KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Can Missouri or Nebraska be guilted into remaining Big 12 members?
That wasn't the tact taken by some of the conference's old guard, but their passionate support of the Big 12 made it sound like anybody would be crazy to leave.
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione held the same job at Missouri, and Texas A&M's Bill Byrne was running Nebraska's athletic department when the Big 12 was hatched in the mid-1990s.
The conference not existing in its current form — an idea that's sprouted over the last six months because of Big Ten expansion speculation — perplexes both.
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"A lot of people have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to help this league become successful," Castiglione said Wednesday as the Big 12 spring meetings concluded its second day at the InterContinental Kansas City on the Plaza.
Count the Sooners in. Same with the Aggies.
"From an A&M perspective we want to stay together," Byrne said. "We're committed to this."
Castiglione dug deep into the Big 12's roots, reminding a large media gathering of the benefits provided by the league for the Sooners and all other members.
"I'm consistently reminded why the Big 12 came together in the first place, what we have achieved over time," Castiglione said.
Among the accomplishments is income from television contracts and other sources that increases every year. In the last year of the Big Eight, schools divvied up $27 million. Last year, the figure topped $130 million and is expected to climb for this academic year.
"This league was developed because people thought innovatively, creatively," Castiglione said. "We may not have been the league that had the largest population in its footprint, or the largest number of states represented, but we found a way to accentuate our strengths and put ourselves in a position to be strong and competitive and prominent on a national scale.
"Take any sport you want and you'll find proof in the pudding."
Castiglione said it feels strange to defend his conference because another conference is talking expansion.
"Six months ago, this wasn't an issue for the Big 12," Castiglione said. "You wouldn't be here if the subject didn't come up in another conference."
But it did, and Missouri and Nebraska as Big Ten candidates has been a source of speculation, although athletic directors from both schools weren't about to veer Wednesday from the party line.
"Missouri is a proud member of the Big 12," Tigers athletic director Mike Alden. "I think we've shown that over the years."
Nebraska's Tom Osborne was asked if he believed the Big 12 will remain intact.
"I think there's a very good chance that it will," Osborne said. "We like the Big 12."
"There very well may be a higher gross for somebody (in a different conference)," Castiglione said. "But does it really help your program move forward? The reality sets in and they realize increased travel costs, changes in game times, playing on non-traditional dates, all of those things."