Bill Self continues to be a force for common sense in conference realignment. Self has been vocal and candid about his feelings on the realignment fracas, willing to discuss Kansas's precarious position in the national landscape, his hopes of the Big 12's continued viability, his views of realignment as hypocritical (an overused word not made any less valid by its overuse). Self has even admitted his willingness to hold a grudge against Missouri if the Tigers leave the Big 12 for the SEC in the weeks to come. As a basketball school, Kansas's interests align most closely with the college hoops fan's; we just want this nonsense to end.
But what if Self were in a different position? What if, in some alternate universe, Kansas was the school the SEC was considering inviting? Would he sing a different tune then? According to Self, who answered that hypothetical this weekend, the answer is no:
“If we were offered to go to the SEC, based on the information I have, I’d say based on the betterment of our university we definitely need to stay where we are at for our fans,” Self said. “It sounds sexy, I guess, to say we’d play these other schools (like Alabama, Auburn, LSU in football; Kentucky in basketball), but you are also going to play schools that, based on your location and theirs and past history, you’d be starting from scratch. [...]
“Basketball-wise, it seems kind of sexy to me to be playing in the league where the two winningest programs of all time are both in it, Kansas and Kentucky, but over time I still don’t think that’s more important than playing Missouri and Kansas State,” added Self, a big fan of the Big 12 and its natural geographic rivalries.
Self also opined on what moving to the SEC would do for Kansas football, and while he was diplomatic, he was also realistic. In other words, he realizes how good the SEC is at football, how difficult it would be for Kansas (or Missouri) to compete for elite bowls and national titles in the conference, and how the Big 12 seems a better fit.
Then there's the matter of travel, which seems to get glossed over in most realignment talk, even though it shouldn't:
Self also said it’s important student-athletes not have to travel through different time zones to play conference games, especially with the NCAA increasing its stance on improved academics. He noted that athletes in sports that do not charter to games would find it especially difficult not to miss significant amounts of class time.
“Non revenue sports would miss three days of school to go play a competition,” Self said.
That's a pretty underrated aspect of all this realignment talk, something people don't seem to consider as frequently as market additions and TV ratings and matching schools to other schools. It's why the Big 12 and Big East would find themselves in such difficult positions if the Pac-12 had gone through with a plan to add the Texas and Oklahoma schools a few weeks ago. Most believed the Big East and Big 12 would have to forge some sort of conference merger to survive. But could Kansas -- or Baylor or Iowa State -- really justify traveling to the east coast for every non-revenue sport? What sense does that make?
Anyway, it's just a hypothetical; I'm sure there have been points when Kansas would have jumped headlong into an SEC invitation if the thing ever really came. That will never happen. But even if it did, you get the feeling Self means what he's saying here. The Big 12 is just a better fit for Kansas. It's a better fit for pretty much every Big 12 team -- even Missouri. If there's hope for continued realignment sanity, maybe that's it.