Out In The Cold? Panic Officially Sets In At Kansas

Lee Barfknecht of the OMAHA WORLD-HERALD reported yesterday, “two Big 12 sources confirmed to The World-Herald that last week Nebraska and Missouri were given a drop-dead date — this Friday afternoon — to commit to the Big 12. Nebraska, with a Board of Regents meeting this weekend, asked for a delay into the week of June 14-18.

Lew Perkins as Luca Brasi

(Lew/KU’s Conference To Sleep With The Fishes?)

Nebraska’s decision on conference affiliation reportedly could trigger six schools bolting from the Big 12 to the Pac-10. Those half-dozen schools reportedly don’t include Kansas.

If you want to take the temperature of Kansans on that matter, Topeka Capital-Journal columnist Kevin Haskin provides a significant sample today:

Calling all politicians.

Pat Roberts, Sam Brownback, Kathleen Sebelius, Mark Parkinson … anyone with any connections whatsoever. Be it a regent, congressman, mayor, board chairman, entertainer or evangelist.

The time is now to get involved on behalf of Kansas and Kansas State.

Find a phone number or address for Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and rehearse a persuasive plea.

PLEEEESE! Do not abandon longtime partners you’ve competed against, and cajoled with, since helmets were made of leather.

While the dynamics of conference realignment are all about football, the shaky future of the Big 12 is more than just an athletics matter for KU and K-State.

If the Wildcats and Jayhawks are no longer competing in the big-time — repeat, rinse, repeat: B-C-S — virtually anything at K-State and KU could be affected. Adversely.

Both would still strive to be exemplary universities, retain great faculty, conduct breakthrough research and graduate sharp, promising professionals.

But enrollment could decline, perhaps significantly. Without as much sports exposure — be it daily on ESPN updates or over the course of a team schedule through television opportunities — the universities lose invaluable branding.

Embattled Kansas Athletic Director Lew Perkins strikes a similar tone on the subject:

“The most important thing for the University of Kansas and for college athletics is expansion. That’s it.

“If I said I wasn’t worried, I’d be a fool. I am worried every day — not only about Kansas and the Big 12, but for the Pac-10, the Big Ten. … This is serious, serious, serious stuff. I am concerned.”

Then there’s the most powerful man in Kansas, Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self:

This conference deal is a big-time concern. One reason why I feel strongly we are going to be OK is because I think we have the right guy fighting for us. I think with Lew’s experience, contacts and knowledge of the college environment and the vision one needs to move forward … I am glad Lew Perkins is our athletic director.

“Lew brings a pretty big bat to the plate. People will listen to him. He has talked to me about conference realignment for six months. He said, ‘Bill, this is a big deal.’ This is not news to him. This is not a time we need to be half-stepping. We need to have somebody in there fighting hard.”

Perkins may bring a big bat, but he doesn’t bring millions of television-watching households, football tradition or even academic prestige - all things contributing to KU being passed over by the Big Ten.

That has Perkins playing poker. From the LAWRENCE (KS) JOURNAL-WORLD:

“I won’t go into any details,” he said. “But you’re not in this business 42 years (without having) discussions with a lot of people. People are calling me, I’m calling them, we’re communicating. It’s there.”

When asked if he would listen if the Big 10 came calling, Perkins added to the drama.

“How do you know they haven’t called us?” he asked with a smile.

I’ll inclined to give Perkins a pass on his seemingly dubious claim - as I’m in the market for a ticket upgrade and free gym equipment.

But if you yourself aren’t, and you believe credible media reports, there’s very little doubt Kansas will be the biggest loser in the mad expansion scramble between the Big Ten and Pac-10.

If that does indeed play out, what options are there for the Jayhawks?

One: The Big East.

But if the Big Ten is able to cajole Syracuse and Rutgers into joining its league, which it is reportedly attempting this week, KU’s only option at this moment suddenly would become The Big Least.

And from talking to media sources in Kansas City today, presently the two dirtiest words in Lawrence are: Mountain. West.

Barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance, KU has completely lost the ability to control its own athletic affiliation destiny. Columnist Haskin’s advice for Kansas officials:

Pacify Osborne. Stroke (NU President) Perlman. Beg if you must. And don’t hesitate to wear red.

If only all those 11-1 conference votes had been 10-2.

Sorry, KU.