Kansas could suffer most from shake-up
Kansas basketball is Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. Dr. James Naismith, Phog Allen and Dean Smith show up in the Jayhawks’ designer genes.
This isn’t a program stuck in the history books. Three of the last four Kansas teams have been No. 1 NCAA tournament seeds. The Jayhawks’ average attendance last season was 16,433 — 33 per game more than a stuffed Allen Fieldhouse is supposed to hold. If you’re a college hoops freak, a trip to Lawrence, Kan., better be on your bucket list.
“There are very few like us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
A very few, indeed. Only UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana and Duke have more NCAA titles.
And what is all that glorious basketball DNA getting Kansas and Self as this 7.5 Richter conference realignment shakes through college sports?
An extended case of heartburn. Greatness in college basketball is no more of a credential than greatness in track in the dialogue of this spring. It’s worth about as much as a shrug.
For college basketball powers (and fans), this is harder to swallow than an overinflated Rawlings.
The NCAA tournament is a delightful event, but college football is calling all the plays. College basketball programs are hereby advised to close their eyes and hope for the best.
“If it (the Big 12) doesn’t stay intact, I think we’ll be fine,” Self told a group of reporters this week. “But there is some serious nervousness with me personally that we could potentially be left behind, worst-case scenario, and the landscape of our athletic department changes overnight.”
That was Wednesday.
By Thursday, the Big 12 Conference that Self’s program has ruled was officially no longer intact. Colorado is bound for the Pac-10. Friday is the day Nebraska, another Big 12 friend, is supposed to file a change of address for the Big Ten.
More audibles are coming — and few include the Kansas, the program that won the national title in 2008, was rated No. 1 for a healthy chunk of 2010 and figures to start the 2011 season ranked in the Top 10.
“To say that we don’t bring something to the table to these leagues, although I know we know we do, would be sad,” Self said.
It’s reportedly Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State that the Pac-10 would love to include in the first 16-team Super Conference.
The Jayhawks might be looking at connecting flights to Provo, Utah, Laramie, Wyoming and other stops in the Mountain West.
Unless, of course, they’re shoe-horned into Conference USA, which would have to be overjoyed to have them and their in-state sidekick, Kansas State.
One issue: Neither of those leagues has a spot at the table that counts — the Bowl Championship Series.
The Big East, however, does, and it has long been looking for one addition to its football roster. Any chance that league calls?
Hard to believe Jim Calhoun of Connecticut, John Thompson III of Georgetown and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse would be thrilled about adding another basketball barracuda to the daunting Big East lineup that just added Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette five years ago?
So that means the worry lines are difficult to hide on Bill Self’s brow.
“It is all, quite honestly, that I can think about right now,” Self said.
One thing Self is thinking about is the same thing that others who love college basketball are thinking about: Kansas is to college hoops what Alabama is to college football. Why doesn’t that credential count?
Because any tilts in the conference landscape have always been about football — and football TV money. We’ve seen this stuff before, starting with the Big Ten’s decision to add a basketball black hole like Penn State back in 1990. The Atlantic Coast Conference responded by diluting the magic of Tobacco Road with Florida State (1991), Miami and Virginia Tech (2004) and then finally Boston College (2005).
Basketball didn’t matter then — and it doesn’t matter now. What matters is building your inventory so you can stack your regular-season games from noon to midnight every Saturday.
What matters is splitting your league into a pair of divisions so a conference championship game can be played.
What matters is how many TV viewers a school can stir on a college football Saturday and how many alums it can deliver for The Fat-Gram Burger Bowl game every holiday season.
What matters is constructing the best football leagues imaginable.
“If you’re eliminating one BCS conference and you raid schools from another BCS conference, you potentially are down to four power conferences,” Self said. “And they’ll control all the money.
“Let’s just call it like it is. I’ve always believed if you have certain assets, be able to flaunt them to help you recruit or whatever. But I think this is going a little bit, overboard is not the right word, but from a business standpoint, it almost feels like a monopoly-type deal.
“I don’t think anybody, in the purest of sport, would think that would be a good thing.”
Good thing? Debatable. The future? Inevitable.