What’s The Matter With Kansas?

In the midst of the current conference expansion insanity, we have a school that’s soon to not be aligned with any major conference. They are the 3rd-winningest program in their sport’s history. They’ve won 5 National Championships. Their first coach was the inventor of the sport itself.

So why doesn’t anyone want Kansas?

Yeah, yeah, I know, football is king. Football makes the most money, has the most support, and consequently dictates every decision made by the major conferences. But how insane is it that Kansas, arguably the most storied program in college basketball history, will be left out in the cold while Nebraska, an irrelevant basketball school for its entire history and barely an above-average football one over the past decade, gets to decide the fate of an entire conference? How does that make any sense?

Over at ESPN, Eamonn Brennan tackled the issue of Kansas’ inexplicable irrelevance in the conference shuffle:

“The Pac-10 doesn’t want Kansas. The Big Ten doesn’t seem wholly interested. The Jayhawks are, for the moment, on the outside of conference expansion looking in. Which says a lot more about conference expansion than it does the Kansas Jayhawks.

What it says is that college basketball doesn’t at all factor into what conference expansion will produce.”

What if the tables were turned? What if, say, Michigan was without an affiliation? Would other major conferences possibly be interested in adding them to their ranks?

Of course they would — they’d kill for Michigan. Because Michigan is the football equivalent of Kansas basketball. Another KU analogue, Notre Dame, has been fending off would-be conference suitors (in football, at least) for decades. That’s the reality of being a college football powerhouse. But when an elite basketball program becomes available, the only question is, “How’s their football team?”

Like Brennan wrote, basketball fans may understand this summer’s conference free-for-all on an intellectual level, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stomach when one of the prestige programs in the entire country, the place where Dr. James Naismith himself coached, finds itself on the outside looking in while historically lame basketball programs like Colorado and Nebraska dictate its future.

About Neil Paine

I work for Sports-Reference.com. I've been a freelance writer for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and Basketball Prospectus.

Posted on June 11, 2010, in NCAA, No Math Required, Rants & Ramblings. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Steve Flanders

    What kills me about the realignment issue is the hypocrisy of the University presidents. Nebraska is a better academic fit in the Big 10 than it is in the Big 12? “Academic quality” is a bs measure, but assuming it is measurable and using the US News 2010 rankings as an imperfect stand-in for it, Nebraska is 3 standard deviations worse than the average Big 10 school, while it falls smack dab in the middle of the Big 12’s rankings. In fact, Nebraska is almost 2 standard deviations away from the “worst” Big 10 school’s academic ranking. The Big 12’s academic reputations are far closer to the Pac 10’s than they are to the Big 10’s (I’m a Cal guy, so that’s painful for me to admit.) Nebraska is a “fit” for the Big 10 only in the football and money sense; the presidents of the Big 10 have shown what they value.

  2. Not to mention that Kansas just recently had a season where they were unbeaten most of the year in football…their program has had some decent years. And Nebraska is a ways from their national title run.
    Kansas could end up in the Mountain West…it is a geographic stretch, but that conference is quickly gaining football prestige.

  3. Nebraska is an AAU member. I’m not sure how large their research revenue is, but I’m sure it’s significant. Either way, I’m sure that the Big 10 went FAR beyond US News rankings in evaluating Nebraska as an academic fit.

    Kansas is sort of like Nebraska without a marquee football program. Kansas just has too many downsides for its basketball program to overcome: relative geographic isolation, crappy football, and small television markets. The Big 10 would rather have Missouri or Nebraska, they’re too far away for the SEC, Big East, and ACC, and the Pac 10 appears to prefer the Big 12 south schools. If the Pac 10 could cherry pick, they might take Kansas, but they seem to be stuck taking Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State as a package deal.

  4. Who says the Pac 10 won’t take Kansas? If they add Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, that would leave them at 15. The rumor is they will grab Utah to end up at 16, but why not go for total domination in the two biggest college sports? Better yet, drop Oklahoma State and get BYU. The other rumor was that A&M may be going to the SEC (yeah, that makes sense….), so maybe they could get Kansas and Utah.

  5. they are going to destroy college sports. growing up in the 80’s and 90’s i liked college sports best. as i got older i learned that the college game is no different from the pro game . the only small difference is the players dont get paid just the schools. who turn around and use these kids to make money. atleast you can respect the pro game for being honest about being greedy and for giving us a better product. all those rivalries dont mean as much. kansas not in the big 12 is like the cowboys not playing in the nfc east. leave well enough alone. this dont even make sense except it does make dollars and cents. college has stooped down to the pro level except for that the college product is weak. i say all players should ask for cars and money to play on these teams. why not be paid like the pros…..the schools are

  6. Well, it looks like Kansas will stay in the Big 12, thanks to Texas. But now the Big 12 has 10 teams, the Big 10 has 12 teams, and the Pac-10 has 11 teams… So do we call the Big 12 the “Big 10” now, and the Big 10 the “Big 12”? And is the Pac-10 the “Pac-11” now?

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