By Evan Pfaff, Big12Hoops.com Missouri Beat Writer
The cover story of last week's Newsweek was entitled "The Case For Killing Granny." The article talks about the high cost of health care and whether "Killing Granny" is better in the long run, economically, socially and emotionally.
Reading it, I started thinking about the need to resuscitate some struggling Big 12 schools. There are some programs out there who seem content just going through the motions... not making waves of any sort. One of these programs is the University of Colorado.
Would it be the worst thing to "let" CU move away from the Big 12 and in to, say, the Mountain West Conference?
I know this is a basketball blog, but briefly let me first discuss football that underscores the larger argument, well at least the brand that CU claims to be football.
In the years 2006-2008 CU has won a total of eight conference football games, out of a possible 24. This year they lost at home to in-state rival Colorado State and then at Toledo. They did beat Wyoming at home, but that is the same Wyoming team that squeaked by Weber State in the first game of the season (former Mizzou offensive coordinator, Dave Christensen, we know better times are ahead for you and the Cowboys).
On the hardwood, CU hasn't fared any better. Over the same time frame, CU basketball brings with them a 25% conference winning percentage, having won 16 of the 64 conference games they have played since the start of 2005-06 season. And last year they saw an average of 4,262 come out to sit in the 11,064 seat Coors Event Center, ranking them last in the Big 12 in attendance.
CU doesn't field a baseball team and isn't particularly competitive at any non-running sport. To its credit though, CU has brought home 9 conference championships since the start of the 2004 academic year, registering 8 in cross country and one in men's outdoor track.
Geographically, Boulder is the outpost of the conference. It remains the only Big 12 school in the Mountain time zone and the closest Big 12 city to "The People's Republic of Boulder" lies in Lincoln, Nebraska, some 7 hours drive away.
Conversely, there are six Mountain West schools that are within an 8-hour drive of Boulder, two of which reside in the state of Colorado. Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs are 1 and 1.5 hour drives, respectively, from Boulder. The University of Wyoming, the University of New Mexico, BYU and the University of Utah also all fall within the 8-hour drive.
And just because CU would transfer to a non-BCS conference doesn't mean they would be the big, bad bully. As shown already this year, CU couldn't defeat MWC middling CSU on the grid iron in the "Rocky Mountain Showdown." They probably wouldn't fare any better against national powerhouses in BYU, TCU or the Utah Utes.
In terms of MWC league basketball, CU would face the tough challenge of having to face Utah, UNLV and BYU on a regular basis. Other schools may give CU stiff competition, however those are the preeminent MWC hoops powerhouses.
So what now? Would there be another mis-numbered conference (yeah, I ‘m looking at you, Big Ten)? Nonsense!
Right now the MWC has 9 teams, CU would even them out to ten. The logical step is to accept the University of Arkansas into the conference. Arkansas is a sub 4-hour drive to either Oklahoma school and already has a rival in Austin. Hell, I had a groomsman in my wedding from the city that would relish the rivalry most, Texarkana.
Sharing a border with Missouri also brings another rival. In fact Arkansas and Mizzou have a storied history of battling over recruits and despising each other's existence. (One of the best stories from the Mizzou heckling group, the Antlers, involves dangling a hog's head off a fishing pole in front of the Arkansas team bus as they pulled into the Hearnes Center for a 1992 match-up.)
Now, realistically this would never happen because of fiduciary concerns. CU is already in a tough spot because of nearly $13 million in cuts in state funding, so the loss of Big 12 money would devastate an already tight financial plan.
Not being in a BCS conference means a substantial loss of money. The 2009 BCS bowls paid out $17.5M to each conference. Since the Big 12 is a BCS conference, they are guaranteed to land at least one of these slots (they got two in 2009). The MWC, however, isn't guaranteed and needs substantial help to get a coveted slot. Besides the BCS games, the Big 12 has football contracts that could put up to 8 teams into bowls. The MWC doesn't have this luxury.
And in terms of hoops, the Big 12 generally gets about half its members into March Madness each year. The MWC generally sends two teams. Again, less money to be split amongst conference schools.
So like everything else in sports (and in the world) the decision to keep CU in the Big 12 will come down to the all mighty dollar.... which is good news for any Big 12 team looking for an easy W.
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