The offseason is a time for could have beens and should have beens, as we count the minutes until the return of college sporting events (unless you're really into baseball. I like baseball, but it's not the same as college hoops).
In the style of What If...? and the Twilight Zone, we now enjoy an imagined idea that could have been - the Big East/ Big 12 merger that never was.
Back in September 2011, when Pittsburgh and Syracuse planned to leave (but before Louisville declared they too would pretend they are neat the Atlantic Ocean despite the realities of geography*) and the Big 12's marquee members (Texas/ Texas Tech/ Oklahoma/ Oklahoma State) were talking to the Pac-12. Andrew Luck got on the phone.
Let's watch the World Cup!
Let's watch the World Cup!
Let Oliver Luck, the Athletic Director of West Virginia (and a man who certainly loves being in front of a microphone) explain; these comments came at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention.
So Luck began cold-calling athletic directors at Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State with a proposal.
"I didn't know those guys from Adam," Luck said. "I knew the schools. I told them, 'Your conference may fall apart. You guys look like you might get left behind. Why don't we take all of you and TCU, which was kind of homeless."
Luck's plan, which also had the support of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, was also to add UCF for a 12-team Big East divided into two divisions: West: Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU and Louisville; East: UConn, Cincinnati, Rutgers, West Virginia, South Florida and UCF.
"I remember thinking: 'That's not a bad conference,'" Luck said. "And we would have kept the affiliation with the (Big East) basketball schools, because they loved the addition of Kansas. They (the Big 12 schools) also liked it. They were nervous as hell, too. We had a series of phone calls. That was sort of our best option."
Think on that for a minute - on the scenario, not Oliver Luck buffing a trophy until it shines and then staring at himself in it. St. John's vs Kansas on Big Monday? Villanova vs. Baylor? Trips to Iowa State?
And a strong ESPN contract?
The Big 12 never broke up - the reason for this article is a look at the strength of the geographically taut and well-sized Big 12. Much like the Big East, ten is a great number for many sports, even if that grouping includes a trip to West Virginia, well across the country.
The concept of this megaconference is nice to dream about, the source for so many video game style matchups. But after the initial tumescence of playing at Phog Allen's Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas and discovering Iowa's very pleasant, the same issues would remain for the basketball and the football schools.
Football wants to dominate a conference and reap benefits the programs feel they deserve.
Basketball-only schools always had to fear of being jettisoned like an underperforming unit or a legacy magazine (see Time Magazine's recent misfortunes).
And the reality of travel, especially for the non-revenue sports, would have been more difficult. Omaha is fairly remote, but has a solid airport, like Milwaukee or Cincinnati. Manhattan, Lawrence, Ames? A bit less accessible, with tiny regional airports. (Of course, having private jets help.)
And being in a conference with South and Central Florida isn't good for anyone's basketball fortunes.
Louisville and Rutgers would have jumped at their offers to switch to the ACC and the Big Ten, respectively. And the uncertainty around the conference would continue.
Like at the end of a What If...? there's no sense that the world is better off with the change.
Consider that St. John's fans would, right now, be thinking about another UConn championship win, listening to the AD of some piddly football school like Iowa State complain about the bloated hoops schedule and other opportunities, the Kansas hoops program would moan about the weakness of South Florida and Seton Hall and DePaul. Plus we'd have Oliver Luck as some kind of spokesperson.
What are your thoughts? What do you think would be better or worse about being in a conference with the remnants of the Big 12? (Also, are you watching the World Cup? I am. Should we have an open thread?)
* Who are we kidding? Creighton fans have never SEEN the ocean. They think it's a myth. I'm kidding. They have TVs in Nebraska.