Big 12 men's basketball coaches sound off on realignment

Thursday, October 20, 2011 | 7:22 p.m. CDT; updated 4:29 p.m. CDT, Sunday, October 23, 2011

KANSAS CITY — The Big 12 Conference men's basketball coaches weren't as tight-lipped as the UM System Board of Curators was Thursday. Many of the coaches had comments on conference realignment and the possibility of Missouri leaving the Big 12 during media day at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith is one of several coaches who are ready for the conference situation to be resolved.

Curators stay mum

The UM System Board of Curators escaped the topic of conference realignment and departed the student center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City through an interior stairwell shielded from media view and access after its meeting Thursday.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton was present and MU Athletic Director Mike Alden joined the board’s executive session that began just before 4 p.m. and ended around 5:20.

UM System spokesperson Jennifer Hollingshead confirmed that the board took no action during Thursday’s executive session.

There is a press conference scheduled for Friday morning with board chairman Warren Erdman. Interim UM System President Steve Owens is scheduled to take the podium, but it is before the board is scheduled for a final executive session before wrapping up the meeting.

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"I'm hopeful that we'll know something about conference alignment here in the next week or so," Haith said. "I think that's, you know, in the works."

Texas coach Rick Barnes was the most outspoken of the coaches, speaking candidly and confidently about the future of the Big 12 with or without Missouri.

"I don't care in terms if they stay or they go," Barnes said. "If they think they can go elsewhere because it's better for them, let them go, and we're going to be fine because there are people out there that want to be here."

For the most part, the league's basketball coaches were generally pleased with what they perceive as newfound stability within the conference.

"We definitely have a core that is committed to the Big 12 and my adage — if it's not broke, don’t try to fix it," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "For the past five to 10 years, the Big 12 has been one of the premier conferences if not the best conference."

Kansas State coach Frank Martin went as far as to call it the "best league in the country," an assertion shared by at least one other coach.

"I think if you look at the statistics, and Coach Martin is as good as any at not only being a coach but looking at those things, it's a valid point," Texas A&M Associate Head Coach Glynn Cyprien said. "It's hard to deny what the Big 12 has done over the years."

Cyprien added that he wasn't worried about any increased vitriol toward the Aggies during the regular season because of their departure for the SEC, but that it would change how the team recruits.

"Because of obviously being in Texas," Cyprien said. "Texas is a hotbed of players."

"I think it's been used against us in some ways in that now parents and coaches and people that are involved with student athletes won't have the ability to see us play in the state of Texas unless obviously it's a nonconference situation," he said.

Although Missouri doesn't draw much basketball talent from Texas, 11 of the Tigers' 22 football starters are from the Lone Star State, and it’s something to keep in mind should the Tigers follow the Aggies' lead and join the SEC.

The Big 12 Basketball Tournament could also be affected by realignment. The tournament has been played in Kansas City 10 of the 15 times it has been held. Whether hosting the event at the Sprint Center would still be a viable option if Missouri were to leave the conference was also discussed by coaches and administrators.

The Kansas City Sports Commission took out a full-page ad and wrote an open letter to MU Chancellor Brady Deaton in the Kansas City Star on Oct. 7 stressing the importance of Missouri keeping its regional rivalries intact in its "home" in the Big 12.

But the basketball tournament might not leave Kansas City if Missouri departs the league.

Kansas City Sports Commission Interim President Cindy Smith said that she believes the tournament could still be at the Sprint Center, even without a Big 12 team in the state of Missouri.

"At this point, there's nothing in the bylaws or within the conference structure that says they can’t take their championship to a city that doesn't have a 1A state school in that state," Smith said.

First-year Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, who has Big Eight roots after playing and coaching at Kansas State, agreed that the tournament would be a good option in Kansas City.

"I think Kansas City would be a good fit. Teams are going to travel well, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, the Oklahoma schools," Kruger said. "For sure Kansas City would be great."

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