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Kansas regents still support Big 12

Kansas regents still support Big 12

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday reaffirmed support for Kansas and Kansas State to remain members of the Big 12 Conference.

Regent Chairman Ed McKechnie said after the nine-member board met in executive session that he was pleased with the work by the two universities' leaders to stay engaged in saving the conference. He was pleased with progress that was being made to stabilize the conference, including offers to restructure revenues.

"We want the Big 12 to survive," McKechnie said. "Our priority is to have Kansas and Kansas State be together in the Big 12. It appears that we are making great progress toward that."

McKechnie said he thought the situation would be resolved in "seven to 10 days, but that's conjecture."

Officials at Kansas and Kansas State declined to comment after the meeting and deferred all questions after the meeting to the regents. McKechnie said the regents haven't given the universities permission to seek alliance with other conferences should the Big 12 cease to exist, but said that he hoped those decisions could be avoided.

"I think the Big 12 is the best place for KU and K-State to be, and I hope that we are on the cusp of that happening," he said.

Regents have been watching closely as rumors about the conference dissolving have swirled, hinging on the possible departure of Oklahoma and Texas. The Pac-12 presidents and chancellors decided Tuesday night not to expand, quashing speculation that Oklahoma and Texas would be joining former Big 12 member Colorado, which joined the Pac-12 this season.

Texas officials said Wednesday that they were open to restructuring revenue contracts shared with the remaining Big 12 members. Texas President William Powers said the top priority was to bring stability to the conference.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was optimistic that the Big 12 would remain intact, stabilize and add members. He said the level of competition in basketball and football is as good as anywhere in the country.

"It makes sense for the conference to stay together," Brownback said. "It's not a financial issue, as far as the conference flying apart, because people can get money other places. It makes geographic sense."

Brownback said the regents and the state's two Big 12 schools had handled the situation as best they could, given the uncertainty of circumstances.

"I think the only issue has been a matter of confidence that the league's going to stay together," Brownback said.

Kansas student body president Libby Johnson said students were concerned about the Big 12's future and paying attention to rumors and blog postings about possible changes and what it also could mean for academics.

"I think people would just like to know what's going to happen," she said. "If you want to get students excited about something you talk about athletics."

McKechnie said a stable Big 12 would be in the best interest for Kansas and Kansas State, but declined to say how that could be accomplished.

"I think we have a lot of smart people to figure that out," he said. "This is all about TV sets. We're a small state, that's the problem."

McKechnie said a reconstituted Big 12 was the best arrangement for the Jayhawks and Wildcats, whether it adds more members or not.

"What is the right number? We have an awful lot of people who make an awful lot of money and the need to tell us that,"

McKechnie said he hoped Texas A&M could remain part of the conference and not move to the Southeastern Conference next July as has been announced.

"If everything gets fixed, I would love for A&M to stay," he said. "But we need to be the Big 12 in more than name only. Our name ought to reflect who we are."

Brownback said it was encouraging that Texas was willing to address the concerns of other Big 12 schools, including the sharing of conference revenues.

The governor said he agreed with the comments of Oklahoma President David Boren about the desire to improve the institution's academic record and image, but said that is accomplished by states investing in higher education and demanding performance.

"The answer isn't leaving the Big 12. The answer is to start challenging each other to be better-ranking institutions," Brownback said.

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