Consider college football a bunch of kids playing in the backyard during a grown-ups party, until things get a little too rowdy and the little kids get hurt. Then the parents come out back and yell, "Hey! Knock that off!"
Playing the role of angry parents claiming to hold a trump card: Congress.
Kansas lawmakers and Nebraska lawmakers are feuding in the Senate over exactly the same issues as the fans, athletic directors and presidents.
From the Omaha World-Herald:
On Tuesday, Sen. Pat Roberts, Wildcat Republican, buttonholed Sen. Ben Nelson, Husker Democrat, addressing him in a hallway just off the Senate floor.
“Don't be the domino that blows college football up into four major conferences and gets rid of the NCAA,” a World-Herald reporter heard the Kansas senator tell Nelson. “It isn't going to do anybody any good when those dominoes start falling.”
Roberts added, in apparent reference to Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne: “He doesn't want on his tombstone ‘He ruined the Big 12.'”
Nelson, for his part, deferred: “I just have a lot of confidence in Coach Osborne to make the right decision, ultimately.
[...] Roberts later told The World-Herald that if the Big 12 falls apart, Congress could act.
“There's going to be a lot of litigation, and then Congress will probably try to stick its nose into it,” Roberts said. “I would prefer that that not be the case, but there have always been antitrust concerns.”
Especially if it means their home state will suffer.
Jokes aside, there's plenty of precedent for this, and there's serious financial loss around the corner if teams like Kansas and Kansas State get relegated to a second-rate league, the likeliest scenario if the Big 12 dissolves. Fighting to do what they can to prevent that is the most sensible move and it's also one that may earn politicians like Roberts votes in the future.
Finally, I'm no mortician, but I've seen plenty of "Six Feet Under." And I don't think the family would sign off on "He ruined the Big 12" on Osborne's tombstone. Of course, that's assuming he dies. There's some debate in Nebraska about whether that's possible.