By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – With Texas and Oklahoma both planning to leave the Big 12 Conference to join the Southeastern Conference, there is a belief that the Big Ten has to strike fast in order to keep pace with conference realignment.
Acting quickly is one thing, while acting prudently is another.
Unless Notre Dame is finally willing to join the Big Ten anytime soon, which seems highly unlikely, it would be impossible for the Big Ten to match what the SEC is adding with Texas and Oklahoma.
From tradition to television markets to fan support and hype, Texas and Oklahoma are about as good as it gets, especially in regard to football, which is the driving financial force behind most conferences.
If Texas and Oklahoma both wanted to join the Big Ten, it would make sense to welcome them with open arms, and the sooner the better.
But they both have chosen to join forces with the SEC, a decision that makes a lot of sense as the rich just get richer.
The fear is that if the Big Ten doesn’t act quickly, it will be left behind. And while there is some justification for feeling that way, it still isn’t reason to panic, or make hasty decisions.
Since the news broke late last week that Texas and Oklahoma would be on the move, how the Big Ten will respond has been a hot topic in which everyone seems to have an opinion, fans and the media.
It seems widely believed that the Big Ten will counter the SEC by adding two schools as soon as possible. That would give the Big Ten 16 teams with two eight-team divisions arranged by geography.
That scenario makes sense, but again, it’s more important to act prudently than swiftly.
Nebraska was thought to be a major catch when it joined the Big Ten in 2011, but it’s now mediocre in football and even worse in men’s basketball.
So be careful what you wish for.
Iowa State and Kansas are two schools from the Big 12 that have been mentioned as options for the Big Ten, but neither moves the needle.
Iowa State wouldn’t help much at all from a financial standpoint because it would bring no additional television markets, little tradition and little name recognition.
The Cyclones are certainly on the rise in football under Matt Campbell, and as long as he stays there, the program should be solid.
But should Campbell leave anytime soon, Iowa State could quickly unravel under a different head coach, and has a history of doing that.
Campbell appears loyal to Iowa State, but that loyalty will be tested with Texas and Oklahoma both leaving for the SEC.
The Big 12 is in danger of becoming a mid-level conference with little relevance, and reports are that its current members are scrambling to find a new conference.
Iowa State switching to the Big Ten makes sense from a geographical standpoint, but that’s about it unless there is something else being overlooked.
Kansas sort of makes sense from a television market standpoint because it would bring with it the Kansas City metropolitan area.
It also has one of college men’s basketball’s most storied traditions.
But the Kansas football program is horrible, and has been for decades, and shows no signs of getting better anytime soon.
Missouri would be a more attractive option for the Big Ten, and the Big Ten would be a better option for Missouri than its current memberships in the SEC, which it joined in 2012.
Missouri would bring both the Kansas City and St. Louis television markets, along with very a competitive athletic program in both men’s and women’s sports.
That combined with Missouri’s location should make it quite attractive to the Big Ten.
And look at this way Iowa fans, should Missouri join the Big Ten it couldn’t back out from playing Iowa in football as it did in 2004.
Missouri certainly isn’t on the same level as Texas or Oklahoma, but it’s a much better option that Iowa State or Kansas.
It probably would be a longshot for the Big Ten to add Missouri under the current circumstances. But if anything has been learned about conference realignment, it’s that nothing seems beyond reason, besides Notre Dame joining a conference on a full-time status.
Notre Dame has been steadfast in its commitment to remain as an independent in football, and with talk of the college playoff expanding to eight , or maybe even 12 teams, that commitment should only strengthen.
The Big Ten is now playing catch-up to the SEC, but that shouldn’t be reason to add schools that bring little besides being from a different Power 5 conference.
Iowa State and Kansas need the Big Ten a lot more than the Big Ten needs them.