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Big 12 changes could leave out forgotten 4

Saturday, June 5, 2010 | 4:04 p.m. CDT

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Big 12 shuffle has been filled with almost-hourly twists and turns, with all sorts of scenarios of teams on the move.

Nebraska and Missouri could be going to the Big Ten. Colorado could possibly be Pac-10 bound. Another scheme involves half the conference heading west and becoming part of the Pac-16, or whatever you want to call it. Texas, the big-ticket prize in this program grab, might be going to the Southeastern, Big Ten or Pac-10 conferences.

But one thing seems clear: Nobody seems to want Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State.

The four schools aren't football powers and don't come from highly populated areas, making them less-than-exciting programs for conferences looking to expand.

They might be the only remnants of a once-powerful conference, on the outside of BCS bubble looking in and wondering what to do next.

"I'd like to think Kansas will land somewhere, but I'm kind of biased," said Kevin Glatt, a Kansas junior-to-be. "But with the way things are going now, who knows what's going to happen?"

He's got that right.

The Big 12 held its annual meetings this week in Kansas City with a resolution to the possible dissolution not much clearer than it was a few weeks ago, when Nebraska and Missouri indicated interest in helping the Big Ten with its plans to get bigger.

If anything, the jumble seems, well, more jumbled.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has said the 14-year-old conference is taking steps to remain whole and university presidents seem to be on board with the idea.

But this process has to have full unity to work; the fate of the 12 is in the hands of a few.

Should Texas and Oklahoma, the biggest money-makers of the Big 12, decide to move on to greener pastures — TV deals in the Big Ten and possibly the Pac-10 could mean extra millions — the remaining schools could be in a bind. That's why there's been so much maneuvering; no one wants to get left behind in a conference going nowhere.

If the speculation is correct, eight schools at least have interest in being added to another conference.

The other four? Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor could be left hitchhiking on the side of the road, not sure where to go.

Their problem starts on the gridiron.

This program grab by other conferences appears to be mostly football driven, the biggest revenue generator in college athletics.

Kansas is a Mount Rushmore-esque basketball program that had a short run in football, winning the 2008 Orange Bowl. The Jayhawks quickly faded back to mediocrity after that.

Kansas State has brought back the coach whose name is on the stadium in hopes of a second resurrection project. So far, it's been slow going for Bill Snyder. Iowa State has been average at best in the Big 12's weaker North Division and Baylor hasn't stood a chance in the South.

Another check in the complaint box is proximity.

Lawrence is close to Kansas City, though still isolated enough for the Jayhawks to not have full sway over Cowtown. Manhattan, home of Kansas State, is a speck on the map, a Little Apple amid the rolling plains. These two biggest schools in Kansas also are close enough to pull fans from each other in a state of roughly three million people.

Iowa State has a similar problem, located among the cornhusks in Ames, competing with another big school (Iowa) in a thinly populated state. Baylor is located in caught-in-between Waco, smack on I-35 about halfway between the burnt orange of Austin and massive Metroplex of Dallas-Fort Worth.

No football, no following, no interest.

"This is all about dollars," said Gary Sherrer, vice chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents. "Frankly, I think some of those institutions should be embarrassed that that is the message they are delivering. It says we'll do anything for a buck, and when you send that message to the students, why are we surprised that they do things that we don't approve of to get a buck."

So if this Big 12 big bang goes through, what happens to the forgotten four?

They could hang on to the scraps, try to recruit other schools to a revamped Big 12, though there might not be much outside interest.

They could hitch up to a smaller, less-prestige conference like Conference-USA or Mountain West. That might work for Iowa State — the Cyclones might be more competitive with programs like Memphis and Houston, Air Force and TCU — but the other three aren't likely to be too excited about the step down.

There is a chance some of the schools — Kansas with its basketball prowess might be the most logical choice — could latch onto another BCS conference, keeping the revenue that comes with it.

That, though, could create an ugly political tug-o-war and create more animosity between already-bitter rivals.

Yes, politics.

Kansas and Kansas State are governed by the Kansas Board of Regents and won't be able to do anything without permission, no matter how much sense it might make to the school hierarchy. If Kansas gets a BCS conference invite and Kansas State doesn't, the mudslinging in Topeka could hit epic proportions, creating a package-deal-or-else scenario for the two schools.

It happened once before, during the formation of the Big 12 in 1996, when Texas governor Ann Richards wouldn't allow the state schools to bolt the Southwestern Conference unless Baylor, her alma mater, got the golden ticket, too.

However it plays out, don't expect it to be easy.

"It is going to be weird if there isn't a Big 12 anymore," said Glatt, on his way to work at a basketball camp at storied Allen Fieldhouse. "It'll be interesting to see how it plays out."

That's for sure.

 


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Comments

Blane Markley June 9, 2010 | 10:30 p.m.

How presumptuous to assume that Missouri would not be left out.

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