Report: Mountain West eyes KU, Mizzou

Updated: June 13, 2010, 9:21 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Mountain West Conference was a geographical misnomer from the beginning, as it launched with San Diego State among its eight original teams before adding TCU in 2005 and Boise State on Friday.

And if it has its way, the conference's reach doesn't appear to be stopping there.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State are on the Mountain West's radar amid a continuing shakeup of the Big 12.

But Baylor isn't considered a candidate to join the conference, with TCU standing staunchly in its way, the Fort Worth newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.

"The Mountain West wants to be a national player and continue to grow in that realm," MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said in a conference call with reporters Friday. "We are extremely interested in BCS automatic qualification. We are simply trying to get to the level where each and every year a Mountain West team is playing in a BCS bowl game."

TCU would mount a lobbying effort against Baylor if the Bears are left out of the conference-realignment mix, the Star-Telegram reported.

TCU AD Chris Del Conte refuted the report in a statement last Saturday: "TCU would not lobby against another institution possibly seeking membership in the Mountain West Conference. TCU would support any addition our Mountain West Conference partners believe strengthens our league. The Mountain West Conference is a great home to TCU and we are excited about what the future holds for our league."

For their part, the Jayhawks don't want to be forced into the Mountain West and want the remaining Big 12 schools to stay together to form what would be a "better basketball conference than the one we were just in," a source with direct knowledge of Kansas' situation told ESPN.com's Andy Katz, referring to Colorado's and Nebraska's history of struggles in basketball.

The source said losing Colorado and Nebraska enhances the Jayhawks' basketball program because the remaining 10 schools would better fit the model of an 18-game schedule.

"Look at it this way," Kansas coach Bill Self told the Kansas City Star. "No matter what, I'm 100 percent confident we're going to land. And we may land in a group that gives us more exposure than we ever could have had before. We may land with somebody that opens up recruiting doors in areas that we never really tested before. We're not gonna lose what we already have. This may open up new avenues for us.

"We are gonna be in a BCS conference."

Officials from five Big 12 schools -- Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor -- had a conference call on Saturday, the Star reported. The schools agreed they would like to continue as members of the Big 12.

But the Mountain West has its eye on Kansas as uncertainty continues to percolate.

"Look at it this way," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Friday at a charity event, according to The Kansas City Star. "No matter what, I'm 100 percent confident we're going to land. And we may land in a group that gives us more exposure than we ever could have had before. We may land with somebody that opens up recruiting doors in areas that we never really tested before. We're not gonna lose what we already have. This may open up new avenues for us."

New avenues are assured for most -- if not all -- of the Big 12.

Colorado left Thursday for the Pac-10 and Nebraska moved to the Big Ten a day later. Texas and the four other programs, not including Baylor, that make up the Big 12 South in football are leaning heavily toward a commitment to the Pac-10, or in Texas A&M's case, a possible jump to the SEC.

"We are gonna be in a BCS conference," Self said, according to the newspaper.

But count Self among those who still believe in the viability of the Big 12.

"If this league is held together," Self said, "we'll go get two teams or six teams and this league will be better than it ever has been."

In a statement, NCAA interim president Jim Isch said the association was not directly involved in the realignment discussions.

"We are closely monitoring the developments and potential impacts," Isch said in the news release. "By doing so we ensure the most appropriate and responsive support to our membership."