Kansas BoR President/CEO
On June 1, 2010, Andy Tompkins stepped into his role as Kansas Board of Regents President/CEO. Nine days later, Nebraska bid adieu to the Big 12 Conference and set off a flurry of events that included: Colorado also leaving; six other schools receiving invites to go elsewhere; and, eventually, the formation of a television package unfairly lucrative enough to convince Texas to keep its roaming eyes on an embattled Big 12.
As the collegiate athletics (and subsequent potential standings as major universities) futures for the University of Kansas and Kansas State University hung in limbo for days, Tompkins, and the rest of the Kansas Board, had to take it all in - knowing that a potential bombshell of a vote - of whether to split the two schools in the spirit of self-preservation or make them a package deal - was knocking on the door.
"Last year, we didn't know what was happening," Tompkins said in an interview this week. "Now, [KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and K-State President Kirk Schulz] were keeping us informed - I never want to give that impression because they were great at keeping us up to date - but, you didn't know.
"You didn't know who was going to go last year. There were a lot of people thinking about other things."
As those things unfolded, KU and K-State athletics representatives preached unity; not only for the two schools but for the rest of the Big 12. The Kansas Board stated then that it was "unwavering in our belief that the best course for K-State and KU is continued joint affiliation in the Big 12."
Despite what was stated publicly, however - that it was a consistent, 100-percent commitment between the Kansas schools - Tompkins acknowledged that scenarios involving a KU/KSU split weren't always ruled out.
"You can't help when you get into an instance like last year where people start thinking about other scenarios. I mean, everybody did," Tompkins said. "The thing that made a difference last year was the athletic directors at both of our institutions worked together in working to try and make that league stay together.
So, if that was the true case, then what about now? What about this latest go-round with Texas A&M?
"I think that [K-State and KU] feel like this isn't like last year," Tompkins said. "I think there is a greater confidence in the league now. It was just a different time last year."
Perhaps, but because the Aggies continue their ongoing open relationship with the Southeastern Conference, conversation and rumor has again opened the door to questions of whether KU and K-State would try and remain the package pair it publicly appeared to be in 2010.
|A&M wants out, but the Kansas BoR feels |
the situation is much different than last year.
Tompkins, who has now served in his role as chief executive officer (which carries no capacity on the Board itself) for almost 15 months, said the Board's sentiment remains the same, if not more resolved, based on the latest information received from Schulz and Gray-Little.
"First of all, I'll tell you that it has always been a priority of the Board, and I think KU and K-State, for them to be together," Tompkins said. "So, the feeling that they had before, that hasn't changed from the Board's standpoint.
"Our board is kept up to date by the schools' presidents every time something happens," Tompkins said. "So, they did know that A&M had some issues, and that they were looking at some things and so forth. But, a lot of it is like everybody else, [the Board] is just sort of waiting to see what happens."
Regardless of A&M's exploits, it is Tompkins' feeling that this round is a completely singular ordeal.
"I think it has just been focused on one member," Tompkins said, "so I think [the Board] has felt a lot more confident about the league staying together, and they are very supportive of that."
In the unlikely event that things should turn south for the Big 12 in the near future, and both KU and KSU again find themselves facing either single or joint movement out of the conference, Tompkins said that a timeline on that kind of decision isn't able to be planned in advance.
"I don't think there is anybody on [this board] that could answer that because there would be a lot of discussion," Tompkins said. "Our Board would take it very seriously as would our presidents and athletic directors."