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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 23 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference. 

 

June 2010

Wednesday, June 30

Condolences
Susan Kines Langston, 43, the daughter of former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines, died in a car accident Monday, in Birmingham, Ala. Her sons, age 7 and 14, were injured in the accident.

Joe Kines served as Alabama's interim head football coach after Mike Shula was fired in November 2006. He joined the Aggies' staff in 2008 and retired after the 2009 season.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe and his wife, Rubye, and their entire family from the Aggie football team, the Texas A&M athletic department and the entire Aggie Network," A&M coach Mike Sherman said in a statement released by the school.

Nebraska second in volleyball attendance
According to NCAA statistics released this week, Nebraska averaged 5,197 fans for its 18 volleyball matches last season. Hawaii led the nation in volleyball attendance, averaging 6,423 for 20 matches.

The Huskers played 15 of their home contests at the 4,030-seat NU Coliseum, averaged 5,197 for 18 home matches. Nebraska drew 13,870 to the Devaney Center on Sept. 13 for a match with UCLA. Nebraska was also credited with home matches for two NCAA regional tournament contests at Qwest Center Omaha. NU drew 8,935 for a Dec. 11 win over Iowa State and 9,253 for a Dec. 12 loss to Texas.

Texas finished sixth in attendance, averaging 3,035 while Iowa State was ninth with 2,734. The Big Ten led Division I, averaging 1,990 fans while the Big 12 was a close second, averaging 1,632.

Assistants who compete
Texas A&M's back-to-back national championships in men's and women's outdoor track and field speak to the strength that sport enjoys in the Big 12. Last week's U.S. Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, also showcased the fact that the Big 12 has assistant coaches who compete as well as they coach.

University of Colorado assistant track coach Casey Malone successfully defended his discus title. His winning toss was 205 feet, 3 inches, nearly 5 1/2 feet better than the runner-up. And the runner up was Texas Tech assistant coach Jason Young. The 29-year-old competed for Tech from 2000 through 2004.

Feldman weighs in on Nebraska football
ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman, in his weekly mailbag, answered this question from a reader: "The biggest issue facing Nebraska is what -- replacing Ndamukong Suh, QB play, or the linebackers?"

Here's Feldman's answer: "Suh was a super player, but with DT Jared Crick still there and DE Pierre Allen, they're going to be salty up front again and that'll carry the front seven. Quarterback is a sizeable question mark. Zac Lee, who missed the spring due to injury after having surgery on his throwing arm, had a 14-10 TD-INT mark. It's hard to be a great team these days with anything close to 1-1 or even 2-1 TD-INT mark - maybe in the days of the dominating ground games, but not so much any more. Can Lee produce close to the level of what Greg McElroy (61 percent completions and a 17-4 TD-INT mark) did in 2009? I've heard he should be able to do that. Their schedule is pretty favorable since UT has to come to NU and there is no game with Oklahoma in the regular season."

Linked up
Some of Kansas State's future non-conference games agreed upon when Ron Prince was coach will be challenging for Kansas State and Wildcats coach Bill Snyder wants to return to his scheduling philosophy.

Kansas junior forward Marcus Morris is working hard in the offseason to improve his game.

The success of Big 12 men's basketball was slighted by the power of football during the recent conference expansion/realignment discussions.

Excellent Q and A with John Junker, president and CEO of the Fiesta Bowl and Insight Bowl.

Monday, June 28

Links to start your week
Javon Coney, an invited senior walk on for Colorado's basketball team, played three-on-three basketball in his hometown of Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend. Big deal, you say? One of the game's participants was President Barack Obama.

In the wake of all the college expansion/realignment angst, college basketball coaches and supporters discovered the sport has step child status in the overall scheme of things.

Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes that Texas and Oklahoma have prospered in the Big 12 and the schools should remain in the same conference.

Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler says the NBA's "one and done" rule has been bad for the Oklahoma basketball program.

A year ago, only the most dedicated "hoop heads" knew who Epke Udoh was. After one outstanding season at Baylor after transferring from Michigan, Udoh became an NBA Draft lottery pick.

In the first installment of his always excellent Big 12 Summer Countdown series, Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune writes that the star power in the conference has shifted from passers to runners.

Texas Tech football coach Tommy Tuberville is busy raising money for indoor practice facility, other projects.

The Colorado quarterback situation gets an off-season break down in the Boulder Daily Camera.

Friday, June 25

Big 12 NBA Draft recap
The 2010 NBA Draft Thursday was historical for the Big 12 Conference. Seven players were selected in the first round, the most in league history and more than any other conference. A total of 10 Big 12 players were drafted.

"It speaks volumes for our league," Kansas coach Bill Self told the Kansas City Star. "I think our league has been on a big uptick for a few years. And certainly being able to sell seven first-round draft picks will bode very well for our league in future recruiting. ... Our league is here to stay from an exposure standpoint."

Baylor's Ekpe Udoh was the first Big 12 player selected, going to Golden State with the No. 6 pick. That's the highest a Baylor player has ever been selected. Kansas had back-to-back draftees as New Orleans took Cole Aldrich at No. 11 and Memphis drafted Xavier Henry at No. 12. (New Orleans later traded Aldrich to Oklahoma City.)

Later in the first round, the Big 12 again set a record when it had three consecutive players selected. Boston took Texas guard Avery Bradley at No. 19, Oklahoma State selected Oklahoma State's James Anderson at No. 20 and Oklahoma City tabbed Iowa State's Craig Brackins at No. 21. (Brackins was then traded to New Orleans).

The final four Big 12 players chosen were Texas forward Damion James (selected No. 15 by Atlanta and then traded to New Jersey), Texas center Dexter Pittman (No. 32 in the second round by Miami), Oklahoma's Keith "Tiny" Gallon (No. 47 to Milwaukee) and Oklahoma's Willie Warren (No. 54 to the Los Angeles Clippers).

* This year's draft was the 13th time in 14 years the Big 12 has had at least one first-round choice.

* A total of 70 players from the Big 12 have been selected since the first season in 1996-97. Kansas has had 18 players chosen - the most of any team in the Conference. Texas is next with 13, followed by Iowa State (7), Oklahoma (6), Missouri (5), Oklahoma State (5), Texas A&M (4), Colorado (3), Texas Tech (3), Baylor (2), Kansas State (2) and Nebraska (2).

* The Big 12 has had at least four players drafted in each of the last seven years. In addition, there has been at least one league athlete among the top 10 overall selections in 10 of 14 seasons. Twenty-seven players from the Big 12 have been drafted in the last four years.

* Since 2000, eight Big 12 teams have had at least one lottery selection: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.

Oklahoma to host four NCAA championships
The NCAA Division I Championship and Competition Cabinet announced Friday that Oklahoma will host two NCAA national championships and two regional championships.

* The 2012 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championship at the Lloyd Noble Center.

* The 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championship at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

* The 2013 NCAA Regional in women's gymnastics at the Lloyd Noble Center.

* The 2013 NCAA Regional in women's golf at the Jimmie Austin Golf Course in Norman, Okla.

Also, Oklahoma City will host 2014 NCAA Volleyball Championship at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. The Big 12 Conference and the Oklahoma City All-Sports Association will combine to host that event.

Big 12 has four top-ranked football weight rooms
Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com, after colleague Pat Forde wrote about the strength and conditioning program at Notre Dame, ranked the top 10 weight rooms in the country. Four from the Big 12 made the list.

1. Texas What Jerryworld is to head-turning stadiums, that's what the Al-Rashid Strength Complex has been to college weight rooms. The room, named for Saudi Arabia native and UT graduate Dr. Nasser I. Al-Rashid, is 20,000 square feet and includes a 70-yard turf straight-away for timing and conditioning. More than half of the people I spoke to for this began their list with Texas.

3. Nebraska: One of the sources I spoke to said he suspects if you spoke to 100 people who had toured the top weight rooms, most would put Nebraska's at No. 1, ticking off a series of reasons for its prime spot: two levels. Spacious. Great equipment. Great flow, from the cardio area to the Olympic area. The setup is only going to get better with former NU star Ndamukong Suh's $2 million donation to the program.

5. Oklahoma: The Sooners' facility was one of the most impressive around when I visited it a few years back, but I'm told it has really been upgraded since former OU star Roy Williams donated to his alma mater for a football-only training space.

9. Kansas: Hearing about the Jayhawks' setup surprised me. KU spent $8 million on the Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center, and the reviews are very favorable. "The size, flooring, flow of the place is just very, very nice," a source said. "It is impressive."  Here's a description from a story by Jim Catalono: "The two-story design of the Anderson Center has an especially effective plyometric-training area: a 20-yard indoor "hill," which consists of a ramp rising from a 37- to a 45-degree grade, plyometric steps that are filled with shredded tire, and a row of stadium-like steps. Inspired by a similar outdoor facility designed by Istvan Javorek, Strength Coach at Johnson County Community College, the area enables the Jayhawks to do resistance training, rehab, and hill training."

Links for a Friday
After winning a game delayed six hours by rain and losing a game suspended and then completed the day after it started, it was fitting that Oklahoma's final game at the College World Series went to extra innings. The Sooners took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 12th but South Carolina scored two in the bottom of the inning for a 3-2 victory Thursday night.

Baylor sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin says that after knee surgery to repair a torn ACL he'll be even faster.

The expansion and renovations to Texas Tech's AT&T Stadium are on schedule.

Santa Clara basketball coach Kerry Keating (the son of Kansas associate athletic director Larry Keating) is behind a campaign to stop coaches from texting while driving.

Wednesday, June 23

Big 12 and the NBA Draft
The 2010 NBA Draft will be held Thursday night. A number of mock drafts have seven to eight Big 12 players projected to go in the first round.

The Big 12 record for players chosen in the first round was in 1997, when five players were selected among the first 27 picks. Those players were Chauncey Billups (Colorado/Boston Celtics), Tony Battie (Texas Tech/Denver Nuggets), Kelvin Cato (Iowa State/Portland Trail Blazers), Scot Pollard (Kansas/Detroit Pistons) and Jacque Vaughn (Kansas/Utah Jazz).

Here are some other Big 12 draft nuggets:

* As many as 12 league players have been mentioned as being possible selections in the draft's two rounds. The Big 12 record for total selections was set in 2008, when 10 players were chosen overall.

* If seven or eight players are first-round choices, that number would surpass the total number of players selected from the Big 12 (in all rounds) in the draft in all but one season (2008) in its history.

* The Big 12 has had a player selected among the top two picks each of the past four seasons, something that no other conference has accomplished.

* Assuming the league has a first-round pick this year, the Big 12 will have had at least one first-round draft pick in 13 of 14 seasons. With at least one top 10 choice this year, there will have been at least one athlete among the top 10 overall selections in 10 of 14 seasons.

* The Big 12 has had at least four players drafted in each of the past six years.  Overall, there have been nine times in the 13-year history of the Big 12 that at least four athletes have been chosen.

* The Big 12 has had 18 players drafted in the last three years (2007, '08, '09). A total of 61 players from the Big 12 have been selected since the first season in 1996-97.  

* Kansas has had the most selected with 16 in the past 13 years.  Texas is next with 10 picks, followed by Iowa State (6), Missouri (5), Oklahoma (5), Oklahoma State (4), Texas A&M (4), Colorado (3), Texas Tech (3), Kansas State (2), Nebraska (2) and Baylor (1).

Monday, June 21

A hire that plugs the gap
The next game that new Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg coaches will be his first. When the Cyclones hired Hoiberg to replace Greg McDermott, one of the biggest question marks was Hoiberg's lack of coaching experience.

The hiring of Bobby Lutz as an Iowa State assistant is a "good get" for Hoiberg and the Iowa State program. Lutz spent 12 seasons coaching Charlotte, compiling a 218-158 record with five NCAA Tournament appearances. Lutz (pronounced "Lootz") is well respected for his coaching acumen.

"From all the people I've talked to who have been in this business a long time, they all told me the most important thing was to surround myself with the right people," Hoiberg said. "Bobby has been a very successful head coach, he's been to the NCAA tournament and when I started doing my research and watched his games, I could tell we had the same philosophy.

"This is such an important hire for me. The fact that I've been able to get someone of his pedigree is critical."

DeCourcy on Big 12 expansion
Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News occasionally answers questions in a "Starting Five" feature. Here's how he answered the question: "Should the Big 12 grab two more schools and live up to its name - and which two, from a basketball perspective, make the best fit?

DeCourcy: If there's no impetus for a football championship game- and, honestly, haven't those been horribly overrated from the start? - any league works best with 10 or fewer teams.

If, at some point, the conference were to decide it wanted that football game back, though, there are excellent candidates out there.

The first would be Memphis, situated in a region of about 1.2 million people. The Tigers have an excellent fan base for their basketball program and have the sort of potential to embrace football that Cincinnati did when the Big East made the Bearcats a prudent inclusion in its recent expansion.

My other suggestion would be UNLV, which has a large population base hungering for some sort of big-league sports. No doubt BYU would be a better football addition, and there is much to recommend the Cougars, but who wouldn't love the idea of periodic road trips to Vegas?

Items of note
* In the wake of announced departures by Nebraska and Colorado, the Big 12 board of directors of the long-term 10 schools met by conference call last week and made the following committee/officer appointments: Brady Deaton (Missouri) - chair; Greg Geoffroy (Iowa State) - vice-chair; Burns Hargis (Oklahoma State) - treasurer; David Boren (Oklahoma) - secretary. Also, replacements for Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman on the NCAA Board of Directors and Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Committee were announced. Texas Tech president Guy Bailey will be on the NCAA Board of Directors while Texas president Bill Powers joins the BCS Oversight Committee.

* ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has announced his preseason top 40 and five Big 12 teams are in the top 22: Kansas State State 9, Baylor 11, Texas 17, Kansas 20 and Missouri 22.

* Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew will be the "guest" of honor on June 29 at 1660 ESPN Radio's sixth annual Celebrity Roast. The event will be held in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame's "Great Hall" from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Among the celebrity roasters will be Big 12 Associate Commissioner for Men's Basketball John Underwood.

Monday links worth clicking
Oklahoma overcame six hours of rain delays to beat South Carolina, 4-3, in its College World Series opener Sunday.

Kansas' Jordan Scott is getting a lot more attention in Lawrence after winning the NCAA pole vault championship.

Oklahoma State's Morgan Hoffman had some interesting experiences playing as an amateur in the U.S. Open.

The daughters of Kansas football coach Turner Gill reflect on growing up with a famous father.

Here's a worthwhile "back in time" click involving the NCAA Tournament and March Madness. Inside Higher Ed annually conducts its own "championship" using the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR), which rewards programs based on academic success and retention. Click to find out which Big 12 team won the fantasy tourney based on the 2010 bracket (four Big 12 teams reached the Final Eight).

Friday, June 18

Hot links, served fresh
Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com writes about how women's basketball in the new-look Big 12 will continue being a national force.

Iowa State's Lisa Koll has been named the 2010 National Female Track Athlete of the Year for Outdoor Track & Field in Division I as voted by the nation's coaches.

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, who heads into preseason practices as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, has improved his practice habits.

If you want to read a story with perspective regarding the recent realignment hubbub in college sports, this effort from Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com is worth your time.

Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News writes that in men's basketball, a 10-team Big 12 Conference will be a lean, mean league.

And, after talking with some Big 12 basketball coaches, ESPN's Andy Katz echoes DeCourcy's thoughts.

Kansas State senior guard Jacob Pullen read where Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com had the Wildcats ranked No. 5 in the preseason. Pullen, respectfully, disagrees; he thinks the Wildcats should at least be in the top three.

Nebraska basketball coach Doc Sadler, with his school headed for the Big Ten Conference, has changed his strategy for the upcoming July recruiting period.

Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com writes that new Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg has Cyclones fans jazzed about the future.

Wednesday, June 9

Links worth clicking and reading
ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman, on a visit to College Station, writes that Texas A&M senior stars Jerrod Johnson and Von Miller are focused on winning the Big 12.

Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman says that Texas heads into the Super Regional best-of-three series with TCU needing its hitters to handle a talented Frogs pitching staff.

Texas A&M's Gabby Mayo has a chance to break a 13-year-old school record in the 100-meter hurdles when the Aggies compete in the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Virginia, the Super Regional opponent for Oklahoma, will be difficult to beat on their home field, says North Carolina coach Mike Fox. And Sooners sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele says his on-line research indicates the Cavaliers' pitching staff looks "phenomenal."

Colorado's men's team has a "band of brothers" feel while sophomore Emma Coburn and freshman Shalaya Kipp hope to continue the Buffs' legacy in the 3,000-meter steeplechase during this week's  NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Friday, June 4

Spring meetings final thoughts
Your Humble Correspondent returned to his even-more-humble abode after two days in Kansas City at the Big 12's spring meetings. If the house was equipped with a Cold War-era fallout shelter, YHC might have hunkered down there for, oh, the next six months or so.

Why? Not because the news out of KC was negative. On the contrary, commissioner Dan Beebe called the meetings "productive" and he is optimistic that the Big 12 is moving toward continued success rather than imminent disbandment.

YHC's wish to "duck and cover" (another Cold War reference; fire up Google, kids) is about the media coverage of the Big 12's situation and place in the current conference expansion/realignment issue.

YHC doesn't claim to know all that's going on behind the scenes at the Big 12 or any other conference. On the one hand, YHC is overwhelmed with all the stories, blogs and Tweets about the Big 12/Big Ten/Pac-10 poker game. On the other hand, YHC is dismayed that a number of his former journalistic colleagues appear to be quoting sources that, frankly, are quite likely sources of hot air rather than sources of fact.

A quote from a "highly placed Big 12 source?" Sorry, the only highly placed Big 12 source that's worth quoting is commissioner Dan Beebe and if he's not talking on the record then the story isn't worth writing. YHC says that because there are only a handful of people who know what's going on in the meeting rooms. And those people can't even be sure of what they know.

But that's not preventing journalists from firing off 140-character Tweets that are akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater.

Apparently, it's news that Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds emerged from a suite at Disch-Falk Field and declined comment. Or that UT president William Powers declined comment and "looked nervous." (You'd look nervous, too, if e-mails you had sent to another president had become public record.) Or that a reporter "was told" that Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne told members of his coaching staff that the reports A&M may go to the Pac-10 are true. (If you're a good AD, you're keeping your coaches in the loop - even if it involves reports about a "possibility.")

Another reporter used a snippet of a statement from the Iowa State president and athletic director to make his point about the Big 12 being fractured. "However, we also recognize that the long-term viability of the Big 12 Conference is not in our control - it is in the hands of just a few of our fellow member institutions." As one out-of-context sentence it sounds as though Iowa State is whining about its lack of power and influence. Read the entire statement and that is nowhere near the tone.

Another reporter Tweeted: "My column: 'Pac-16' mega conference a real possibility." The Tweet included a link to his column that included this paragraph: "So while it's undeniably fun to fantasize about this seemingly impending realignment wave, in reality, it will not play out nearly as smoothly as some of this week's reports make it sound. Don't expect either the Pac-10 or Big Ten to emerge from their respective conference meetings this weekend having locked-in new lineups."

(See what YHC did there? Took 53 words out of a 1,275-word story to make a point to support a thesis. That, friends, is journalism.)

* YHC isn't blaming the media but he blames the medium. Twitter World is reducing the thoughts of journalists and other Tweeters to a bare-bones minimum. It's more minimalist that CNN Headline News.

* California chancellor Robert Birgeneau reportedly told a Cal Alumni Club in New England that he would be "surprised if something did not happen (at the Pac-10 meetings) that would revolutionize college athletics."

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott appeared to be trying to counter that comment by saying "We don't feel any rush to have to make a decision. There have been no decisions, no offers." But he concluded by saying "we're looking at possibilities that could be revolutionary."

* One of YHC's favorite writers, Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times, did a masterful job of tongue-in-cheek writing as he reported on the Pac-10 expansion rumors.

"If you believe swirling reports, that 2014 Rose Bowl featuring Pacific 10 Conference champion Texas Tech versus Big Ten Conference champion Missouri on Channel 206 could really be something.

Advertisers, you know, drool over the television markets in Lubbock and Columbia. ...

Some swirling reports, it should be noted, circle closer to the truth than others. ESPN reported NCAA sanctions on USC would come down Friday, which was news to USC and the NCAA. Two outlets Thursday reported John Wooden had died, which was different than him being gravely ill."

* YHC closes with this thought: If you don't think that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is battling, scratching and clawing as if he was in the middle of rugby scrum, you don't know Dan Beebe. The former college rugby player might come across as a teddy bear but he's bearish on steering the Big 12 through these troubled waters.  Beebe is as connected as any commissioner and he is tapping all his resources and all his energy to keep the Big 12 whole.

Baylor reaffirms support, encouraged by 'the process'
Baylor president Ken Starr sent this letter to "members of the Baylor Family":

"The spring meetings of the Big 12 Conference have just concluded. The media attention that has focused on the potential for conference realignment has made these meetings especially lively and, at times, challenging.

"Ian McCaw, our athletic director, and I have been extremely active participants in these meetings, working hard to represent Baylor's best interests. While I have little specific to report, I can tell you that at this time we are encouraged by the way the process is unfolding.

"Ian and I have made our case clear: Baylor emphatically supports the Big 12 Conference and wants to see it prosper. In particular, we appreciate our fellow Texas institutions in the Big 12 and the special rivalries that entertain our state and energize our alumni.

"We are aware of the intense speculation surrounding the possible expansion of other conferences. We remain hopeful that the Big 12 will remain intact and continue to be one of the nation's foremost athletic conferences.

"Of course, we are immensely proud of our standing - both athletic and academic - in the Big 12. In the last seven years alone we have won a combined 28 Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships, positioning us third behind Texas (55) and Texas A&M (30). The academic quality of our students also sets Baylor apart. In the most recent edition of "America's Best Colleges" by U.S.News & World Report, Baylor is ranked fourth in the Big 12.

"Be assured that we are committed to doing everything in our power to promote and defend the best interests of Baylor University as these discussions continue in the days ahead."

Iowa State president and athletic director letter to fans
Iowa State president Dr. Gregory Geoffroy and athletic director Jamie Pollard sent this letter to Cyclones alumni, fans and friends of the university:

"This week, we participated in the Big 12 Conference spring meetings in which a major topic of discussion was potential conference re-alignment. With the immense speculation and media attention given to this issue, we felt it was important for you to hear directly from us. 

"We believe the Big 12 Conference is the perfect fit for Iowa State University.  We are committed to our membership in the Big 12, and we are optimistic that the conference will remain intact.  However, we also recognize that the long-term viability of the Big 12 Conference is not in our control - it is in the hands of just a few of our fellow member institutions.

"Iowa State and several other members of the Big 12 Conference are especially vulnerable under some of the re-alignment scenarios currently circulating, particularly one involving expansion of the Pac-10.  We are doing everything in our power to represent the best interests of Iowa State in these discussions, but we also are sensitive to the huge uncertainty that has been created and recognize that the situation could evolve in directions that are not aligned with our interests. 

"We understand and share your concerns about Iowa State athletics and the Big 12 Conference.  We are still optimistic that the Big 12 will remain intact and continue to be one of our nation's premier athletics conferences, but we must be ready to act if that does not prove to be the case. We will keep in touch as the situation unfolds, and we appreciate your understanding."

Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins on future of Big 12
University of Kansas Athletics Director Lew Perkins issued the following statement Friday at the conclusion of the Big 12 Conference meeting:

"Based on a considerable amount of work by Commissioner Dan Beebe and others, I am very encouraged as these meetings end about the strength and viability of the Big 12 Conference.

"I respect the candidness of everyone who attended these meetings.  We engaged cooperatively in a positive manner to work toward the goal that I think everyone wants, and I can say that I feel very good about the future of the Big 12.  We at Kansas Athletics know that the Big 12 is one of the best conferences in the country, and we are confident about its future.   I appreciate all of those at KU who have worked very hard to keep the Big 12 at the forefront of intercollegiate athletics.  We all must stay patient and let this process take its course, but at the end of the day I am convinced that the Big 12 will remain, as it is today, a national leader."

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little added:  "Lew has kept me informed as these meetings progressed.  I share his optimism about the Big 12 and look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure a strong future for the conference."

Kansas State reaffirms support for the Big 12
Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz, Faculty Athletics Representative Mike Holen, Director of Athletics John Currie and Senior Woman's Administrator Jill Shields participated in annual meetings of the Big 12 Conference this week in Kansas City.

As numerous media outlets have reported, a major issue of discussion centered on potential national athletics conference realignment. The meetings concluded Friday with a three-hour Board of Directors session.

President Schulz was positive and optimistic about the progress made.

"Kansas State University remains firmly committed to the Big 12 and continues to believe in the long-term viability of our league. We are optimistic that this process will result in our existing membership affirming our cohesive long-term future together," Schulz said.

Much media speculation this week centered on rumors suggesting that some Big 12 institutions might be invited to join other leagues.

"The media speculation is certainly uncomfortable for those of us who have demonstrated that we are firmly committed to the Big 12," said Currie. "However different schools may have unique institutional decision processes that we need to respect. As a charter member of the original Big Six conference going back to 1928, we will continue to assess the landscape and position K-State for a bright future."

Legendary football coach Bill Snyder, who attended meetings of the league football coaches last month, added his thoughts on K-State's position in the Big 12:

"The Big 12 Conference has experienced unparalleled success over the last 14 years and continues to be regarded as one of the nation's top conferences. At K-State, we have been fortunate to be a part of that success thanks to our truly avid fans, who have helped make our conference what it is today, while we have also been able to continue historic rivalries with our regional counterparts and develop competitive series with other fellow league institutions."

Thursday, June 3

The Guessing Game continues
Here's what officially happened at the Big 12 spring meetings in Kansas City Thursday: Nothing.

Here's what unofficially-might-have-happened-but-it's-only-a-guess: Plenty.

Your Humble Correspondent arrived on the scene Thursday at the Intercontinental Hotel and was mildly surprised to see approximately 40 members of the media along with seven mini-cams. The lure of possible news on the conference expansion/realignment front has YHC's former colleagues all a twitter (and Twittering).

There was no Big 12 announcement regarding championship sites - an important agenda item that is being overlooked because of the expansion/realignment story. Nor was there any official discussion regarding The Hot Topic.

Commissioner Dan Beebe, who over the last few weeks has been most accessible and forthcoming with the media, told reporters Thursday evening he would have no comment because the presidents and chancellors wouldn't finish their meeting until Friday morning. A scheduled news conference with Beebe and Texas president William Powers (chair of the presidents/chancellors) was cancelled.

The news of the day came half a continent away. The Pacific-10 Conference, according to a story on Rivals.com/Orangebloods.com, plans to extend invitations to six Big 12 schools - Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado.

The news, while not totally unexpected, was ill-timed from a Big 12 meeting aspect. When the story broke in mid-afternoon, YHC guesses that the topic of discussion changed in the hotel meeting room. Now it appears the Big 12 is fighting a two-front battle against the Big Ten and the Pac-10.

So what the what is really going on? YHC hazards a guess that not even the school and conference higher ups know for sure. Right now college athletics is a game of speed chess with pawns, rooks, queens and kings blurring around the board

Just in the last few weeks, Beebe and Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott were discussing a joint television agreement that would benefit both conferences. Then Thursday the story breaks that the Pac-10 wants to become the Pac-16 while basically eviscerating the Big 12. Curious, no?

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn told the Boulder Daily Camera that he believes the Pac-10 is close to inviting six Big 12 teams and that the invitations could become official as soon as this weekend. The Pac-10 spring meetings start Friday.

Scott issued a statement. Here are the last two sentences: "We have not developed any definitive plans. We have not extended any invitations for expansion and we do not anticipate any such decisions in the near term."

"In the near term." ... parse those last four words any way you wish. Scott has said he wanted his plans to enhance the Pac-10's revenue production in place by this summer. And summer's almost here. Is the Pac-10 ready to become the first Super Conference, beating the Big Ten to the punch? Has the Pac-10's research revealed the only way to make the Big Bucks is to think outside the box - the box being going to 12 teams by adding, say, Colorado and Utah?

There are many more questions but far fewer answers. YHC guesses - which is all anyone can do - that when the Big 12 meetings end Friday around noon, the news will be about something instead of nothing.

The Never Ending Story
The old phrase "may you live in interesting times" is considered to be both a Chinese proverb and a Chinese curse. Your Humble Correspondent would vote for the "curse" version. YHC would also favor a little less interesting, a little more business as usual. 

YHC's above entry deals with the latest Big Story in college sports. It was reported Thursday that the Pacific-10 Conference is planning on becoming a 16-team conference and will issue invitations to Big 12 schools Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado.

When Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott announced that his league would consider expansion as a way to increase revenue, the announcement was lost in the frenzy created by a similar announcement from the Big Ten Conference. Ironic, considering that those two conferences have long had a football relationship consummated each year in Pasadena's Rose Bowl.

Thursday's latest Breaking News Headline was merely another page in another chapter in another book that makes "War And Peace" look like a pamphlet. For YHC, the last two to three months have been unequalled when it comes to continuing stories (rumors?) involving conference expansion/realignment. Someone with a computer and lots of time to kill could wear out Google compiling the scoops that have melted into nothing.

When the Big 12 was formed in the mid 1990s, YHC was just another newspaper hack chasing rumors and writing stories. Back then, conference realignment happened out of necessity when the College Football Association - a forerunner of the current Big Six conference alignment - disbanded after the Southeastern Conference jumped ship. The Big 12 was formed and that was that.

The current realignment/expansion buzz started last December with the Big Ten and Pac-10 declarations of intent to explore expansion. Since then, rarely a day goes by without a story or a column weighing in on those topics. "Highly placed sources" and "a source with knowledge of the situation" have helped "reporters" write stories that might eventually prove to be accurate some time in the near future.

The Big 12 spring meetings conclude Friday. The Pacific-10 Conference spring meetings begin Friday. Big Ten presidents will meet within the next few days. Until Dan Beebe or Larry Scott or Jim Delany stand before a roomful of reporters and make definitive "it's a done deal" statements, YHC will continue to observe the most complicated and convoluted story he has ever witnessed.

Tuesday, June 1

Spring meetings open in Kansas City
The Big 12's annual spring meetings will be held in Kansas City starting Tuesday. Your Humble Correspondent has covered a few of these and can tell you that the anticipated stories are not always the stories that become reality.

One of the agenda items for consideration/discussion deals with the uncertainty created by the Big Ten Conference's possible expansion. Missouri and Nebraska are supposedly on the Big Ten's wish list. That is creating uncertainty for the Big 12. And it's not clear how or if the Big 12 will craft a response this week. If there is an official stance on the Big 12's future, it will likely be discussed Friday.

"The importance of these meetings can't be overstated," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe told the Kansas City Star. "This is a critical point in the time of the Big 12 and there needs to be some honest discussion about what must happen to solidify the members' standing in the conference."

Beebe would like to hear a commitment from all of the Conference's schools but that this week's meetings might only lay the ground work for the future.

"I think that we at least have to have a conversation about what can be done to get that commitment," he said. "It may be unrealistic to think administrators can make that commitment without going back to their boards. But I want to have a plan coming out of here and what our time frame would be."

The conference's athletic directors, senior women's administrators and faculty representatives will work through their agenda items starting Tuesday. Those groups will pass along their recommendations to the board of directors (school presidents and chancellors) who will convene Thursday and Friday.

An agenda item that should create action is future championship sites for football, men's and women's basketball and baseball. For the 2010-11 season, football will be held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, men's basketball at the Sprint Center and women's basketball at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City and baseball at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.

Future championship sites for the next three years could be announced, possibly on Thursday. According to media reports, the board of directors authorized Beebe to negotiate directly with the Cowboys for future football championship games in the $1.3 billion facility.

Tuesday's hot links
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com weighs in on this week's Big 12 spring meetings and what might happen.

This week's Big 12 spring meetings could be crucial to the future of the conference and, according to Stu Durando of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, commissioner Dan Beebe is well positioned to handle the situation.

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne believes this week's Big 12 spring meeting "could be fairly routine and insignificant. On the other hand, it could end up being a fairly dramatic discussion."

Columnist Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman foresees the Big 12 breaking up with six schools joining forces with the Pacific-10 Conference to form a 16-team conference.

New Kansas football coach Turner Gill is hard at work creating a new environment around the Jayhawks program.

Colorado's Liz Kritza is serious about rebuilding the school's volleyball team - so serious that the second-year coach has brought in 15 new players.

Interesting background on Hawaii, which stunned No. 1 seed Alabama with a walk-off home run and will face Missouri in the Women's College World Series Thursday.

 

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