Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has today ranked all of the major conference realignment moves that have taken place in the past three seasons. The best move? Texas A&M’s to the SEC. Among the many reasons the Aggies’ move got an A grade from Staples:
“… this union was a perfect cultural fit. Fans at other Big 12 schools considered the buzzcut-sporting, whooping Aggies a tad odd. Most SEC fan bases believe there’s something wrong with a school if its fans aren’t odd. The Longhorns, who have the quietest 100,000 fans in America on fall Saturdays, look down on the Aggies. Florida, LSU and Alabama fans just said, ‘Welcome to the Party.’”
But Staples’ take on Missouri — he gave the Tigers’ move a C — is a bit more interesting:
“One bad football season does not make this a terrible move. Remember, in the preceding five years, Missouri was much better at football than Texas A&M. The Tigers certainly need to get better on the football field — because their new rivals in the SEC East aren’t getting any worse — but calling this move a mistake because of one lousy football season is premature. If, in 10 years, Missouri has not moved out of the SEC’s cellar, then feel free to say that the Tigers traded a world of pain for the financial security of the SEC.
As far as the SEC goes, Missouri was the only choice everyone could agree upon in the situation the league faced in 2012. Some presidents and athletic directors wanted Florida State, but they faced fierce opposition from a bloc led by Florida and Georgia. The most logical additions would have been Virginia Tech or NC State — which would have been geographic fits that opened new television markets — but neither wanted to leave the ACC. Missouri was geographically contiguous and added two decent-sized television markets (St. Louis and Kansas City). It also gave the SEC another AAU member. Of course, if (former Ohio State president) Gordon Gee is to be believed, the Big Ten will try to snatch Missouri down the road. That would be interesting, but it seems highly unlikely.”
Technically, Gee said that he would have liked to have added Missouri and Kansas already and that he could see that “potentially” happening in the future. Gee is also known for making bizarro comments from far out in left field. We at MrSEC.com don’t believe he was anymore speaking for Jim Delany and the Big Ten with regards to Missouri than he was when he made a poor joke about Catholics.
To a more interesting topic, the SEC’s expansion plans post-A&M were and are still shrouded in mystery. Word leaked out quickly that Missouri and the SEC were playing footsie (as we had suggested might happen way back in the summer of 2010). As for all the other schools mentioned, well, that depends on each writer’s sources.
Oklahoma was mentioned as a potential candidate because Mike Slive had spoken with Sooner brass a year earlier. We don’t believe there was much to that.
Folks close to West Virginia University will tell you that Slive and Mountaineer AD Oliver Luck were secretly hoping Missouri would pass on the SEC and leave the door open for WVU. The problem there? If the SEC wanted the Mountaineers why didn’t Slive and company just invite them in the first place?
NC State and Virginia Tech were kicked around by several websites as potential targets should the SEC drive toward 16 schools at some point. But at MrSEC, we never heard much talk about the two — aside from fan chatter — during the push to 14.
Several sources have said that Slive has longed for North Carolina and Duke for ages. One ACC source even claimed to The Sporting News that the SEC commissioner had been wooing those schools for several years. Obviously, if wooing went on, that wooing did not work.
Florida State would have been a brand name “get” — much like the Big Ten’s addition of Nebraska — but the SEC was more interested in growing its footprint in 2011 and adding cable households to its portfolio. Only this offseason have we learned that FSU officials approached SEC officials — in 2013, according to reports — to see if the league Florida State once spurned might still have an interest in the school. That answer was no.
The fact of the matter is we’ll likely never know for sure just who the SEC did speak with — either officially or unofficially — during the summer and fall of 2011. What we do know is that Texas A&M and Missouri were the final choices. And it will take a number of years to determine whether or not the SEC, A&M and Mizzou are a good match long-term.