Cue the flames; the Missouri Valley is burning.
Or at least that could be the case should the very speculative article by Dennis Dodd on the aspirations of the Wichita State athletics program be true.
According to Dodd... well, let's just let him explain:
"Led by president John Bardo, Wichita State has been exploring its conference options in both basketball and football. Last year, Bardo commissioned an ongoing feasibility study to bring football back to the athletic program. The school dropped the sport in 1986."
You read that right: Wichita State is looking to possibly bring back its football program, 30 years after it dropped the sport, and plop it right into FBS. And the kicker is that Wichita State thinks that this is a ticket into membership in the Mountain West.
To add a new football program, based solely on their success in basketball is asking for a big leap of faith.
Nevermind that the prospect of starting a football team from scratch in FBS is a recipe for a long period of pain and suffering in the sport. Nevermind that according to Dodd's article, it would take $50 million just to get the program off the ground.
The Shockers might have a better chance of joining the American Conference, provided that they could get football off the ground quickly, especially given that the American looks ripe for the picking by the Big 12 (and no... what you are thinking there... about Wichita State in the Big 12... that is not going to happen).
If the Mountain West rumors are true, the school is taking a big leap of faith based on the success of Gregg Marshall. That success is not to be denied, and if Marshall stays committed to the program, then maybe that is something that the Shockers can buy into.
But this is a coach that is highly sought after. He was wooed by Alabama. He was likely wooed by Memphis. When Rick Pitino's imminent departure occurs, Marshall will be right up at the top of the list at Louisville too. And it will keep happening (Syracuse, Duke, etc.) as long as he is turning out 30-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances. That pressure to keep him in Wichita is only going to build as time goes on and he keeps having success.
A lot will ride on the results of the feasibility study that will, according to Dodd, be released within the next two months. If it is clear that the school can add a program and somehow compete within five years, then maybe we will see a major shakeup.
But building a football program in Kansas will not be easy, as evidenced by the state of the two current FBS programs living in the state.
And there is still the matter of finding a home that will take them with a fledgling program. Right now, the Mountain West is denying that they are either courting or the suitor for the Shockers.
The conference's disinterest in New Mexico State - who is better off in football, but worse off in basketball - is a good example of their current mood. Their own commissioner said so himself:
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said he did not have direct contact with Bardo or Wichita State officials. He added that if Wichita State plans to park its basketball program in a new conference, "It ain't going to be us."
Instead of a nearly done deal, this feels like Wichita State is playing poker and dropped two nines on the table: the lid is blown, but no one knows exactly the strength of the hand that the Shockers are carrying.