At the height of conference realignment talks last year, there was real concern that Texas (and most of the other Big XII South schools) would flee the conference for -- pardon the pun -- greener pastures, leaving the schools up north wondering what their next move would be. Six conference members doth not a viable conference make, after all, and there was real concern that schools like Iowa State or Kansas State would have to suffer the indignity of joining a non-AQ conference.
Fortunately, as Kansas basketball coach Bill Self told listeners on his weekly radio show yesterday, his Jayhawks' AQ status was never in doubt -- and nor was that of Missouri, KSU, and ISU. When asked about TCU and its move to the Big East, Self said that if the Big 12 folded, those schools would have been offered a spot in the Big East. And further, Self thinks the Big East was smart to make those offers, because it was the only way to ensure the Big Ten doesn't kill the Big East's football program.Audio, courtesy of the IMG Jayhawk Network, is below. Those interested in the full show may listen through Jayhawks All-Access ($$).
If you can't listen, here's the full text of Self's statement, with minor alterations for clarity's sake:
To be honest with you, Kansas could have been making the same announcement today that TCU made. And Kansas State could have been in there too, because the feeling that we got -- or we had, when the conference realignment was going on, that if by chance, Texas would have gone to the Pac-10 and we would have stayed buddies with Kansas State and not separated and done all that stuff, then the Big East would have came and gotten us, and KSU, and Iowa State, and Missouri. Which, in theory, you say, 'Oh god, the Big East, bad travel.' They would have gone to divisions, so we would have had divisions with probably the teams that are close, and maybe Louisville and Cincinnati or whatever.
And I think that's smart on the Big East's part, because the Big Ten's still going to go poach somebody, and when they poach somebody it's going to be a football-playing school, and if that number goes beneath eight, then I believe -- I could be wrong -- but I believe then they're not eligible for the BCS bid. So they're covering themselves to make sure that whenever the Big Ten does whatever they do, they'll still have enough football-playing schools to make sure that they keep their BCS football bid alive. So I think it's a smart move, and probably great for TCU, so I see no problems with it.
Although there had been rumors to this extent back in the spring and summer, this is the first time that a school official has not only addressed the rumor that the Big East was set to invite the wayward Big 12 North schools, but out-and-out confirmed it. And as Self mentioned, with the Big Ten purportedly sniffing around for expansion targets out east, the Big East needed to either go into buyer mode or prepare to get out of the business of football altogether. While some college football fans might have preferred the latter, the Big East would have lost an automatic qualifier bid and all the money it entails, so that was never really going to happen.
And above all else, this should at least reassure fans of those four schools that even if the Big 12 had folded, the day that ISU or Missouri would have had to share a conference with Wyoming or Middle Tennessee State was never really going to happen; there had always been another BCS conference waiting, and there probably still will be if this latest iteration of the Big 12 doesn't work over the next few years. The arms race probably isn't over yet.