If, or depending on which reports you believe,
I called both coaches on Tuesday to talk expansion, and the scenario they're praying for, understandably, is for the Big 12 to stay intact. It's their only evident option for short- and long-term hoops stability. Self said, "What I want is for the Big 12 to come out of this stronger than it's ever been"; and Martin said, "I'd like it to remain the status quo, because we've got a hell of a league right now."
That they do, from a competitive standpoint. But the Big Ten, which is chasing Nebraska and possibly Missouri, has a hell of a lot more money to offer in TV revenue, as would the hypothetical Pac-16, which is chasing the Texas schools. That's why the Big 12 could crumble, and that's why Self admits he's being driven mad by the prospect of Kansas -- the school of
"I'm not in panic mode yet, but I'm very concerned," Self said. "I believe that Kansas will be OK no matter what, but for us to continue to compete at the level where we've been competing, and recruit at that level, I really believe that we need to be aligned with a BCS conference. It would be very disappointing to me if a team that's won three national championships, and is one of the three winningest programs in college basketball, wouldn't be a part of a BCS conference.
"I think there are a lot of Kansas alums out there right now that are very concerned, that the face of our athletic department and our university could be changing, in the next 72 hours, for the next 30 years."
If that sounds grave, well, it's because the situation
"It would certainly affect the athletic department, in terms of what you're recruiting and what you're selling, but the impact on the university as a whole would be dramatic, too," he said. "I think we would weather it, but it would take some time to get everyone excited about it again. I really do."
Kansas would seem like a good fit for the Big Ten, given its strong athletic program (KU won the hoops national title and Orange Bowl in '08 alone) and decent academic reputation, but the Jayhawks face a mobility issue. They aren't legally bound to stick with Kansas State -- a Kansas board of regents member said as much this week -- but they're "unofficially" bound with the Wildcats due to political pressure. (Martin said that it would be "a crying shame" to separate the two schools, because he feels they co-represent the state.)
Nebraska and Missouri, as the lone major public schools in their respective states, have no such restrictions, are thus better-positioned in expansion talks and could make landscape-altering moves as early as Friday. I had long wondered if Kansas, due to its stature as one of college basketball's bluebloods, might have something secretive in the works with the Big Ten that would trump Missouri's bid. But I don't get the sense, from talking with KU sources, that there's been any promising maneuvering in their camp. The depressing reality, for those of us who love college hoops, is that the Phog is powerless in this high-stakes game.
One lobbying force that might help the Kansas schools -- the NCAA -- has been conspicuously silent on the whole issue, and Martin wonders why. "The NCAA makes 95 percent of its money from men's basketball, and our tournament, so you'd like to think that they would get involved and try to smooth the waters," he said, "but obviously, that's not happening."
The NCAA has no control over the deals being made between conferences and school presidents, but why wouldn't it try to protect, at the very least, Kansas, which is one of its most valuable basketball brands? CBS and Turner just signed a 14-year, $11 billion deal for television rights to March Madness, but it can't be in the NCAA's best interests to allow the Big 12, the country's strongest league from 2009-10, to get dismantled. It dilutes the overall product of college basketball.
In the end, the Kansas schools will probably have to count on a university from a far more populated area to save them. Texas, the flagship school in the U.S.' second-largest state, and the school other than Notre Dame with the most power in the expansion game, can bring in TV audiences from Dallas-Fort Worth (the No. 5 market), Houston (No. 10) and San Antonio (No. 37) -- a viewing bloc that equals the size of Los Angeles (No. 2). While Kansas chancellor
So this is where we're at in the summer of 2010: A gridiron-first school whose most famous basketball player is a one-and-doner (