Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12, officially giving notice to the league that as soon as the SEC (or any conference I suppose) gives the nod, the Aggies are gone.
Like last summer, when Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten and Colorado for the Pac-12, this news is supposed to invoke stampedes among the rest of the Big 12 brethren, particularly among those who have the bad fortune of being more successful in basketball than football.
The league is falling, the league is falling!
Well, not so much.
The bit players in this drama -- the men's basketball coaches who are being swept along on the whims and financial backs of football -- are considerably calmer now than they were then.
“I don’t think this is a panic-mode deal at all,’’ Kansas coach Bill Self said on Wednesday afternoon. “This isn’t Armageddon. People will say this will trigger this or trigger that. I don’t believe that. Last year when Oklahoma and Texas were on the board, that was different. We were thinking where would we go? I don’t feel that at all this time. I feel like we’re in good shape.’’
A year ago, the rumor mill was rife with word that Kansas might defy geographic logic and join the Big East in order to preserve its basketball program. Kansas State and Iowa State, lacking the current football appeal of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri, and unprotected by the Texas umbrella that shades Baylor and Texas Tech, wondered what would become of them?
Call them naïve or call them wishful thinkers, but this time around Self and K-State coach Frank Martin are confident their conference will survive this latest filching.
“I would rather it not happen, but I still believe that even without A&M, we have a very good, very attractive league,’’ Martin said. “At the end of the day, of all the BCS leagues, we are the youngest league. So what happens? The big brothers pick on the little brother. We have to deal with it. Every league as they’ve progressed has had change. Over time, they’ve handled change and continued to move forward to create an identity.’’
The question, of course, is what if someone else follows A&M out the door?
Most people believe that in order for his league to stay viable, commissioner Dan Beebe will have to entice a 10th member to the Big 12.
In a world where bigger is better, nine members isn’t likely to get it done. And eight would be potentially catastrophic.
But rightly or wrongly, the sense is that the league today is better positioned for expansion than it was a year ago.
Self believes the Longhorn Network, considered the biggest bone of contention to A&M, now could be the biggest feather in the Big 12’s cap.
“Money is driving this buggy,’’ he said. “If you’re in a situation where you want to create your own network, we are the only league that basically is allowing that. There is money to be made here.’’
If there is any frustration, it is that whatever opinions they might have, basketball coaches will have little to no say in what happens. Martin puts some of the onus for that on the NCAA -- wishing, at least, that the people in Indianapolis would have a louder voice about change that is affecting their membership.
“I do know that the NCAA makes 95 percent of its money off of college basketball, so I wish that they would at least take a stand on what is good and what is bad for us. That’s not the case," he said. "But really, the one thing I learned from this a year ago is that the decisions being made come down to dollars based on college football. We can’t change that.’’