Baylor’s Plan B? The Big East

Jason King
Yahoo! Sports

Baylor administrators have had discussions with the Big East and are confident the league would extend an invitation to the Bears if the Big 12 implodes, a source with knowledge of the conversations told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday night.

“There haven’t been any guarantees,” the source said. “But [Baylor] feels strongly that that’s what would happen.”

Big East officials declined to comment, but it’s certainly not difficult to see why the conference would value Baylor. The Bears are surging in football and men’s basketball and are a perennial contender for the NCAA title in women’s basketball.

[Jason King: Kansas fits Pac-12 hoops]

If 20th-ranked Baylor maintains its spot in the Associated Press football poll, it will likely be one of only two schools in the country (Texas A&M the other) ranked in all three sports when the basketball season opens in November. Also, with TCU set to join the league in 2012, the Big East sees the importance of adding another Texas school.

With the Big 12 losing Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 this season, the potential makeup of the conference seems to change by the minute.

The SEC agreed earlier this week to extend an invitation to Texas A&M – but only if the other nine Big 12 schools waived their rights to pursue litigation against the SEC. On Wednesday it was reported that Baylor had refused to agree to those terms. By the end of the day, seven other schools – Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State – had joined the Bears in their stand.

Why did the Bears hunker down?

“Why wouldn’t we?” a school official said.

Indeed, Baylor’s refusal to waive its legal rights had nothing to do with trying to get back at Texas A&M or animosity toward the SEC. It was about common sense. The Bears and other schools are simply trying to protect themselves.

Baylor hasn’t threatened to sue Texas A&M. School officials said Wednesday they have no plans to pursue litigation against the Aggies.

At least not yet.

But what if Texas A&M leaves, the Big 12 implodes and Baylor ends up in the Big East, where the TV package is worth, say, $5 million less than the contract the Bears had in the Big 12? That’s a pretty big financial loss brought on all because the Aggies decided to jump to the SEC. Would Baylor pursue legal action then?

“I’m sure we’d consider it,” the university source said. “But I’m sure everyone would. Why wouldn’t you?”

A move to the Big East would significantly increase travel budgets for schools such as Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas. Flying from Waco to Philadelphia to play Villanova, for example, would be much more costly than a 60-minute trip to Stillwater. And we aren’t just talking about travel for football and men’s basketball. Other men’s and women’s sports’ itineraries would be massively impacted.

Baylor certainly doesn’t have any reason to do any favors for Texas A&M. Still, the Bears aren’t the ones stopping the Aggies from joining the SEC. The SEC – not Baylor or the Big 12 – is the party that imposed the stipulation regarding litigation rights. The SEC is free to lift it anytime, which would pave the way for the Aggies to change conferences.

Looking out for its financial interests wasn’t Baylor’s only motivation Wednesday. Even though the likelihood of a Big East invite exists, the truth is Baylor covets its spot in the Big 12. It doesn’t want to end up in the Big East or another conference. The Bears can see the absurdity the situation would create. By delaying the process for another week or two, they hope other schools, including the linchpin, Oklahoma, will come to that realization, too.

Baylor and its allies hope Oklahoma thinks of the traditions and rivalries lost and the economic impact for fans the end of the Big 12 would bring. If the Sooners head to the Pac-12, then the Big 12 is likely dead. On the flip side, Oklahoma could save the league by reaffirming its allegiance.

The coming days and weeks will redefine the landscape of a league and of college sports.

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