Yesterday the Big 12 it won’t be expanding (gee who could have seen that coming), bringing months of speculation to a tepid end. While TV sets are the driving force in realignment, with football money close behind, basketball is obviously implicated.
The easy answer is that in the short term, nothing is going to change. Kansas will still be the top dog in the Big 12, and still will be able to recruit nationally and at an elite level not matched by the 9 other teams in the league.
It appears, though, that the future will bring a lot of changes for the Jayhawks. The Grant of Rights is set to expire in 2025, and when the GOR goes away, it seems pretty likely the Big 12 will as well. However, the Jayhawks could set themselves up to leave before then with some smart planning. Obviously there will be severe financial penalties for leaving early, and leaving early will no doubt result in a legal challenge as well as setting Kansas back financially.
Let’s be honest, though, Kansas is leaving. Not to go all #sources, but I have heard from a number of places that Kansas is high on the Big 10’s wishlist when the conference inevitably expands further. It’s not hard to see why. Academically, Kansas fits in. They give Nebraska a neighbor and travel partner. Their basketball program provides additional cache to the league, and joins Michigan State atop the league in terms of premier programs. The football program as it stands provides the league with a necessary doormat, although there is some upside there.
Kansas probably fits in the Pac 12 and ACC as well. The Pac 12 would reunite the Jayhawks with Colorado, and they could get to the point where they could win a few games in the league (see: Colorado being competitive now). Basketball wise wouldn’t be a great fit however, as the Pac 12 doesn’t really provide much competition. The ACC meanwhile would be a bloodbath in basketball, but football certainly would be much easier to compete in. The SEC might as well be the same: Kansas would win the league pretty much every year with some Kentucky mixed in, and would basically never win in football.
For now, though, with the Big 12 staying at 10 teams, the gap between Kansas and the rest of the league will continue to exist.