In his first public comments since Oklahoma and Texas announced plans to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, Kansas State athletics director Gene Taylor urged fans to stay calm and remain positive about the future as he and other conference leaders work to navigate the latest round of conference realignment.
“We are a Power 5 school,” Taylor said during a video message to K-State fans on Thursday. “We are a Power 5 conference. We are going to remain that way, and that is why it is important for us to stick together. That is what we are doing — positioning ourselves to be in a Power 5 conference.”
Taylor went on to share several reasons why K-State is well positioned to handle the shifting landscape of college athletics, even if there is uncertainty about the future of the Wildcats’ current conference.
“We just have to remember the kind of program we are,” Taylor said, “certainly from an athletic perspective, the championships we have won and how we have competed — not only within the Big 12 Conference, but nationally and some of the things we have accomplished, not just in football but all of our sports. Look at our facilities and the wonderful fan support that we have. Our bowl partners love K-State to come to their bowl games. Those are the things that make K-State special and will put us in a great position to work through this transition period.”
Many fans have wondered if Taylor and university president Richard Myers have been communicating with other power conferences, such as the Pac-12, in hopes of finding a safe landing spot for the Wildcats if the Big 12 is unable survive without its two most prestigious members.
But Taylor said during his video that is not K-State’s current focus.
“The goal is to keep this conference together as much as we can,” Taylor said.
The main message Big 12 leaders have shared in recent days has revolved around “the importance to sticking together,” he said. The Big 12’s eight remaining schools have also talked strategy.
“What do we need to do?” Taylor said. “What is best for the remaining eight members? That is the biggest part of the conversation.”
When asked what his message is to nervous fans, Taylor kept things simple.
“They don’t need to panic,” Taylor said. “We are in a great position.”
Taylor also urged fans not to pay attention to conference realignment rumors they might find on social media. Furthermore, he pointed out that everyone in the conference is doing all they can to keep the league together, even though most aren’t talking publicly about their actions.
“You may not hear a lot of stuff, but there is a lot of stuff being done behind the scenes,” Taylor said. “We are talking constantly. We are meeting two or three times a week. Just because I’m not saying something to the press or we aren’t saying something collectively doesn’t mean there isn’t work being done, because there is a lot of work being done.”
Oklahoma and Texas will play a full Big 12 schedule this coming athletic year, but it’s unclear how much longer they will remain in their current conference. Both schools had board of regents meetings Friday, officially accepting invitations to join the SEC in 2025 — because they are contractually bound to the Big 12’s media rights agreement until then. But many believe the Big 12 and its departing members will negotiate an early exit that involves a penalty, perhaps as high as $80 million per school.
No matter what happens with that timeline, Taylor has a good idea for when Oklahoma visits Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 2.
“We need to fill the place,” Taylor said, “and remind Oklahoma how important the Big 12 is and what they are walking away from.”