The bell doth toll for the Big 12, a fractured, dysfunctional conference that probably outlived its valid life span three years ago.
Assuming that's the case, where does K-State land in the new world order? Based on the following assumptions, I present my analysis after the jump.
Assumption 1: Texas is not going to the Pac-12.
I think this is pretty clear after reading this article. The Pac-12 will not allow the Longhorn Network in its current form, it most likely will not accommodate Texas' unorthodox request to be in a division with UCLA and USC, and it appears Texas doesn't want the appearance of following Oklahoma anywhere.
Assumption 2: Missouri will choose the Big Ten or the SEC over the Pac-12.
Maybe a tenuous assumption, but it seems Mizzou has enough options that it doesn't need to look west.
Assumption 3: The Oklahoma schools will gain admittance to the Pac-12 without Texas.
There's some question as to whether they have the votes to do so, but let's just assume OU wouldn't have pushed things this far without personal assurances from Larry Scott that it wouldn't be a problem.
Assumption 4: John Currie is looking for the most stable and lucrative option available, regardless of what his coaches want.
This should go without saying, but Kevin Kietzman claims the coaches think the Big East is the best fit for us. Maybe, but it's also clearly the most unstable and uncertain.
Luckily, Kietzman isn't as connected as he thinks he is, so I'm not too concerned that Currie would turn down a foothold in a guaranteed superconference to join a "better fit."
In order of desirability, based on what we think we know today, K-State's best options are:
Plan A: Join the ACC as part of a pod comprising Kansas, Texas and Texas Tech.
This clearly is the most ideal outcome, but perhaps the least likely. We would maintain our football recruiting ties in Texas, but gain enormous basketball cachet in a conference with KU, Duke and North Carolina.
In addition, our profile would rise with East Coast exposure and more games on ESPN. Stability? The ACC would be the clear winner in realignment by adding Texas — only the Big Ten could match that by adding Notre Dame.
The other pods likely would be Clemson-Florida State-Georgia Tech-Miami, the four Carolina schools, and Boston College-Maryland-Virginia-Virginia Tech.
Think Frank Martin would like semi-regular trips to Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C. for recruiting purposes? And we already beat KU and Texas like a drum in most sports, so those are the two schools I'd like to stay with.
This plan hinges on Texas bringing along conference mates to stock its pod, but Baylor not being included in that group. It also requires approval from the ACC, which is academically elitist, regionalist and traditionalist.
But the winds of change are coming. Maybe John Swofford can convince his membership to take the plunge in order to ward off Big Ten and SEC advances. There is talk they were interested in KU last year.
It's a long shot, but perhaps the combined forces of Currie's personality, DeLoss Dodds' loyalty to his alma mater, and a united front from the Kansas Board of Regents might just make it feasible.
In this scenario, Baylor probably ends up in the Big East with Iowa State, which might be enough to keep the lawsuits unfiled and the legislators from howling.
Plan B: Join the Pac-12 as part of a pod comprising Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
There are a lot of things to dislike about a Texas-less Pac-16 — travel distances, California-centrism, loss of Texas recruiting grounds, snobbish elitism, you name it.
But when push comes to shove, it's a more stable, more progressive, more egalitarian alternative than the Big East.
It's also the only possibility other than the Big East to be mentioned by a remotely credible source (The San Jose Mercury-News), which gives me a small shred of hope it could happen.
If we have a chance at the Pac-12, we would be flat-out stupid to pass it up to go to the Big East, drawbacks be damned.
Also, I think the Pac-12 would have to go to pods to get the needed votes from Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and possibly Utah. not to mention the Pacific Northwest schools. All of them want to maintain trips to California.
Plan C: Join the Pac-12 as part of an Eastern Division.
Basically the same as above, but with worse travel and probably worse long-term stability. Colorado and the Arizona schools would agitate endlessly.
It's ironic that so many conferences are in a hurry to repeat the Big 12's mistakes: Weld together two disparate conference groupings with no regard for tradition or cultural fit, with no regard for anything but the next TV contract.
But I'd still rather be a part of that structure and then ride out a messy divorce years in the future than be left behind in this round and become a new SMU, hoping to regain a seat at the table at some uncertain point down the road.
Plan D: Join the Big East in any configuration.
This is a clear, distant third choice, but it might be the only one available to us depending on what Missouri and Texas do. Its ramifications and organization already have been discussed endlessly, so I won't rehash all that here.
None of these options are ideal and none are as good as a stable, functional Big 12, but this appears to be what we are left with. We do not control our own fates in this slimy mess.
But the positive development to take away from today is that a Texas-Pac-12 marriage looks increasingly unlikely.
If Currie plays his cards right (and thank God he and Kirk Schulz are the ones making this monumental decision for us at this key juncture in K-State history), seats might open up in:
- The ACC, if Texas can convince that league to admit its loyal lapdogs. I know Chip Brown has speculated about OU and OSU following Texas if the Pac-12 turns them down, but the whole point of the exercise is to escape the LHN. That won't happen in the ACC, from all accounts. I think at the point that OU probably would swallow the bullet and join the SEC in an attempt to save some face. And if that happens, our chances at the Pac-12 if it ever wants to expand past 12 go up exponentially.
- Or the Pac-12, which seemed like nothing more than wishful thinking a week ago. Think about it: Without Texas and Texas Tech (who they're simply not taking without Texas, sorry), where else can the Pac-12 expand to get to 16? It's not taking Boise State, it's not taking BYU and it's not taking any Mountain West or WAC schools. That leaves expansion beyond the Mississippi River, which also is beyond retarded. No, we're not majorly desirable, but we're better than that option. The only threat is Missouri, but I've already outlined that I think they look east first, second and third.
I invite your comments, criticisms and panic below. One thing's for sure: There still are so many chaotic elements left to this thing that we might yet end up with majorly unforeseen outcomes.
What if Texas surprises everyone, scraps the LHN and joins the Big Ten? What if the Oklahoma schools are voted down by the Pac-12 and come crawling back to Texas on their knees? What if Cylons invade Earth tomorrow and declare the Sun Belt to be the supreme conference? To quote our favorite burnt orange mouthpiece, Stay Tuned.