KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Baylor coach Kim Mulkey has a top team, a top player and a gnawing pet peeve in the form of Texas A&M.
Texas A&M, the defending national champion, is leaving the Big 12 after this season. Leaving behind storied rivalries that date back generations, the Aggies are joining the Southeastern Conference in a move that may be soon be duplicated by Missouri, another charter member of the Big 12.
Asked if she would schedule Texas A&M in a non-conference game, Mulkey recalled that A&M president R. Bowen Loftin has likened the action to a divorce. She then pulled no punches in noting that she’s had personal experience with the breakup of a marriage.
“My feeling is this,” Mulkey said Wednesday during the Big 12’s media day. “If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him, and then he asks me if he can sleep with me, the answer is, `No!’”
Kansas coaches have also said they would not want to schedule archrival Missouri if the Tigers leave the Big 12. Aggies coach Gary Blair says the pain of rejection is not the only factor involved.
“I understand the feelings of everybody,” Blair said. “A lot of it, not playing, it could be said, is about recruiting. Throw all that other hogwash out the window. It’s about recruiting. My phone number hasn’t changed. I’ll play anybody any time.”
But Blair, whose Aggies beat Notre Dame last year in the championship game, said scheduling “takes two to dance.”
“I’m not going to get in and be the wordsmith with Kim on how she feels,” he said.
A year ago following the departure of Nebraska and Colorado, Texas A&M helped hold the Big 12 together by agreeing with other big-time football powers to stick it out. Now the Aggies are getting ready for their Big 12 farewell tour.
“Last year, everybody loved us,” Blair said. “This year everybody says we’re the villain. But I’m not going into that because (realignment) is all about football. It has nothing to do with women’s basketball or equestrian or anything else. It’s about football. It’s about television sets, money, and it’s about egos.”
Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson agreed.
“And I’m not sure ego is No. 3,” she said.
One thing Mulkey’s Lady Bears will be counting on from the Aggies this season is motivation.
After beating Texas A&M three times last year, the old rivals met for a fourth time in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament and the Lady Bears were ousted 58-46. Mulkey wasn’t happy about the NCAA’s decision to put her top-seeded team in the same bracket with its Big 12 foe, and she even drew a public reprimand from the NCAA for her comments.
Now comes this year’s version of the Lady Bears, who were picked to win the Big 12 and will have four starters back, including 6-8 junior Brittney Griner.