An era has almost undeniably come to an end. With the departure of Colorado to the Pac 10 Conference, and what looks like the eventual departure of Nebraska to the Big Ten, along with any combination of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac 10, SEC or Big Ten, the Big Twelve as we have known it is dead. Gone will be old rivalries and new alike, and one now defunct conference with a very proud history - the Big 8 - stands to be shattered apart.
To those schools that are leaving - good luck and godspeed. By entertaining these offers, your leadership has made clear that you do not want to make the Big 12 work, and have no intention of doing so. It has been intimated that Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor officials have and will continue to meet to see if the Big 12 can remain viable, but the fact that only these four schools are involved, and not Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri goes to show a lot in terms of how things are run. Will the Big 12 survive? It might, but in even more contention circumstances than in the past.
What lies ahead for what has been dubbed the "Forgotten Four" - Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri? Little is known at this point. Reports on Twitter have the four schools beginning discussions with the Big East to create a superconference consisting of 12 teams in football and 20 in basketball. While this is not optimal compared to a Big 12 that could continue to exist, at this point, it is far more important that Iowa State and the other three schools look out for their best interests. Whether that involves a move to the Big East, to the Big Ten or some other conference, the Big 12 leaders have let the ship sail and the power brokers in the conference have decided that the Big 12 is not important enough to save.
More troubling for Iowa State is their status as a BCS school. This statement from the Iowa Board of Regents could not be any more non-committal:
The following statement was released by Board of Regents President David Miles on Thursday:
'The speculation about re-alignment of college athletic conferences is understandably a matter of concern right now for the faculty and staff, the students, the fans, alumni and friends of Iowa State University.
"Today’s announcement by the University of Colorado that it will be leaving the Big 12 Conference to join the Pac 10 Conference is disappointing. Certainly, this change and others that are reportedly being discussed could have a significant, negative impact on Iowa State.
"The Board of Regents is proud of the athletics program at Iowa State, the professionalism of the administration, the enthusiasm and loyalty of the fans and supporters, and of course, the dedication and achievements of the student athletes. While considerable attention is focused on membership in athletic conferences, this should not overshadow the many accomplishments of our student athletes. For example, Iowa State’s Lisa Koll yesterday recorded a remarkable achievement: her third NCAA championship when she won the 10,000-meter race at the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Oregon. Additionally, Iowa State University led the Big 12 student athlete graduation rate at 79 percent in the latest rankings.
"Iowa State President Gregory Geoffroy and Athletics Director Jamie Pollard are working diligently to ensure the best possible outcome for Iowa State. This includes talks with other presidents, chancellors and athletics directors, as well as with Governor Culver and members of Iowa’s congressional delegation.
"The Board of Regents applauds and supports these efforts."
This statement is garbage, and I have no doubt the language would be much stronger if the University of Iowa was involved. Sadly, this is simply the way that it has worked and will continue to work in the state of Iowa.
Iowa State has to do everything in its power to maintain its spot as a major, BCS-level athletics program or risk damage to the University, including financially. The leadership at ISU, including Gregory Geoffrey and Jamie Pollard are typically fiscally responsible if nothing else, including their improvements in weaning the athletics department off of state funds - a process that would be seriously hampered if the athletics program were to leave a BCS conference.
From this point forward, ISU has to look out for their best interest. An application to join the Big Ten has likely already been set in motion - a long shot at best, but not too far-flung of a fit to totally dismiss. More likely, Iowa State will band together with Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri to ensure a somewhat safer landing in a conference that protects the interests of these four schools. Sadly, if a Big 12 Conference cannot be rebuilt, Baylor may be left out, and it's no different than if ISU was left out. The "Forgotten Four" needs to explore all options, including joining the Big East, and one would hope that the presidents and athletic directors at these four schools remain in constant communication.
Please make sure to follow Rock Chalk Talk, Bring on the Cats and Rock M Nation as these three SBNation sites will also be at the forefront of what will happen. They may very well be our lone compadres moving forward.