Conference consolidation (I refuse to call it re-alignment) madness has reached a critical point for the long term interests of my beloved K-State. This is written upon the assumption that Sooner, Cowboy, Longhorn and RedRaider are long gone to the PAC, and that any pronouncements we hear from them are simply SPINNING and malicious lies. Texas and OU could end this now. Instead, we get the destabilizing comments we got from OU’s president Boren. It’s over - we gotta face it.
This post also assumes that Mizzou has decided that it has no desire to get into the pig pen that is the SEC (for if it wanted to go there, I’m sure the SEC would have them). It also assumes that KU is out as far as going to the PAC (for if the PAC wants KU, as much as I hate to admit it, I would not begrudge them for going).
Thus, the forgotten five (KSU, KU, Mizzou, Iowa State, and Baylor) have some quick decisions to make. For the forgotten five’s best interests, this thing can’t draw out another 2 - 3 years, as OU’s President Boren suggested it might. A recent report suggests the Big East is ready to make KSU, K-State, and Mizzou an offer. So those three schools have a decision to make: accept, and leave Cyclone and Bear hanging out to dry, or do the forgotten five forge together and merge with the Mountain West. I have broken down possible division alignments with a re-configured Big East as compared to a Big 12/Mountain West merger.
Big East Conference Members (Football/divisions) with KSU, KU, and Mizzou added:
1. Cincy U.Conn
2. Louisville Pitt
3. TCU Rutgers
4. KSU S. Fla.
5. KU Syracuse
6. Mizzou W. Virginia
With Basketball added
7. DePaul Geo/town
8. Marquette St. Johns
9. N. Dame Seton Hall
10. Providence Villanova
Mountain West Current Membership (assuming TCU stays, and BYU leaves)
1. Air Force
2. Boise St.
3. Colo. State
4. San Diego State
8. Fresno (starting in 2012)
9. Nevada (Reno) (starting in 2012)
10. Hawaii (starting in 2012)
Big12 - Mountain West Merger
1. KSU Air Force
2. KU Boise
3. Mizzou Colo. St.
4. Ia. St. New Mexico
5. Baylor Wyoming
6. TCU UNLV
7. Houston San Diego State
8. Tulsa or Rice or SMU (east) Nev.Reno, or Rice or SMU (west
I believe KSU’s best interest is to hang with the forgotten five and go west. I know this is counter-intuitive. However, the Mountain West is at present a better football conference than the Big East. The Mountain West, with Houston added, and with New Mexico and UNLV, would provide enough credibility for KU, Mizzou and K-State to maintain national credibility in basketball (although I concede it would never match the sizzle of joining the 20 team Big East lineup, which I assume would be broken down into four five team divisions). But I don’t think we’d ever see the conference championship tournament in Kansas City again. It would be an East Coast centric conference, and I’m not sure KU, KSU and Mizzou would, in the long run, prosper in that scenario.
If we merge with the Mountain West, I’m confident the BCS would grandfather the auto qualifier tag to the new conference. It would solve a lot of the public relations and legal problems it now has by excluding so many teams from the mountain regions. And besides, as I have opined many times, the BCS will be dead in 3-5 years, so decisions made with that construct in mind will be short sighted, IMHO.
I want to form a conference that is fair and stable. I think we could better do that by merging with the Mountain West than by hooking up with a bunch of East coast teams that could be poached in 2015 when this madness reasserts itself. And it will. Notre Dame someday is going to the Big 10. Then they will try to pick off Syracuse or Pitt or somebody. The SEC will try to pick off West Virginia. It will never end if we go to the Big East.
The tv networks need programing. A merged Big12 and Mountain West will give them plenty of that, and the conference championship game, rotating between Arrowhead, Denver, and Dallas would be a money maker.
A key to this is that divisions, with good regional ties, could provide the emotional attachments for fans that we have all grown accustomed to with the old Big 8 and the short lived Big 12. The newly formed 16 team "conferences" are really nothing more than a mechanism to get good championship events and they are an excellent vehicle for filling out schedules and keeping money in conference. For instance, in football teams would play the other seven teams in their division yearly, and two cross-division games (home-and-home) a season that count toward your record for determining division champion. This makes 9 games, allowing three games with non-con opponents. The conference rules could allow, but not require, teams from opposite divisions to play one cross divisional team per year that does not count toward division record, in order to facilitate scheduling and develop long term rivalries, and allow flexibility in creating the divisions and avoid the scenario which developed when the NUBs cried about having to give up their yearly match-up against Sooner.
Most of all, I want to create a conference where K-State is not always the whipping boy (in the political and money sense, we hold our own on the field) for the likes of the NUBs, Sooner, and Longhorn. I believe a merger with the Mountain West presents us with the opportunity to create a better long term environment for our athletic program that is better matched to our cultural values than will going to the Big East. The Big East may better satisfy our ego, but in the long run, I think we will be disappointed. I think the forgotten five could help create something special with a merger with the Mountain West schools.
I know there is a lot of room for debate here, and I cannot say that anyone who believes the Big East is a better move is wrong. Discuss.