Expansionpalooza is driven by a mix of four things: practical economics, fear, greed and football. For fans it’s that last one – football – which is the driver. But the end result will have far reaching consequences on the other sports. Those other sports are ones which are often subsidized by the football program, though basketball is a different animal. Basketball is often self-sufficient, and at a few institutions it turns accounting on its head and kicks down cash to the (usually awful) football programs.
For the Kansas Jayhawks, this could mean many things. Kansas has the premier basketball program in the Big 12. Texas has all of the resources to be able to match them, but hasn’t. The Jayhawks have won the Big 12 regular season title in eight straight seasons (shared twice), and haven’t finished worse than 2nd in thirteen years. That’s the most dominant conference team in the nation.
But now the Big 12 looks to be expanding. A journalist with really good ties to Florida State claims that their move is inevitable. The other two most talked about teams are Clemson and Louisville. Regardless of who is right, the consensus seems to be that somebody is moving.
Already, TCU and West Virginia are in. TCU’s basketball program is underwhelming, but West Virginia is solid. And they have the finances to remain competitive with the upper echeolon of the Big 12. Their overall athletic budget isn’t anything special, but their hoops budget is. It’s not on the Texas/Kansas level, but it’s only one level down. Swapping TCU and West Virginia for Texas A&M and Missouri will probably be about a wash in basketball terms.
What about Florida State and Clemson? As I noted a couple weeks ago, the Seminoles and Tigers are ACC bottom feeders in terms of basketball programs. And unless FSU can parlay their recent success into an increased budget, it’s likely a matter of time before they slip back toward the pack. Collegiate sports are a money game. The rich teams win.
Which leaves Louisville. Should Kansas fans be wishing to add Louisville?
Depends on your perspective. If you want KU to continue to be the big dog until Texas gets it together, than no, you don’t want Louisville. If you want the Big 12 to increase their stature in college hoops – then by all means, Louisville is the team you want. In case you haven’t noticed, they have one of the highest paid coaches in the game. They play in a brand new, 22,000 seat arena. In short, they’re rich. Louisville is among the clear money makers in college basketball. Which means that the tradition that the Cardinals have built (2 National Titles, 9 Final Fours) is only going to get more impressive – barring disaster.
From a basketball perspective it would suddenly drop Kansas and Texas into 2nd in terms of resources. Not that KU is going anywhere. They’re going to have a great team again next season, and likely the season after that (repeat, etc…). So if I’m a Kansas basketball fan and I got to pick two teams from Florida State, Clemson and Louisville the choice would be easy. And then out of FSU or Clemson, just give me whichever one helps out the other sports the most.