Texas, Oklahoma bids to join SEC could put Kansas City’s Big 12 Championships in jeopardy

College

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Texas and Oklahoma notified the SEC on Tuesday they are seeking an invitation to join the conference and leave the Big 12.

As it stands now that wouldn’t happen until 2025, but a lot is still up in the air including the future of the Big 12 Conference and it’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships held every year in Kansas City.

The Big 12 Championship is scheduled here through 2025, but that’s not set in stone and replacing the tournament in the near future won’t be easy.

Dating back to 1997, just about every year 100,000 college basketball fans descend upon Kansas City. The tournament got its start at Kemper Arena in 1997 and moved to Sprint Center (now known as the T-Mobile Center) where its taken every year but one since 2008.

Most recently, a majority of fans have come from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa for the Big 12 Championship.

“It means a lot to our vendors. It means a lot to our convention center. It means a lot to T-Mobile Center to make sure that we have that $15 million and more of economic activity each and every year. This is something that’s vital for us,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said.

According to Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission, the contract states if the teams in the conference change, the Big 12 Championship bid and host city could be revisited.

“We’ve been an attractive place to have a college basketball tournament. We will continue to be an attractive place. There’s rich history here. We sell the seats here. We have a good relationship with our businesses, and we will pitch that at every conference throughout the country,” Lucas said.

“The events of recent days have verified that the two schools have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months and this formal application is the culmination of those processes. We are unwavering in the belief that the Big 12 provides an outstanding platform for its members’ athletic and academic success.  We will face the challenges head-on, and we have confidence that the Big 12 will continue to be a vibrant and successful entity in the near term and into the foreseeable future,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said a statement Tuesday.

But Nelson said if the Big 12 were to dissolve, recruiting a new tournament would be difficult with the SEC and Big Ten Championships already awarded to other cities for the next decade.

“I think we need to be realistic that this Big 12 Championship is a huge economic windfall for our city to replace that will be difficult if you are just thinking replace it with other college basketball,” she said.

Nelson points to the NCAA Sweet 16, Elite 8 and NFL Draft in 2023 and NCAA Wrestling Championships in 2024 as events that were expected to boost the economy and could help soften the blow of potentially losing the annual event the commission refers to as its Super Bowl.

The SEC could vote to admit the universities as early as Thursday. They’d probably have to pay a big penalty to leave the Big 12 early, estimated to be at least $70 million each currently.

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