For the past two seasons the Pac-12 has been considered the weakest major college basketball conference in the nation.
That won’t change if the league adds Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, as has been widely speculated. Throwing the Longhorns into the mix would provide a marginal boost, but the other three teams won’t significantly improve the league. At least not in the immediate future.
That’s why the Pac-12 needs to re-think its options and examine the situation more carefully. If it does it will realize the smartest move would be to ditch Texas Tech in favor of Kansas. Here’s why the decision would make sense:
The Pac-12 doesn’t need Texas Tech. As long as the Longhorns are there, the league will be relevant in Texas and have a huge television presence throughout the state. Having Kansas in the conference, though, would give the Pac-12 a whole new media market in the Midwest. So there’s one thing Kansas offers that Texas Tech can’t.
Pac-12 rules prohibit single-school networks, but along with its league-wide network, the Pac-12 does have six regional networks, each featuring two schools. That means Texas could likely keep its Longhorn Network if it adapted to the Pac-12 model and partnered with another school. The assumption is that Texas would partner with Texas Tech. That scenario begs one question: Why? What’s the attraction? Texas should set the bar higher. You want a mega-network that’s viewed by millions? How about partnering Texas with Oklahoma?
Texas Tech football is obviously on a higher level than Kansas football, but it’s not as if the Red Raiders are surging right now. The program has been on a decline since the Mike Leach mess two years ago. Considering the momentum behind in-state programs such as Texas A&M, Baylor and TCU, it may be awhile before Texas Tech becomes a perennial Top 25 team again. Still, Kansas doesn’t compare to the Red Raiders in terms of fan interest, the ability to lure top recruits and overall potential. But should that really matter? The new Pac-12 would be stocked with Top 25-caliber programs such as Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Cal, Oklahoma State, Stanford and others. Plus, the Jayhawks – who won the Orange Bowl in 2008 – aren’t always terrible. They just have been lately. Adding a struggling Kansas program to that mix certainly wouldn’t damage the prestige of the league, especially when the move would help in so many other areas.
In Kansas basketball, the Pac-12 would be getting a national program, a national brand. Texas Tech can’t offer that in any sport. As the signature team, the Jayhawks would bring instant credibility to a league whose other big draw (UCLA) continues to underachieve. The coast-to-coast exposure the Jayhawks would command would benefit the entire conference. Which game would have a better chance of appearing on national television: Cal vs. Texas Tech, or Cal vs. Kansas?
It’s not as if Texas Tech’s athletic program is terrible. Across the board, it appears in much better shape than the one at Kansas. The lure of Kansas basketball, though, should be enough to convince the Pac-12 to take the Jayhawks over the Red Raiders. It’d be unfortunate for Texas Tech, which would clearly be the most expendable option in this scenario. Texas and Oklahoma are obviously shoo-ins, and Oklahoma State provides a national-caliber football team – and Boone Pickens’ millions.
Developments in the coming days should be interesting. While it seems more likely that Kansas will end up in the Big East, the Pac-12 seems like a better fit.
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