It appears that politics and athletics are once again about to become intertwined.
In the past two days, Kansas U.S. Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and Representatives Jerry Moran and Lynn Jenkins have issued statements urging the universities of Nebraska and Missouri to remain in the Big 12 Conference.
Nebraska and Missouri have been mentioned as candidates for expansion of the Big Ten Conference into a "megaconference" of as large as 16 schools, although the most recent speculation has the Big Ten deciding not to take Missouri after all.
The Big Ten currently has 11 schools.
Over the weekend, the Pacific 10 Conference was reported to have made overtures to Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. Texas has been also the subject of rumors regarding the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference.
If the reported moves to the Big 10 and Pac-10 were both to happen, it could leave Kansas and Kansas State as well as Iowa State and Baylor out in the cold when it comes to conference expansion.
Brownback and Roberts released a joint statement Tuesday.
"We believe as charter members of the former Big Eight Conference and as current members of the Big 12 Conference, it is important Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and the University of Nebraska continue to partner with the Big 12 Conference," the release stated. "We remain hopeful the Nebraska Board of Regents will come to the same conclusion as the Kansas Board of Regents, that member institutions should join efforts to sustain and advance the Big 12."
The Nebraska Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Friday. It has been reported that the Big 12 has given Nebraska and Missouri a Friday deadline to choose if they will remain in the Big 12 or choose to move to the Big 10.
"I have been in communication with (K-State) President Kirk Schulz and (Kansas) Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and have told them that I will be of any assistance that I can be," Roberts said.
Moran has placed a call of University of Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne in order to get insight on the university's decision.
"He didn't commit to me in any way what the decision will be, but I wanted coach Osborne to know that there's a lot at stake here," Moran said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
"This matters athletically," Moran added, "but if there is a change in conference affiliation, that also has consequences to the universities -- enrollment, prestige, those kinds of things. It matters to me a lot."
The outpouring of political support can be traced to fears that a Big 12 breakup would leave the state's two flagship universities without a major-conference home.
While the talk of conference realignment is focused mainly upon revenue generated by the schools' football programs, any shift in affiliation could also affect the perception of the schools as a whole.
"For more than 80 years, the faculty, students, alumni and supporters of these three institutions have benefited from prestige that comes from being in a top tier conference," Jenkins said in her release. "So, as the Nebraska Board of Regents prepares to meet later this week, I strongly encourage its members to stand with your neighbors to the south and fight to keep the Big 12 together."
The political influence applies mostly in the realm of old-fashioned diplomacy. The Big 12's future -- and, by extension, the futures of KU and K-State -- won't be determined with legislation, Moran said.
"It's not about introducing a piece of legislation," he said. "I do know that as a Kansan, this is an awfully important issue. We need to make sure the right decisions are made. In my opinion, that's certainly keeping the Big 12 together."