I’m not interested in giving Travis Goff a free pass.
Sure, this is his first time at this rodeo. But he really blew it, and, as a 41-year-old who has worked in this field awhile, he should have known better. I hope and anticipate he’ll backtrack.
Mr. Goff is the athletics director at the University of Kansas, having taken the job in April. He’s a native of Dodge City, and a 2002 KU grad. He was previously the deputy AD at Northwestern, and had worked in fundraising for KU athletics prior to that. He knows how this works, or he should.
Here’s the thing. It was Friday when the Big 12 Conference announced that it was adding four new schools. That was a major deal for all the schools in the conference, maybe K-State most of all. The conference pumps about $40 million into Manhattan every year; if the departure of Texas and Oklahoma had entirely destroyed it, that revenue stream could have been decimated. Same goes for Lawrence.
But that very same day, Mr. Goff pops off with some sort of gobbledygook statement that appears to hint at trouble: “We’re less secure now than we were eight weeks ago, and maybe significantly financially less secure. The facts are there’s most likely a scenario where when we do a new deal with a makeup where we likely can’t stay at the level we’re at.”
First of all...huh? I’ve read the second sentence a dozen times and I get more confused every time. Is he saying that the new conference makeup will mean less TV revenue? Is he saying KU should move down to FCS in football? Is he saying KU should switch conferences?
Second, why say anything that appears to undermine the conference, on the very day that it announces an expansion? He is, in fact, correct that the conference will make less money without Texas and Oklahoma, since the loss of those schools will undermine the marketability of the league’s football television contract. But that was evident six weeks ago when they said they were leaving, and the news this weekend substantially improved the league’s position compared to what it might have been — BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston definitely add major markets.
In other comments to reporters, Mr. Goff left the door open to KU moving to another conference down the road. That posture “still puts us in the most positive strength and position we can be in in the league we’re in, most importantly, and for all the unknowns that are out there.”
Again...what? And again, why say that right now? It only serves to destabilize the conference you’re currently in, the one that will be negotiating your television contract. All the other eight remaining schools — K-State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor and West Virginia — had vowed to stick together and work to strengthen the conference. Gene Taylor, the K-State AD, said he was surprised by Goff’s comments.
If your long-term plan is really to move to a different conference, again, why lay those cards on the table right now? Who does that help?
My view, by the way, is that K-State and KU belong in the same conference, and I think anything that undermines that is a bad idea.
Mr. Goff is no doubt a smart man, and my guess is that he’ll backtrack a dozen different ways in the coming months. Fortunately for him, his statements were full of such fuzz that there’s room for him to clarify in a way that will stabilize the conference, rather than destabilize it.
That’d be a good place to start.