If early reports are accurate, and Texas is indeed leaning nearer and nearer to accepting a deal to stay in the Big 12, then Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is officially a hero.
Keeping the Big 12 together. Keeping Kansas in a BCS conference. Creating more TV revenue for teams lured away by Pac-10 and Big Ten riches. These are all good things for college basketball fans. They're Beebe's handiwork. And the Big 12 might just be better off for them, at least where basketball is concerned.
Of course, it's still early. Texas could back out of the new TV deal that would reportedly net it nearly $25 million per year, more than any team in the Big Ten currently makes. The rest of the Big 12 would experience a TV windfall, too. But there are plenty of contingencies involved here, and if there's one cliché that applies to conference realignment, it's that the only thing we can be certain about is that we're not certain about anything.
College hoops fans should want to believe, though. The following things are true if Beebe manages to hold the new 10-team Big 12 intact:
1. Kansas gets to stay. The Jayhawks' unfortunate position in conference realignment had them left behind in the Big 12 exodus to the Pac-10. They might have received some nominal interest from the Big Ten, and maybe some from the Pac-10, but more likely than not Kansas was going to end up in the Mountain West. No offense to the Mountain West, a conference with oodles of upward trajectory, but Kansas basketball -- and by extension college basketball in general -- would have been worse off for it. But if KU stays in the Big 12? The Jayhawks' marquee tradition rolls on as ever.
2. Kansas State and Baylor get to stick around, too. The last thing either hoops program needed was a switch to a smaller conference. Both programs are on the rise, and both should compete for the Big 12 title next season.
3. The Big, er, 12 becomes the best top-to-bottom hoops conference in the entire country. I have no idea what we'd call a 10-team Big 12. That's going to get confusing. What I do know is that without Colorado and Nebraska -- off to the Pac-10 and Big Ten, respectively -- the Big 12 looks like the best pound-for-pound college basketball conference in the country. There's Kansas, of course, as well as Texas. Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M have all been on impressive rises into Top 25 territory in the past few years. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are both capable of sustaining highly competitive hoops programs. Iowa State and Texas Tech aren't lost causes. The two worst teams in the conference, the ones that dragged the entire place down, are gone. From a pure hoops perspective, the 10-team Big 12 could be the best, most entertaining hoops conference in the nation.
Again, this is all just speculation as we await the results of Beebe's aggressive pitch to Texas and the remainder of the Big 12's teams. Maybe it won't work out, but as far as hoops-concerned expansion scenarios go, this one is pretty good. It beats the Pac-16, anyway.
Now, if we could only figure out what to call a Big 12 with 10 teams ...