Kansas remains focused on doing ‘what’s best for Kansas,’ its athletic director says

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal
FILE -- Kansas athletic director Travis Goff is greeted ahead of the start of the Jayhawks' football game against South Dakota.

CONWAY, S.C. — As Kansas athletic director Travis Goff spoke Friday at Brooks Stadium, less than an hour before the Jayhawks’ football game at Coastal Carolina kicked off, he talked about remaining committed to doing what is in Kansas' best interest.

Goff was reacting to the Big 12 Conference’s announcement that day that it would be expanding and adding Cincinnati, BYU, UCF and Houston. He was speaking to what that meant, considering what those four institutions bring and what the Big 12 will be losing when Texas and Oklahoma depart for the Southeastern Conference. And while Goff praised the move from the Big 12’s perspective, he didn’t rule out Kansas pursuing a move itself.

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“What’s best for Kansas doesn’t change, regardless of conference discussion or speculation,” Goff said. “It’s still what’s best for KU and it still puts us in the most positive strength and position we can be in the league we’re in most importantly and for all the unknowns that are out there.”

Goff pointed to how much uncertainty there was about two months ago when the news about Oklahoma, Texas and the SEC came out, and that Kansas has to move forward focused on what it knows. What Kansas knows, Goff said, is there’s a variety of ways the department can improve. He thinks the Jayhawks have as much or more potential than any other program at the Power Five level.

Follow along live:Kansas football at No. 19 Coastal Carolina: Jayhawks trail 21-9 in 2nd quarter of play

The short term, when it came to what’s best for Kansas in Goff’s eyes, was the football game that was about to start and Big 12 play beginning next week. But what’s best for Kansas moving forward, according to Goff, applies to really anything it does. And that could mean conference affiliation, what the Jayhawks are trying to achieve as a program, the financial strength of the program and its fan and alumni engagement.

Goff said it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, whenever a new media deal is done for the Big 12, that the most likely scenario won’t include the conference staying at the level of compensation that it had with Texas and Oklahoma as a part of the discussion. That’s just what the level of those two programs means. So, he wants to have a plan that defends Kansas “against some kind of a step backward in the media deal.”

Goff is excited about that opportunity, actually.

He’s looking forward to improving the football program’s viability and sustainability. That means its level of competition on top of ticket sales, attendance and donations that are driven by a successful football program. He thinks the football program should be the primary driver of any department.

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Goff is also looking at accumulating more philanthropic support for the Jayhawks’ athletes from the program’s alumni and supporters. He’s aiming to do more to enhance the fan experience at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. 

“As I think back over the last couple of months, I think it’s been a really healthy, productive exercise and a chance for us to take an even harder look in the mirror,” Goff said. “What does Kansas need to do to be positioned for whatever? But right now, we’ve got to be positioned to be a lot more competitive in the Big 12 and the sport of football. And if we continue to invest in football and commit to the program like we have and like we’re going to continue in even stronger ways, I’m confident in what that program’s doing for us. I’m confident in having a blue-blood basketball program that nobody else can replicate. I’m confident in the academic and research strength of the university.”

Goff did say that it’s clearly a good day for the Big 12, which is “taking a position of strength” with its expansion. He didn’t think it was an option for the conference to sit idly by and do nothing to solidify itself as much as possible right now. He thinks what's happened signals strength and brings clarity about its future — for the moment.

►RELATED:Lance Leipold wants Kansas to control the clock vs. Coastal Carolina. Here's how that can happen.

Goff doesn’t think there’s any question that the four schools being added are the right four when it comes to “the success they’ve had, the strength of their football programs, their markets, their fan bases” and the value they add beyond that. He thinks their additions can help in the future media deal discussions and more, and keep the Big 12’s basketball profile in a positive light.

“The commissioner (Bob Bowlsby) deserves a ton of credit for having that strength, having that clarity, being able to bring together the presidents and chancellors so that there wasn’t going to be any misalignment or any question about the path forward,” Goff said.

Earlier Friday on a media call, Bowlsby said "it’s a good day by any measure" because of the four institutions the Big 12 is adding. He highlighted the size of the schools, their recruiting areas and more. As of now, BYU will join in 2023, while Houston, Cincinnati and UCF will join no later than July 1, 2024.

Bowlsby, who left open that Houston, Cincinnati and UCF could leave the American Athletic Conference for the Big 12 in 2023, also left open the possibility for further expansion of the Big 12.

“I think we’re always going to be open to opportunities as they present themselves,” said Bowlsby, who added later the Big 12 isn't adding the four schools it is for the sake of adding schools. “We’re living in a very fast-changing athletic environment and we will be at 14 for a while, we’ll drop back to 12 and as there are targets of opportunity or as there are situations that dictate that we change composition we’ll be prepared to do those things.”

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.