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Mizzouri Meets; Rumors Swirl About WVU

Just a quick couple of notes on potential SEC expansion this morning.  We’ll turn west first.

Missouri’s board of curators will meet at 5pm ET in St. Louis and it’s expected to either announce that the school is all-in with the Big 12 or that the board has given chancellor Brady Deaton the power to look at all of Missouri’s realignment options.  If that happens, it seems likely that Deaton will have to remove himself from his role as chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.  How can a man explore other conferences while simultaneously trying to hold the Big 12 together?

While Missouri folks continue to debate the trustworthiness of the Big 12, the league’s interim commissioner Chuck Neinas continues to beat the “They’re Midwestern, not Southern” drum regarding the Tigers.  He has also stated that he believes Mizzou will stick around because the school sees how the league is working toward greater revenue-sharing and expansion.

“I do think they’ll consider what we’re doing,” Neinas said.  “We have some things in mind that I’m not prepared to reveal at this point.  We’re working in a positive way to improve the conference.”

“I think they have to look at not only what the future best interests are for the University of Missouri, but for the state of Missouri.  There’s a lot to be considered not only for the institution but for the state.  You know they have the Big 12 conference basketball tournament in Missouri, they’ve got the long-running games with the University of Kansas which is their traditional rivalry, going back to, what, 1893?  The other thing is it’s one thing to talk about the Southeastern Conference, but how many people are going to be able to afford the travel to Gainesville, Florida, or Columbia, South Carolina, or Tuscaloosa, Alabama?”

(Probably about the same number who could afford to travel to Provo, Utah, — the Big 12′s most rumored expansion candidate — to Lubbock, Texas and to Austin, Texas.)

When it comes to Big 12 expansion, Deaton is not the chairman of the Big 12′s expansion committee as had been previously reported by other sites.  At least not according to Neinas.  He still holds the chair for the board of directors — though he had to shoot down rumors he was abandoning that post last week.

But according to Neinas, Deaton has pulled back in some areas. — the Rivals site covering the Tigers — reports that MU’s chancellor took part in the recent board of directors meeting but “he recused himself from a certain part based on legal advice from his counsel.”  Neinas would not specify what topic Deaton avoided.

Meanwhile, to the east, messageboards are humming with rumors regarding a new West Virginia-to-the-SEC movement.  But those same boards were filled with ridiculous rumors last week that the Big 12 — a league that can’t seem to get its own ducks in a row — had given WVU a 48-hour window to join the league or else.

Former Mountaineer quarterback Major Harris was quoted yesterday as saying that he was “hearing a little buzz about the SEC” but “that’s just people talking.”  Could that be all it took to spawn the new chatter?  Possibly.

Speaking to a well-positioned source inside an SEC institution today, we have been told — again — that the SEC did not deny WVU’s entry into the league when the school reached out to conference brass last month.  But they weren’t bearhugged as Texas A&M was, either.

WVU remains a fallback choice due to the small population and small number of cable households inside its state borders.  Academics are also an issue with some presidents in the league.

However, if Missouri stays in the Big 12, the rest of the landscape stabilizes, and the SEC faces multiple years as a 13-school league… then WVU might become a lot more attractive.

If that occurs, expect the SEC to tout WVU’s fan passion, similar culture, and its close proximity to Pittsburgh and other major metro areas as part of its spin.

For now — from what we’re hearing — it’s Missouri or bust.  And the SEC isn’t sweating Mizzou’s decision.  West Virginia remains a deep fallback option.  The only other school that our sources continue to mention as a possibility is Florida State.

We trust our sources because they’ve been right in the past and because they’re coming from different areas of the league.  But when it comes to the many variables and politics involved in conference expansion, we wouldn’t be shocked if the SEC announced the addition of North Dakota State this afternoon.

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