What’s been going on with the Big 12 schools being potentially “wooed” by the Big Ten, Pac-10 or both has reminded me somewhat of a high school dance. You know, where everyone’s broken off into their little cliques, but there are emissaries (admittedly, too grand a word) who are flitting around between the groups and passing on messages.
A lot is lost in translation, of course. And then there’s giggling, posturing, goofiness, embarrassment, shyness, bravado and general misunderstanding. And many rumors started.
So far, various media reports have suggested several possibilities that mean the end of the Big 12 as we’ve known it since 1996. Including a breakup of the eight schools that previously formed the Big Eight.
The most recent came Thursday in the midst of the Big 12 meetings here in Kansas City and at least seemed pretty serious: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado being invited to the Pac-10. We’ve also heard Missouri, Nebraska and Texas all mentioned as targets of the Big Ten.
Like what might happen with a bunch of hormonally-charged but socially awkward adolescents at a dance, there may ultimately be more smoke than fire here. But … there also may be the possibility that we’re seeing the end of the Big 12.
Obviously, as everyone knows (and I’ve written before), the impetus of any such changes has absolutely nothing to do with women’s sports, or even with most men’s sports. Football drives all conference realignments, and everything else – even men’s hoops – is pretty much just along for the ride.
That said, it’s notable that once again – no surprise – the Big 12 led all conferences in women’s basketball attendance this past season. That was for the 11th year in a row, with average attendance for 2009-2010 games at 5,247 _ pretty far ahead of the second-place SEC (4,005).
First in home attendance in the Big 12 was Iowa State (9,316) and fourth was Baylor (7,209). These are schools that have been portrayed as “orphans” – at least temporarily – along with Kansas and Kansas State after the Big Ten and Pac-10 complete their respective raids (if, that is, any of this occurs.)
What is going to happen to women’s basketball attendance at the current Big 12 schools if the league is broken up? And what about the fact that Baylor has positioned itself as one of the more elite programs in the country, capable of contending regularly for the Women’s Final Four? Will Baylor be able to maintain that status if the school ends up in what’s perceived as a “lesser-tier” conference?
Right now, it’s still all about waiting and watching and, frankly, worrying. Because the stakes are high, and the landscape could change in a way that would dramatically impact women’s basketball.