Texas A&M was considering a move to the SEC, and their stance hasn’t changed now that the Aggies are officially on their way out of the Big 12.

“K-State remains fully committed to the Big 12 Conference and continues to be excited about its future,” said K-State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie in a joint statement.

“There is great solidarity among the nine league institutions and an eagerness to achieve the stability our students, fans and alumni deserve. We remain actively engaged with our conference administration and fellow presidents and athletic directors in proactively determining our next steps.”

Big 12 Board of Directors Chairman and University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton released a similar statement this afternoon.

“The chancellors and presidents of the Big 12 are committed to keeping our conference competitively and academically strong,” Deaton said. “We have a process in place that enables us to move aggressively regarding the possible expansion of the conference and to assure our members and student-athletes that we will take advantage of the most productive opportunities in the best interests of all.”

And here’s one more statement from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe:

“The presidents and chancellors of the nine remaining member institutions are steadfast in their commitment to the Big 12. As previously stated, the Conference will move forward aggressively exploring its membership options.”

Regent feels ‘real good’ about Big 12 future

When the Kansas Board of Regents meet in Arcadia on Monday for their annual three-day retreat, Dan Lykins is certain conference realignment will be discussed.

Lykins, a Topeka attorney and Kansas State alum who serves on the board, said he is looking forward to hearing about the topic from both K-State president Kirk Schulz and Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

As long as Texas A&M is considering a move to the SEC, he says the status of the Big 12 “is a critical issue that the regents are very concerned about.”

However, he is feeling much better about the league’s future than he was during last summer’s conference realignment scare, when he openly wondered at times if the Big 12 was going to survive.

Though he and the other regents have not been actively involved in any realignment discussions, such as the conference calls that Big 12 athletic directors and presidents participated in Saturday afternoon, he says administrators from both K-State and KU have kept them informed.

So far, he likes what he hears.

“No one can force Texas A&M to do anything,” Lykins said. “Right now, it’s in their corner. So it’s a waiting game. But I feel comfortable that whatever happens, KU and K-State will still be in the Big 12 and will continue working together to make this a better conference … I feel real good about what’s going on.”

Monday K-State links

– My talented colleague Sam Mellinger caught up with former Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman while he was in Tampa, Fla., watching the Chiefs play a preseason game.

His column goes into good detail about how Freeman is working toward his dream of staying in the NFL for 15 years, going to a few Pro Bowls and then retiring on the beach.

– Will Kevin Prince be ready to quarterback UCLA against Kansas State on Sept. 4? That is the question the Los Angeles Times examines in this blog.

– Prince’s backup Richard Brehaut played so-so in UCLA’s recent fall scrimmage, reports the Daily Bruin.
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K-State releases statement on Big 12, future

With Colorado and Nebraska now both saying goodbye to the Big 12, Kansas State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie released a joint statement on the future of their conference.

Here it is:

“Obviously, this is a critical moment in the history of K-State but also one of great opportunity. We are in constant communication with each other, and our sole focus remains on the process of maintaining K-State’s significant and meaningful place in intercollegiate athletics.

We also remain in regular contact with the governor, the Board of Regents and our respective counterparts at the University of Kansas as we work in concert and examine all our options.

First and foremost, we are continuing our efforts to sustain and advance the Big 12 Conference and feel the continuation of the league with the current member institutions remains in K-State’s best interest.

It is imperative that we protect the integrity of this process and not speculate on potential scenarios, give preferences on potential outcomes or respond to speculation. We will provide periodic updates as the process unfolds and more information becomes available.”

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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A few minutes with … John Currie

John Currie, like every Division I athletic director these days, is hard at work trying to make sure Kansas State comes out of the current conference realignment race in good shape.

Many of his thoughts on the matter can be found in today’s newspaper, but here are a few more in Q&A form:

How accurate do think the current speculation is?

I think the media speculation, in a lot of ways, is speculation based on speculation based on supposition. When I say supposition I mean one person might say this school is going to go to this league for this reason and that school is going to go to that school for this reason. Sometimes those reasons are pretty close. Sometimes you just have stuff that is piled on variables. I try not to worry about what’s in the media and keep focus on what I know to be facts.

What is the best possible scenario for K-State right now?

There’s no question for Kansas State, Kansas and for all the 12 institutions in the Big 12, it is in our best interests to keep the Big 12 moving forward. I’m optimistic that can still be the case.
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K-State says it still supports Big 12

Even in the face of wild speculation and conference doomsday scenarios, Kansas State believes in the Big 12.

That was the message president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie sent Friday afternoon by putting out a news release filled with complimentary words directed at the conference it has belonged to since its creation.

“Kansas State University remains firmly committed to the Big 12 and continues to believe in the long-term viability of our league,” Schulz said in the release. “We are optimistic that this process will result in our existing membership affirming our cohesive long-term future together.”
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