The Big 12’s decision to remain at 10 teams after months of indicating it was hellbent on expansion, besides being mathematically unstable, makes it much tougher for Wichita State to find a new conference home.
If, indeed, that’s what the Shockers are looking for as part of a comprehensive study of their athletic department led by the president (John Bardo) and athletic director (Darron Boatright).
Bardo has been saying all along that the Big 12’s decision would have an impact on WSU’s conference-affiliation and return-of-football possibilities while also saying that a change in conferences or the addition of football wasn’t a probability or even a necessity.
Beyond what’s been said, though, it’s apparent Wichita State would like to do something. While the Shockers might remain in the Missouri Valley for another 100 years, I don’t think it’s what they want.
By potentially adding two teams to the mix, the Big 12 would have likely pushed over a domino. If Houston and Cincinnati had gotten the call, for instance, the American Athletic Conference would have been down two schools. And perhaps the AAC would have reached out to Wichita State and done what it could to help with the process of starting football.
Status quo for the Big 12, though, means status quo for conference movement, at least in the short- to mid-term. And perhaps longer. It becomes more difficult for Wichita State to make a move, more likely that staying in the Valley is the only and best option.
That doesn’t mean the Shockers can’t move ahead with a study of football, or even continue to monitor conferences. Perhaps the basketball-only Big East will shock the world and decide Wichita State is a fit.
Don’t hold your breath, though. The Big East is still pretty full of itself.
Boatright said Tuesday he’s not surprised by the Big 12’s decision to stand pat and admitted the path to a new conference or a return of football became a little harder to navigate for Wichita State.
“I don’t think it necessarily limits our opportunities, but what I think it does is probably slows them down,” Boatright said. “There’s probably a need for us to be even more aggressive if we want to continue to market ourselves to other conferences. There’s no natural trickle-down now. Had the Big 12 expanded and started a barrage of changes, I think it would have been natural for someone to come calling.”
Wichita State would have been in a better position to fill a void left in a conference like the American rather than to have to hope that a conference decides to reach out in its own expansion plan.
Which means I’d be surprised if the Shockers leave the Valley any time soon. And if ever an athletic program was ready to leave the Valley, it’s this one.
“The president has said all along that if the environment is such that we need to stay in the MVC, we’re fine with that,” Boatright said. “Publicly, we’ve said we want to explore everything we can to determine what’s best. If staying in the Missouri Valley is best for us right now, we’re totally OK.”
Well, I’m not.
The best-case scenario was for WSU to somehow twist its way into the Mountain West or American. The Shockers have done all they can do in the Missouri Valley.
Except, I suppose, play football. At least not for the past 30 years.
The Big 12’s ineptitude is the only thing trickling down. I doubt many good things about the conference have been said in athletic departments at Cincinnati, BYU, Houston, Connecticut and at least a dozen others.
The Big 12 is already on the outside looking in when it comes to power football conferences. It’s decision to stay at 10 members, sold hard as the right decision Monday evening by commissioner Bob Bowlsby and OU president David Boren, was apparently made without formally interviewing any of the prospective expansion candidates.
Boren, who has given Big 12 administrators much to cringe about during the process, has been so hot and cold on expansion that I’m surprised he didn’t catch pneumonia.
But after months of trying on tuxedos, the Big 12 slipped back into sweats.
In the aftermath, I’ll be surprised if Wichita State has any viable options other than remaining where it is and perhaps trying football at the FCS level against teams like Illinois State, Missouri State, Youngstown State and North Dakota State.
More basketball against Drake, Bradley, Loyola and the like.
Pardon me while I put away my party favors. Something tells me there’s not going to be a change in conference affiliation to celebrate.