Joe Castiglione sounded down the other night when we talked. Really down.
Maybe it's the 16-hour days required when your conference has hit an iceberg and your school's future sits squarely on your shoulders.
But Castiglione sounded grim not from fatigue, but from regret. Regret that the Big 12 was endangered, and salvation seemed near impossible. Joe C. talked bravely that he would fight on to try and save the league he helped found as the Mizzou athletic director and helped dominate as the Oklahoma AD.
I wish we had been speaking in person. Not to offer him a comforting hand on the shoulder, but to shake some sense into him.
Save this shipwreck of a conference? Why on turf would anyone want to do that?
A 10-team league, down from 12 and missing one of its three marquee members, trying to stay together after all the backbiting and threats and ultimatums? Ask Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to give up their life rafts to help out Missouri, whose governor took pot shots at their academic standing?
Try to keep these 10 schools together, knowing several will remain hot tickets on the conference market? Think about keeping the doors open, knowing a Texas or an Oklahoma or an A&M could bolt in a year or two, only this time the cushy fallback position of the Pac-10 might be unavailable to others?
That's no way to live. That's no way to conduct business. That's no way to watch out for your school.
Sure, the left-out universities — call them the Oceanic Five; they're about to be Lost — are begging and pleading for some kind of reconciliation. There could be a last-ditch meeting Monday, just to see if a television network can promise enough money to keep Texas in the fold.
And Kansas, Iowa State and Kansas State figure to receive all kinds of empathy. They did nothing wrong. They were good people, good competitors and good conference members. That's the rotten part of this drama. The damage done to those old friends.
Missouri and Baylor will draw no such emotion.
Baylor played politics to get into the Big 12 and has resorted to politics to get out of the Big 12. But Baylor campaigned in the wrong state; it wasn't Texans who needed convincing so much as Californians. The Pac-10 wanted Colorado instead and quickly scooped up CU in part to end the talk out of Baylor.
And Missouri started all this mess by throwing itself at the Big Ten. Every Big 12 school went on red alert from that point; some found an exit strategy.
And the Pac-10 clearly is the best option for the four or five Big 12 schools headed West. No way to know if the Pac-10 will work out any better for the Oklahoma and Texas schools, but no way it could work out worse.
Name-calling and finger-pointing and warnings and resentment. Any school with an option should run from the Big 12. Run far and run fast.
When you hit the iceberg, you save yourself and maybe a pal or two. You don't try to save the boat.
Don't leave mad. Just leave.
Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.