College sports has had another topsy turvy summer with regards to major college sports programs switching conferences. The University of Texas and University of Oklahoma are set to join the SEC, leaving the Big 12 behind. There may be more conference realignment related fireworks in the near future, as the University of Kansas is reportedly mulling over whether or not to leave the Big 12 for the Big 10. It would be just another gargantuan domino to fall, and would leave the Big 12 in a world of trouble as they attempted to pick up the pieces.
The Jayhawks’ most revered athletic program is men’s basketball, which would join an already stacked hoops conference. Going up against the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and a number of other challenging conference opponents will certainly test Kansas’ long-lasting reputation as a college basketball blue-blood.
From a competitive standpoint, remaining in a conference that stands to lose top tier athletic talent might be a losing proposition for Kansas and other schools. For sports that take strength of schedule into effect, playing teams that are viewed as a cut below others that reside in a super conference could negatively affect a postseason resume. Acting as the big fish in a small pond has worked for certain schools(see Gonzaga’s men’s basketball program for example), but it will be interesting to see if the Jayhawks’ recruiting ability takes a hit in all sports if they remain in the Big 12.
The Kansas Athletics twitter feed has received attention recently for trying to build up its influence as a powerhouse university. Critics have bemoaned Kansas’ attempt to brand itself as a two city school, looping in Kansas City, Missouri as part of its territorial domain. At worst, folks have perceived this as a plea to get other major conferences to notice them.
Kansas, and other schools have a few million reasons to consider joining other conferences. Time will tell as to whether the re-organization of college sports will be for the better, but there are a couple counterintuitive points at play here. Super-conferences of 14 and 16 teams sound impressive on paper, but ultimately dilutes possibility for sustained rivalries. In many sports, a team in a super conference might face each opponent only once, if at all. It will be interesting to see whether super conferences force rivalry games on to the schedule, or setup a true rotational system where certain schools will go a couple of years without playing despite being in the same conference.