KANSAS CITY — Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little urged her Nebraska counterpart Monday to remain in the Big 12 and help avoid a potential calamity for the Jayhawks.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gray-Little said she got no indication of what Harvey Perlman might recommend when he meets with Nebraska regents on Friday. She said she also planned to call Missouri chancellor Brady J. Deaton with the same message.
In a rapidly developing story that's strained institutional relationships more than 100 years old, Nebraska and Missouri have both said they are interested in moving to the Big Ten. If they leave, that might prompt six other Big 12 members, including Texas and Oklahoma, to consider a possible linkup with the Pac-10. The death of the Big 12 could put Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State in danger of being left out of any major conference.
Kansas State and Kansas, even with its historically prominent basketball program, would have difficulty maintaining their status as major players in college athletics.
"There are some universities that survive and thrive without a large athletic program," said Gray-Little. "I hope we don't have to test that out."
Not being in a BCS school could hurt Kansas in several ways.
"Obviously, that would be a serious disappointment to our community, whether you're talking about students or alumni or other supporters of athletics," said Gray-Little. "Athletics are important to a university. Athletics helps develop friendships and allegiances to the university."
Gray-Little was in Europe last week when Big 12 officials failed to resolve the difficulties facing the league. She said she has been fully briefed by Kansas officials who represented her at the meetings and was aware of reports that Missouri and Nebraska have been given until Friday to declare their intentions.
"If those things happen by Friday, we should know next week where we stand with regard to the conference and who's going to be in and who's not," she said. "I'm sure that for (Perlman) and for others, the conversation will involve a great number of issues. I did not get an indication from him on which way things were going to go."
Kansas and Nebraska have been members of the same conference for decades. Kansas and Missouri have a spirited, colorful football rivalry that began in 1891 and is the second-longest in the country. Their game has been played every year since 1919.
Gray-Little said she made sure that Perlman knew where she stood.
"I have not finished my conversations for the day. I intend if not today in the next two days to talk to the presidents and chancellors of other institutions as well," she said.
Led by athletic director Lew Perkins, Kansas is working to put together alternative plans in case the Big 12 does dissolve.
"We want the Big 12 to continue," Gray-Little said. "But because any one or more of these things could happen, part of our discussion also is what would be the next plan for us. I don't have any specifics to give you at this point, but that has to be part of our thinking. If the efforts to keep the Big 12 in fact do not work out, what alternatives will there be for us or K-State and the other universities that might not be part of some new organization?"
Kansas and Kansas State, fierce rivals for decades, have vowed to work together.
"That's been our commitment and our plan, to the extent that it's possible, that we would work together, that we would intend to be in the same conference and have the opportunity to play one another and continue a great tradition of rivalry."