Kansas and Baylor aren't naive. Both schools are well aware that conference realignment could mean bad news for their universities and athletic programs.
So, imagine this, they're trying to do something about it.
Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little swallowed some pride and pleaded with Nebraska on Monday to help keep the Big 12 together. She plans to do the same to rival Missouri and chancellor Brady Deaton.
"I have not finished my conversations for the day. I intend if not today in the next two days to talk to the presidents and chancellors of other institutions as well," [Gray-Little] said.
Led by athletic director Lew Perkins, Kansas is working to put together alternative plans in case the Big 12 does dissolve.
"We want the Big 12 to continue," Gray-Little said. "But because any one or more of these things could happen, part of our discussion also is what would be the next plan for us. I don't have any specifics to give you at this point, but that has to be part of our thinking. If the efforts to keep the Big 12 in fact do not work out, what alternatives will there be for us or K-State and the other universities that might not be part of some new organization?"
Baylor's taken a less direct approach, but new president Kenneth Starr held a press conference in Waco on Monday afternoon to champion the Bears' cause. What's that? You can't make it in time? No worries, there's a teleconference 40 minutes later! E-mails unearthed by the Dallas Morning News make it clear Starr isn't working alone in helping Baylor be a player in any realignment happenings.
Wrote Baylor regent Buddy Jones late last week to a number of unidentified recipients:
We cannot let the other schools in Texas (A&M, U.T., Tech) leave the Big XII WITHOUT BAYLOR BEING INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE. Long and short – if U.T., A&M and Tech demand that any move to any other conference include ALL TEXAS BASED TEAMS from the Big XII, we are golden. We need to be in a PACKAGE DEAL!
He later implores the recipients to contact a number of administrators, former and present, to follow his lead and deliver a message on behalf of the university: Don't leave behind the history and traditions and split up the schools in Texas that have been long bound together.
The next day, he wrote:
Just an update. It appears the entire Big XII axis turns on what Nebraska will do viz a viz the Big 10. It's hard enough get the home teams to stick tight . But harder still to influence a bunch of corn shuckers.
Thanks for all you are doing.
Have to say I'm pretty impressed with both schools' efforts. They're not hiding their vulnerability and they've directed their pleas pretty well. The Pac-10 isn't going to listen to Baylor. The Pac-10 will listen to Texas. Even if the Pac-10 doesn't want the Bears, and recent reports indicate that's the case, they're pushing the right buttons to make it happen. Texas insisting Baylor be included could blow the whole thing, but if that happens, the Bears might end up getting what they wanted all along, based on Starr's comments: To stay in the Big 12 with all their Texan friends.
Playing both sides--trying to keep the Big 12 together while campaigning for inclusion over Colorado into the Pac-10--may look unfavorable in some lights, but Baylor's not doing anything different than the rest of the Texas schools are doing, as I wrote yesterday. They want the Big 12 to stay together. But if it doesnt, for whatever reason, they're making sure it doesn't have serious, negative consequences to their program.
"Let me make our perspective clear: Baylor emphatically supports the Big 12," Starr wrote in an editorial in Monday's Waco Tribune. "We are proud of our role in the conference, and we want to see it prosper. In particular, we appreciate our fellow Texas institutions in the Big 12 and the special rivalries that entertain and energize our alumni. We remain hopeful that the Big 12 will remain intact and continue to be one of the nation's foremost athletic conferences."