Senior Writer

Kansas evidence of basketball's second-class status in college


The Pac-10 is interested in as many as six Big 12 schools. They are Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and either Colorado or Baylor. Meantime, the Big Ten is considering two Big 12 schools for its expansion plans. They are Nebraska and Missouri. Which means 75 percent of the Big 12's current members are possible targets of leagues anxious to grow.

And Kansas isn't one of them.

Think about that.

Ponder this: Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks could be left without a home. (Getty Images)  
Ponder this: Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks could be left without a home. (Getty Images)  
Kansas -- home of a top-five basketball program by most historical and current measuring sticks -- is no more of a player in the eat-or-be-eaten game of conference realignment than Iowa State or Kansas State. Or even Kennesaw State, really. And though none of this is a grand revelation -- the ACC, remember, didn't worry much about hoops when it raided the Big East back in 2003 -- it is most certainly a reminder that the future of college athletics will be decided without a single thought to how it affects college basketball.

Or one of college basketball's premier programs.

That Kansas is an afterthought in this madness despite winning a national title in 2008, spending much of last season ranked No. 1 and entering next season as owners of a 147-game streak of sellouts at the 16,300-seat Allen Fieldhouse supports what I've said for years: College basketball is closer to college baseball than college football in terms of the importance placed on the things that will shape leagues.

All that matters is football and TV markets. That's it. If the Pac-10 and Big Ten -- or, down the road, the SEC -- end up with some nice basketball additions when everything settles, it will be a bonus for basketball fans of those leagues, but nothing more. Again, basketball just doesn't register, not even KU's elite basketball program, which is about as important as Cal State-Fullerton's elite baseball program to the conference leaders backstabbing each other in the name of greed.

How irrelevant is Kansas basketball in expansion?

So irrelevant that Notre Dame football will likely decide its future.

That's crazy but true.

There's now some thought that much of this insanity could be avoided if Notre Dame would agree to join the Big Ten because the Big Ten would then stop at 12 schools, at which point Nebraska wouldn't have anywhere to go, at which point Texas would commit to staying in the Big 12, at which point the Big 12 would survive. But if Notre Dame sticks to being an independent, the Big Ten will likely at least offer membership to Nebraska. And if Nebraska goes to the Big Ten, Texas and five others will almost certainly move to the Pac-10, at which point the Big 12 would cease to exist.

And then what?

Kansas to the Big East?


But there's no guarantee the Big East will be around in three years, because if the Pac-10 and Big Ten go to 16 schools, the SEC might raid the ACC to get to 16, at which point the ACC would likely again raid the Big East, at which point the Big East could cease to exist just like the Big 12.

Would that lead to Kansas in the ACC?

Or the Mountain West?

(If it's the latter, good luck turning a big profit by scalping stolen league tournament tickets.)

Honestly, it's difficult to project where this is headed because uncertainty will reign until we know for certain what Notre Dame and Nebraska are going to do. The only guarantee is that all the history inside Allen Fieldhouse won't have a thing to do with determining KU's future conference affiliation, either way, because though Kansas is huge in the world of college basketball, what we've been reminded over the past week is that Kansas basketball, great as it is, hardly matters in the revenue-driven, football-centered larger world of college athletics.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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