Bill Self on the Conference Shakeup

University of Kansas head men's basketball coach Bill Self took 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon to speak with the media about a variety of issues, though none more pressing than that of conference realignment.

Here are his comments, reproduced in their entirety:

Q: How much of a finger are you keeping on the pulse on this Big 12 expansion talk, or the realignment I guess is the right word?

Head Coach Bill Self: It is all, quite honestly, that I can think about right now. Because the more that you study it, and of course we're selfish and we believe in our product – if you didn't believe in your product you shouldn't work where you work – but I believe it could at the end of the day be a great thing for Kansas and all the schools in the Big 12. Because if we are able to stay together, the conference will be stronger than it ever has been. There will be concessions made by everybody to make us stronger. There will be work that's been done by our commissioners and assistant associate commissioners to get us more money and things like that through television, future fighting hard, all those things. Our league will be better than it's been. That's the good news.

If it doesn't stay intact, I think we'll be fine, but there is some serious nervousness with me personally, that we could potentially be left behind, worst case scenario, and the landscape of our athletic department changes overnight. So that's the reality of it, and I don't believe that will happen. I do not believe that will happen, but I think we have to be prepared to fight to do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen.

Q: Coach, I know they're just rumors, but when you hear these things that leave KU out, does that surprise you? Especially from your standpoint with this tradition-rich program that you guys have?

HCBS: Well, I don't know if it really surprises me, because I don't think this has anything to do with a basketball deal. I think football is driving the buggy on this more so than any other sport, or the only sport doing that, and then also obviously the other things that go along with that. Television, homes, and things like that.

I've done my research. We've got 2.8 million people in this state that I don't know, but I would guess that probably 75-percent of those people, in some form or fashion, support in some way Kansas State or Kansas. So you're talking about over two million people who, in a small way, some in a big way, who the way they look at things will be altered. Either from a morale standpoint or a giving standpoint, or whatever. I mean, can you imagine what this could potentially do to enrollment for Kansas and Kansas State? I mean, student enrollment could be positive, could also be negative.

This is a big deal that is far more reaching than just the basketball program. But for us, we're selfish. I think I can speak for Frank (Martin) and K-State, they've got great history and a great program as well. But we've won three NCAA championships, five overall. Won I believe the second most games in the last 11 years of anyone in the country. Winning percentage we've won more games by a large margin over the last four years than anyone in the country. Won a national championship. Probably have as big a national following with the exception of maybe a Kentucky, North Carolina would obviously be in the game with that. But there are very few like us, and to say that we don't bring something to the table to these leagues, although I know we know we do, would be sad.

Academically, one thing since I've been here, I've been fortunate to work at different locations. This is a very, very good academic school, and I've been at other schools that I know were very competitive in those arenas as well. It's frustrating to me, it really is, because the competing for championships and things like that, I'm not saying it can't happen. But the recruits that we're going after, the recruits that Frank's going after and things like that, there's a good chance they won't be the same guys if this thing falls. That's why we have to do everything we possibly can do at the highest levels, legislatively, to make sure that does not occur, or give us the best chance for that to not occur.

Q: Does Kansas and Kansas State, is it best for all parties if those two schools stay together?

HCBS: You know, from the outside looking in – and I'm not in the know. I see is strictly from selfish motives. Selfishness, and that would be our program and strictly our university. But from the outside looking in, I think we should be tied together. From a common sense standpoint it makes sense. Of course, I'm not sure that all the stuff that's been added up together – Vitale calls it the RPI and then he calls it the BDI, and he feels like the BDI is better than the RPI. I feel like from a common sense standpoint it just doesn't quite add up. It doesn't add up to me, and that's why the Big 8 was such a great league. And then of course adding the Texas schools have added to our league tremendously.

But there's some things. I mean, we're a young league. How old are we? 13 years? 15 years? I mean, we're a young league. You're talking about the Big 10 that's 100 years old or whatever, and the Pac-10 which is an established league. This is something that we're still finding our way, and this should seriously open eyes to avenues where we could collectively be on the same page more than we ever could. But we shouldn't go just jump ship because we don't see things the same way right now. There's a lot of marriages in the first year or two from what I understand – of course, my wife and I never argue – but for the first year or two that you fight through some stuff and it ends up paying off for everybody. Certainly, we hope that's the case.

Q: Everybody talks about the bottom line and all the money they can make, but do things like regionality and rivalries and tradition, are they getting glossed over do you think in all of this?

HCBS: Well, I think our landscape is changing, and it's changed here. You look at the corporate dollars that have been raised here in the last 10 years or seven years, compared to what it was before. There is definitely a change in how people are going about doing their business to keep up. And certainly that is a huge, huge factor.

But the way I see it, it's not the only factor. You're going to have a lot of fans that spend a lot more money out of their pocket now that don't give as much to the school, because they have to save their money to do different things, I think it could certainly affect that. And you have a fanbase that takes great pride in a certain element.

You look at us, you look at us and Texas in basketball. Great rivalry game, and our players certainly respect their program, and I'm sure their players respect our program. But to us, it's still Missouri and K-State no matter what, and it's not going to change. When Nebraska, if they go to another league, 'Well, it will be a great rivalry, Nebraska and Ohio State.' No, no, no. It's always going to be Ohio State and Michigan. It's always going to be those other rivalries. That will be a nice additional game, but that's not going to be the game your players circle, that they've been taught to circle back in April when they're going through spring ball.

Q: Somebody is reporting that Nebraska is gonna join the Big 10 Friday. So if that's true, is it all over?

HCBS: No, I don't think so. That's a great question though. I don't think it's all over. I think it doesn't help by any means, and I hope what you're saying is not true because we need Nebraska. But our league's not dead. It would be nice if we were able to keep everybody intact, at least from my perspective. Our league will fight hard, and of course we probably need to do some things and be very aggressive in doing them, but I don't think by any stretch it's dead.

But I think it would be vibrant if Nebraska decided they wanted to be in the Big 12 as opposed to the Big 10.

Q: Coach, it seems like we've had a lot of fans over the last few days asking why the Big 12 is in this position, where it appears that other leagues are raiding them as opposed to the Big 12 doing the raiding. Do you have an opinion on that?

HCBS: I do. Our leadership has done a very nice job. First of all, we're young. But I was in the Big 10, and you're talking about Chicago and Illinois. What is there, 11 million people that live there? You're talking about Minneapolis, you're talking about Indianapolis, you're talking about Columbus, who is the biggest city in Ohio. You're also talking about Cleveland. You're talking about obviously Detroit. You're talking about Milwaukee. You're talking about the Pennsylvania market, whether that be Philadelphia or whatever.

I mean, those are major markets. It's the same way. We think we've got the best product, and we're going to come hire you and pay you half as much as what you were making where you were before. That doesn't happen very often. You at least need to be able to bring something financially to the table. We are not in a position to do that as of today. I think we could be in a position to do great things in the very near future, but we're new. We're new and we're getting started, and contracts were signed several years ago before all the expansion talk started.

The Big 10 Network has changed everything. The SEC is way ahead of everybody on football, because they have the CBS contract. The Big 12 doesn't have that. As long as they have the CBS contract, then we can't, we will not generate as much money as that.

I think it's ridiculous for people to say 'Why aren't we raiding?' Who are we gonna go raid? Are we going to go take Ohio State out of the Big 10? Are we going to go take Michigan out of the Big 10? 'USC and UCLA, we're going to want you out of the Pac-10.'

It's easier said than done to go get somebody else. Are we going to go get Arkansas, which to me seems like a logical fit, when their television contract right now the way it is is so much different?

So I don't think that's a realistic argument or reason for our fans to be upset. I don't think our fans should be upset. I think our fans should be frustrated. But not because we haven't done what we're supposed to do or our leaders haven't, but because of the situation.

Let's just face it. Haven't we always thought that there was an East Coast bias from a media standpoint? Well, why? Where do the majority of people in this country live? Either in the East or they live in the far West. We are in the heart of the Midwest or the Southwest, and the population is just not near as great.

You need eyes to watch TV and that kind of stuff, and we don't have as many eyes in this state. So it's not anything that anybody has done, it's just the landscape. And that's what's sad to me. Is it's become so corporate, that we can take away the histories and have certain people potentially punished that have done so much for our organization – our organization being the NCAA.

You're talking about in Kansas a program in the last five years or three years, however you want to do it, that has won a national championship in basketball, been ranked number one basically all season long except for three weeks in another year. We've had three number one seeds in the last four years in the NCAA tournament, and a football team that's won the Orange Bowl. Florida has obviously done that, Ohio State has rivaled that and done that. How many other schools have performed at that level? And here we are being a school that we're talked about being left out.

So it doesn't have anything to do with performance. It's got to have something to do with ability to sell television, whether it be the homes the Big 10 Network can add to or whatever.

Q: If Nebraska does leave, do you think it increases the probability for the Pac-10 invitees to go?

HCBS: Oh, I don't think there's any doubt that would probably increase. Doesn't mean they'd do it. If you're reading the same things I've read, if Nebraska stays I think our league is in pretty solid shape. Isn't that what you guys are reading, too? So obviously if it goes from solid and they leave, there's a little bit of uncertainty. So obviously that could potentially be the case.

But I'm not giving up on this at all. I know that our people aren't giving up on it at all. We think that we're going to be fine, we think the league will stay intact, but without going into too much detail I do think there's a nervousness in the air right now, because if it does happen to go a way that we, K-State and maybe Missouri, or Colorado or Baylor or Iowa State, that we don't want it go, then all of a sudden we'll be scrambling. We'll still end up fine, but it won't be the fine we could potentially have if everybody sticks together.

Q: You mentioned Arkansas. There's also Memphis, Louisville, TCU have been some schools that have been talked about. Same kind of boat? Obviously two of those schools would help the basketball side of things in the conference.

HCBS: I agree with that. But the thing that's amazing to me is, obviously basketball does not drive the revenue right now. To me, based on what I've been told, football does drive the revenue. So if you're moving to, if you're eliminating one BCS conference and you raid schools from another BCS conference, you potentially are down to four power conferences and they'll control all the money. Let's just call it like it is.

I've always believed if you have certain assets, be able to flaunt them to help you recruit or whatever. But I think this is going a little bit, overboard is not the right word, but from a business standpoint it almost feels like a monopoly-type deal. I don't think that anybody, in the purest of sport, would think that would be a good thing.

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