Today could — could, mind you — be the day that the University of Missouri officially declares its independence from the Big 12 and begins the process of joining the SEC.
At MrSEC.com, we’ve spoken to three SEC administrators in the last 24 hours and all believe that the Missouri situation should be cleared up shortly. “The league is already working on schedules for next year as a 13-team league,” one SEC school official said. “If for no other reason than logistics, if the SEC is going to become a 14-member conference, it would have to do so quickly. You can do the math from there.”
Indeed. And the math suggests Mizzou is close to pulling the trigger. However, there does appear to be some minute level of concern inside the SEC that some of MU’s biggest boosters — who grew up with the old Big 8 — might threaten to pull cash from the school should it make a move to the SEC. That’s not expected to happen, but if it does, money has a way of talking.
If MU projects an increase in revenue of X and a decrease in booster funds of Y, the remaining sum (Z) will still need to be big enough to make the move a no-brainer. But that’s just one part of the equation. Stability and being a truly equal partner in a new league will also play a large role.
Bottom line: We fully, totally and completely expect Missouri to announce its intentions to leave the Big 12 by tomorrow afternoon at the latest and for the SEC to open its doors to the Tigers by the middle of next week. Now that the Big 12 has raided the Big East for TCU, it’s unlikely any Big 12 schools — Baylor — will threaten lawsuits to slow down a Mizzou-SEC marriage… as was the case when Texas A&M asked for a membership application.
Here’s what’s being said about Missouri’s potential move today:
1. A source “with connections to television executives” has told PowerMizzou.com — the Rivals site covering Missouri — that MU’s move to the SEC is “as done as done can be without the official vote.”
That site’s TV source also said it’s expected Mizzou will join the SEC alongside A&M next summer.
2. The chairman of MU’s board of curators told The Kansas City Star last night: “I will probably have nothing to say on (possible realignment) until Friday. If there is anything to say then.”
3. Vahe Gregorian of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that the SEC appears much more stable than the Big 12, but “if MU officials don’t have a plan for how to enhance fundraising for adding seats and amenities to Faurot Field or ways in mind to raise the recruiting budget dramatically — among many other increased investments it would need to compete — such a move could prove regrettable.”
Gregorian need only look at how the athletic budgets at Arkansas and South Carolina have jumped over time to see that Mizzou would likely be fine in this area. Last month Mississippi State — the school with the smallest athletic budget in the SEC — broke ground on a new $25 million football training complex.
4. Gregorian is nowhere near as negative as Don Steele in his column for The Columbia Tribune. His piece — posted yesterday — has shot to the top of Google’s search engine and has been emailed to yours truly no less than 20 times.
“Moving Missouri to the Southeastern Conference would be a terrible mistake,” Steele writes. He then lays out his case. Trouble is, the website doesn’t do a very good job of making it clear that Don Steele doesn’t actually work for The Columbia Tribune. He’s a reader who sent in a letter to the editor and his letter is now being kicked around as though a well-known, respected member of the Columbia press had penned it. We have no idea what agenda Steele might have in writing his open column.
Here’s guessing that if more than a handful of us had been on the internet in 1992 we’d have seen a few letters to editors sent by Arkansas fans upset over a move from the Hogs traditional Southwest Conference home to the SEC, too. But that’s turned out pretty well for the Razorbacks long-term. So well that the school chuckled when the Big 12 tried to lure it back west.
5. A Missouri alum who teaches sports economics at Kansas State — a class in sports economics? — says MU “would be going from a conference where they’re competitive financially to a conference where they’re in the lower half, without question.”
In terms of 2009-10 athletic budgets, Missouri would rank behind six current Big 12 members and behind nine current SEC members.
Some Missouri fans — and media types — have long lusted after membership in the Big Ten. But if the Tigers were currently in that league, they would rank behind 10 other schools in terms of athletic budgets. One has to wonder if the “MU doesn’t have the money to compete” argument would be getting such play if Mizzou was pondering a move to that conference instead of to the SEC.