As legislatures in Texas and Kansas roil over possible college conference realignment, Iowa politicians voiced support for Iowa institutions.
Gov. Chet Culver said Wednesday he doesn’t want to see Iowa or Iowa State hurt in what has become a turbelent scene in major-college athletics.
In an election year, Culver was careful to say he supported both schools’ interests.
“I’m fighting for both of them to come out of this realignment in a better position than they were going in,” Culver said in a Wednesday interview with The Gazette. “That’s the key. I don’t want to see either one of those Regents institutions lose ground because someone comes in and takes away a number of teams in the conference.”
Iowa State and its BCS status are in the danger zone.
Reports out of Omaha have Nebraska joining the Big Ten as early as Friday. With the Pac-10 in position to invite as many as six Big 12 schools, including Texas and Texas A&M, the Big 12 could crumble.
Iowa State would be without a conference and without Bowl Championship Series status, a possibility that could end up costing the school millions.
Culver has talked to Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard and Iowa AD Gary Barta. He wants them to know they have his support.
“If you need a vote, if you need to persuade a president, that Iowa would like someone to join or not join, it’s really very basic, ” Culver said. “Barta and Pollard have my cell. I asked them to convey to both presidents I’m available 24-7 to fight for both of them.”
There is precedent for a state governor to have a say in college football realignment.
Culver was a scholarship football player at Virginia Tech. He watched in 2003 as his alma mater, with help from then-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, secured a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Warner told the ACC either to include Virginia Tech or expand without the support of the University of Virginia, a vote that would’ve blocked expansion. The ACC ended up taking Virginia Tech along with Miami (Fla.) and Boston College.
“I know that it can be tenuous,” Culver said. “The governor of Virginia in that case was actively involved. All I’m telling the University of Iowa and Iowa State is I stand ready to make any phone calls to be helpful. . . .
“The ACC shakeup is a great example. I watched that unfold. Fortunately for Virginia Tech, they came out better than they would have if they didn’t get in.
“This stuff is very fluid. It could come down to one vote. I simply expressed my support to the administration at both schools and the athletic directors. I will do anything to help and I don’t want to do anything to hurt.”
When Culver used past tense there, he referred to a headline in Wednesday’s Des Moines Register that read, “Gov. Culver wants to mold realignment, Iowa State discussion.”
He called the headline “unfortunate.”
“I did not say that I want to mold anything,” Culver said. “The headline yesterday was completely misleading. It said, ‘Culver wants to mold realignment.’ I do not want to mold anything. I want to be supportive of two great schools, Iowa and Iowa State, so they and their fans come out better.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters was asked whether he was concerned about possible changes in the Big 12 and the impact on ISU.
“I’m concerned about what’s happening with Texas universities and the Pac-10 and that possibly leaving some Big 12 schools kind of out in the cold,” Grassley said. “My staff is looking into what can be done from the non-profit and anti-trust standpoint.
“We very seldom get involved in college athletics, so we’re just looking into it.”
Tuesday, Barta said any doomsday scenarios for Iowa State are based on speculation.
“I honestly don’t sit here and think what could be because it could go so many different directions,” Barta said. “I’d probably spend a lot of time worrying about scenarios that couldn’t possibly materialize. S0, I’m going to wait and see and if something does change in the Big 12, if that has an affect on us, I’ll react to it.”