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Slive: “I Live In Tomorrow” As Decision Over Scheduling Looms

the-future-signIn a speech at the University of Massachusetts’ Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management last night, Mike Slive described where his focus must be stay:

 

“Today doesn’t exist for me.  I live in tomorrow.  That’s my job.  Today is the job of 35 other people (on the SEC’s staff).  I am the trustee of a sacred public trust, and if you live in the South, you know exactly what I mean.”

 

ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel points out that Slive also stated last night that the SEC will decide at next month’s spring meetings whether or not the league will switch from an eight-game football schedule to a nine-game conference schedule (beginning in 2016).

Slive’s views on today/tomorrow are shared by any good executive, any good leader.  During the recent conference expansion craze, for example, Slive had to consider how additions to the league would look in 20 years or 50 years, not just in the now.  The same goes for everything else the man does.  What are the long-term ramifications of his league’s actions?

At MrSEC.com, we’ve stated on many occasions that we believe the league should move to a nine-game  conference slate.  Such a move would protect the league’s oldest rivalries (Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia, Mississippi/Vanderbilt).  And when it comes to protecting “a sacred public trust,” there is nothing more important than the traditions built over the past 81 years.

A nine-game schedule would also allow SEC schools to see teams from the opposite division more often.  Call us crazy, but if you’re in a conference you should probably see everyone else as often as you can.

But switching to a nine-game schedule would also aid the league moving into the future.

We suspect that the new College Football Playoff selection committee will do it’s best to pick teams from four different conferences when it comes selecting who’ll compete for the national crown.  Strength of schedule will be a important factor in that process.  The Big Ten has announced nine-game schedules beginning in 2016.  The Pac-12 is going with nine-games as is the Big 12.  ACC commissioner John Swofford said in February that there is “considerable support” for a move to nine games in his league as well.  If the SEC doesn’t move to nine, it will be the only major conference playing eight league games… which means SEC teams will likely play one more cupcake than teams in other conferences will.  If the selection panel is looking for reasons to keep a second SEC team out of its playoff, you can bet the cupcake issue would loom large.

Nick Saban is just about the only SEC football coach to date to publicly push for a nine-game schedule.  Most other coaches want to avoid anything that might make getting to six wins and a bowl game more difficult.  But if Slive’s job is to think about the future, he needs to convince a few more coaches, ADs and presidents that a move to nine games is most likely the wisest step.

Unfortunately, we don’t believe that will happen.

That means come 2016 and 2017, the SEC will be at a disadvantage in the new playoff landscape that was created immediately after the BCS featured an SEC versus SEC title game.  The playoff now exists to prevent such SEC dominance.  A decision to become the only eight-game league in the Big Five conferences would only aid those who are looking to “spread the wealth” among all the leagues.

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NCAA Board Chairman: No Super-Division Split Between Rich And Poor Leagues

rich-and-poorFor the past two years, the biggest conferences in the land have campaigned for the right to pay, er, I’m sorry, provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to their student-athletes.  While some media members have spoken of a complete split from the NCAA if the big boys don’t get their way, we don’t view that as a realistic option.  It would be nigh impossible to create an entirely new sports “government” with new rules, new enforcement options, and a new leadership structure that all of the large-budget schools could agree upon.  For that reason, we’ve envisioned a super-division at the tippy-top of Division I.

We still believe that will be the eventual result.  The top 65-80 FBS schools will someday have their own “players get a little sump’m sump’m” division.

In September, however, word leaked that for now –  for nowthere would be an attempt to keep Division I intact with some power given to the biggest conferences to pass rules and regulations that impact only themselves.  Instead of “separate but equal,” the scuttlebutt suggested the NCAA’s Division I would become “together but unequal.”

So much for the backstory.  This week, Wake Forest president and Division I board of directors chairman Nathan Hatch has told USA Today that he doesn’t believe we’ll be seeing a super-division any time soon:

 

“From what I’ve heard in the association, I think people would like to have one Division I, but in some ways, a structure that will make certain differentiations between small conferences and big conferences.  I think people like having one division…

I do think the big conferences have to be granted certain degrees of freedom; their issues are so much different than much smaller institutions that somehow if we’re going to have the big tent, one division, we’re going to have to take into account that they’re very different.  There’s great unity on certain things like student-athlete welfare, academic standards, those sorts of things, and it’s one of the reasons we want to stay together.”

 

Hatch will head a subcommittee of seven Division I board of directors who will work with president Mark Emmert to cook up a this new legislative structure.

Should such a system come to pass, there will apparently be some mechanism that allows schools and conferences decide for themselves if they want to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships, if they want to provide more meals for their students, if they want to increase bowl per diems, etc.  How such a system will work is anyone’s guess.  And if Mike Slive, Jim Delany, Larry Scott and John Swofford aren’t happy with the end result, you can be sure super-division rumblings will begin anew.

Our guess?  Super-division rumblings will indeed begin anew because the hybrid solution sounds like a Band-Aid rather than the full-scale procedure the biggest leagues desire.  We shall see.

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ACC Commish Talks “Need-Based” Funding Increases For Athletes

offering-cashMike Slive has been banging the drum for more than a year for his schools to be given the right to offer additional financial aid to their student-athletes.  The SEC commissioner has repeatedly spoken of the need to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  He did so again during SEC Media Days in a message that many viewed as a warning shot across the NCAA’s bow.  The commish said that view wasn’t “totally inaccurate.”

ACC commissioner John Swofford, long an ally of Slive, spoke yesterday about “the financial well-being of scholarship athletes,” but he seemed a bit more timid in his approach bringing up the idea of “need-based” funding:

 

“We’ve been talking about this nationally for several years now without finding something that works.  It’s very difficult to look at it in terms of a sport — or two sports — just from a legal standpoint with Title IX, and what’s appropriate and what’s legal and what’s moral and how you address that.  Should it be based just on need?  A lot of people have been supporting of enhancing a scholarship if it’s just based on need…

I’m not for paying players.  I don’t think that’s what college athletics is about.  But I am for looking — very diligently — at ways to enhance the scholarship itself, whether it’s need-based, or whether it’s a simple stipend, or some other way to approach it such as going to the full cost of attendance.

But you’ve got to be able to find something that enough people can accept and support in order to move it forward.  So far we have not been able to do that.”

 

Need-based increases are not what Slive and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany have proposed in recent years.  So why isn’t Swofford following their lead?  Well, Slive and Delany happen to captain the two richest ships in the college sports ocean.  Swofford, meanwhile, is behind the wheel of the poorest — and we use that term loosely — of the five remaining major conferences.

Slive and Delany know that their schools can and will be able to afford to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  Doing so would also further provide a recruiting advantage for their member institutions.  Swofford’s full roster of schools might not be able to afford to buy such an advantage for themselves right now.

We’ll tackle this issue a bit more tomorrow, but for now, we find it interesting that Swofford is talking about “need-based” increases.

As we’ve stated on numerous occasions, we believe the biggest conferences will eventually form their own new division at the deep end of the current FBS pool.  Those schools will then provide greater financial assistance to their student-athletes.

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UNC Looking To Boost Athletic Revenue By 40%

gfx - they said itAccording to Jason deBruyn of The Triangle Business Journal — an online site covering business news in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill triangle of North Carolina — UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham is looking for cash.  Lots of cash.  As in 40% more athletic department revenue.

According to deBruyn:

 

“The Tar Heels operate on just more than $70 million for 28 sports (13 men’s and 15 women’s).  While that’s a nice chuck of change, it’s less than other major universities like Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Ohio State and Texas, all of which, except for Ohio State, offer fewer total sports.

Florida, Ohio State and Texas each count operating expenses north of $100 million, with Texas shelling out $125 million for only 20 total sports, the fewest of all the universities listed above.

Getting UNC-Chapel Hill to $100 million will not be easy, and won’t come from just one magical source, says Cunningham…”

 

Speaking last Wednesday, Cunningham said reaching the $100 million level will require increased ticket sales, donations, sponsorship deals, and media rights deals.

You think Jim Delany or Mike Slive might point out that conference realignment can serve help to boost athletic department revenues, too?  For that matter, do you think John Swofford’s ears might have perked up when he got wind of those remarks?

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And The Beat Goes On… Drive Toward A Playoff Gets Stuck In The Mud

Yesterday’s meeting of FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director was not the kickstart to a playoff for which most everyone had hoped.  In fact, some viewed it as a reversal of field from the last commissioners+ND get-together.  Depending on who you read and how you read the comments coming out of Chicago, you might even say a playoff was thrown for a loss.

It’s becoming clear that the guys charged with covering this mess are, well, getting tired of covering this mess.  No wonder.  If the world wants a four-team playoff and most every coach, AD, president and commissioner seems to realize this… then how hard can it be to dream up a plan that will work?

Unfortunately, nearly 150 years of football without any type of FBS/Division I playoff should’ve told everyone that this might be harder to pull off than imagined.  Money hasn’t mattered in the past.  Egos have ruled the day.  To assume that everyone would just compromise and play nice this time around was pretty darned presumptuous.

That’s one reason, of course, that we continued to beat home the following line — “… a playoff (if there’s a playoff)” — until many got sick of reading it.  The other reason we’ve been writing it ain’t over til it’s over?  We never underestimate the stupidity of human beings (don’t take offense, we’re human, too).

But let’s take a look at the divergence of opinion coming out of yesterday’s meeting in order to form our own fresh opinion, shall we?

 

* First, the commissioners released a statement after the meetings that read:

 

“We made progress in our meeting today to discuss the future of college football’s post-season.  We are approaching consensus on many issues and we recognize there are also several issues that require additional conversations at both the commissioner and university president levels.

We are determined to build upon our successes and create a structure that further grows the sport while protecting the regular season.  We also value the bowl tradition and recognize the many benefits it brings to student-athletes.

We have more work to do and more discussions to have with our presidents, who are the parties that will make the final decisions about the future structure of college football’s post-season.”

 

The takeaway?  Notice how it’s made clear that the presidents will have the final call?  That’s not a promising sign because it’s been the presidents for more than a century who’ve said “no, thanks” to any type of top-level college football playoff.

 

* You can count Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com among those writers in the frustrated camp.  He states that yesterday’s meeting was a “regression, not progress.”  A source told him that “a bit of an impasse” has developed between the Hatfields (Big Ten/Pac-12) and the McCoys (SEC/Big 12).

“If the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents had embraced the four-team playoff, then I think there would have been a place where everyone was on the same page, and then ready to fill in all the gaps,” Dodd’s source said.  One commissioner told him, “The Pac-12 is still dug in on some things that other people aren’t.”

Meaning?  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman — supposedly speaking for all the Big Ten presidents — have made it clear they’d still be okey-dokey with a true Plus-One tacked on after the bowl games or even the status quo.  But the status quo has been ruled dead by most involved, so that means the hang-up is the Plus-One.

SEC/Big 12 = pro-playoff.  Pac-12/Big Ten presidents = pro-Plus-One, at least to some extent.

Dodd also points out the top dog of the BCS, Bill Hancock, said after April’s commissioners’ meeting that “seismic change” was on the way.  Yesterday he said “it could be a while before the future of the game is known.”  Buzzkill.

The writer sums things up with a pair of uh-oh quotes from a commissioner (“The presidents aren’t ‘rubber stamping’ anything.  The challenge is the commissioners have had eight or nine meetings.  We’ve been talking about it for 100 hours and then you can’t give it to the presidents and expect them to digest it in four hours.”) and from a source (“They’ll look at the four-team playoff and look at the Plus-One.”).

 

* Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com doesn’t paint a pretty picture either.  He points out that the Pac-12′s Scott said “options, plural” would be presented to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee on June 26.  Yep, that’d be versions of a four-team playoff and of a Plus-One.

According to McMurphy: “Numerous commissioners, however, told CBSSports.com that there is a real concern that the group will not have settled on which playoff formats to go forward with on June 20th.”  June 20th is the next commissioner’s meeting.  This tells us that very little was actually accomplished yesterday other than everyone staking out their own positions… something that had already been done publicly on numerous occasions.

A BCS source also told McMurphy: “I’m dead serious that we have a long way to go.  There are significant issues that must be resolved.”

Hancock even said that “everything is still on the table.”  (Everything, but the status quo, apparently.)

 

* Meanwhile, ACC commissioner John Swofford put happy face on the day’s work.  “We’ve made excellent progress.  There’s still a focus on a four-team playoff, and getting a consensus on how that will work.”  Well, Swofford’s speaking for the commissioners.  The presidents will examine the four-team playoff and a Plus-One, from almost all accounts.  Where their focus will be remains a question.

 

* Whaddya think SEC commissioner Mike Slive had to say?  Go on, guess.  “The First Amendment will be alive and well when the presidents meet, as it always is.  There will be discussions with different models, and obviously my focuse has been on a four-team playoff.  That will continue to be the Southeastern Conference’s full concern.”

If the most powerful commissioner in college sports talks in his sleep, I’ll bet he mumbles something to the effect of “The First Amendmenenntnenen….”

 

* So what about the recent bloggers who’ve flat-out stated that television will drive this playoff home?  Some have gone so far as to say that television executives would demand a four-team playoff with the four highest-ranked teams by offering more money for such a plan.  (Those assertions were quickly shot down by multiple college football reporters with multiple sources, by the way.)

Well, is television really in control here?  Not according to Hancock.  ESPN’s Joe Schad tweeted yesterday that Mr. BCS himself “Warns TV may not want package that is decided on.”

In other words, just because there’s more money in a four-team playoff… there’s no guarantee of a four-team playoff.  Yep, you’ve read that right here a hundred times.  Television execs have long drooled over the thought of a college football playoff.  And college football’s power brokers have long ignored their drool.  And their money.

Just because logic suggests people will jump at the cash doesn’t mean they will.  In issues involving power and egos, you can often forget logic.

 

* Which brings us to Andy Staples of SI.com.  One of our favorite football writers, Staples is a helluva lot more chipper about the state of things than other writers today.  Why?  Because he feels logic suggests that we’re too close to a playoff to turn back now.

Uh-oh.  Logic.

According to Staples, the powers-that-be will “figure it out.”  In his view, “They haven’t left themselves much choice.”  Take it away, Mr. Staples:

 

“Yes, there are differences of opinion between the Big Ten/Pac-12 faction and the Big 12/SEC faction.  Yes, those issues must get resolved.  They will.  The commissioners talked money on Wednesday, as in how they’ll split the revenue from the new postseason system.  They wouldn’t even broach the thorny topic of revenue sharing if they didn’t believe they could reach a consensus on the other details (where the semifinals will be played, which four teams will make the playoff and how those teams will be selected).

‘There will be something for everybody,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday, ‘but there won’t be everything for anybody.’

Hancock, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, ACC commissioner John Swofford, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Big 12 commissioner-elect Bob Bowlsby — he starts Monday — all made it a point to mention the presidents have final say in the new postseason format.  Scott said the commissioners will present ‘multiple options’ to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee.  This presumably will happen before that group’s June 26 meeting in Washington, but it isn’t guaranteed.  So why feel confident these guys can avoid screwing this up?  Common sense.”

 

Ouch.  Common sense, huh?

Hey, reader, how many times in a day do you trust your fellow Americans or fellow citizens of Earth to use “common sense?”  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Staples goes on to make some very logical points:

 

1.  No conference wants to be viewed as the league that killed a potential playoff.  (Though the Big Ten and old Pac-10 avoided joining the BCS for six seasons while everyone else took part in a Bowl Alliance and a Bowl Coalition.)

2.  The commissioners have spent too much time talking about a four-team playoff to turn back now.  (Didn’t the NCAA pass and then effectively un-pass the whole stipend-for-athletes thing that was discussed ad nauseum last year?)

3.  At least seven of the nine members of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee supported a four-team playoff in March.  (People’s opinions in a closed-door vote can differ from those they provide to the press months earlier.)

 

Finally, Staples finished up as follows: “If you have any doubts, simply repeat after me.  They aren’t that stupid.”  Only they have been just that stupid for generations.

 

Look, we’re not trying to play Debbie Downer and say that a playoff is definitely not on the horizon.  It may well be for all the reasons that Staples puts forth.  Again, if logic and common sense are to be trusted in this case, then a four-team playoff will come to pass.

We just think there’s still plenty of chances for egos, arrogance, power-madness and sheer stubbornness to derail the playoff train.  If anything, the news coming out of Chicago justified our — let’s not call them fears — our qualms about everyone suddenly getting smarter and more willing to compromise.

The next meeting comes next Wednesday.  Don’t be surprised if we don’t hear more of the same coming out of that meeting.  And eventually, all this will still have to pass through those presidents, too.

A playoff is still the favorite.  But it ain’t a sure-thing just yet.

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Big 12 Interim Commish Wants A Plus-One Considered

Well that didn’t take long.  Earlier this morning we suggested that the controversy surrounding the selection of Alabama to play in the BCS title game might lead a few more folks to start pushing the idea of a “plus one” plan for college football.

Done.

Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas has told ESPN’s Joe Schad: “The plus-one model has received consideration before.  As a result of this year, I feel that consideration should become more serious as we move forward.”

Mike Slive actually put forward a plus-one idea earlier this decade.  ACC commissioner John Swofford has also supported such an idea.

If enough traction is gained on the plus-one front, this bowl season could turn out to be the best of both worlds for SEC football fans.  On the one hand, their league has already been guaranteed another national title.  On the other, the LSU-Alabama rematch in this year’s BCS title game might push the sport toward a Football Final Four type of set-up involving the four highest-ranked teams in the BCS standings.

If that happens, most folks south of the Mason-Dixon line will say, “Win, win.”

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MU Chancellor Deaton: “I Wish Them (The Big 12) The Best”

KOMU-TV in Columbia, Missouri caught MU chancellor Brady Deaton at the airport as he returned from today’s Big 12 board of directors meeting in Dallas.  His take on today’s meeting: “I wish them (the Big 12) the best and all that, so we’ll see where that goes.”

That hardly sounds like a man who’s getting cold feet regarding an exit from Missouri’s current conference.  Again, Deaton was given the power by MU’s board of curators to examine all the school’s options just about three weeks ago.  He did his research.  He reported back on Friday.  That day the board gave him the power to go forth and cut a deal with a new league, admitting that MU and the SEC have exchanged info.  Oh, and the board also said it would like to keep playing basketball and football in Kansas City, you know, in case the school bolts the Big 12.

Rumors came from Missouri sources today that the Big 12 board of directors meeting in Dallas could be the scene of Deaton’s grand “we’re outta here” announcement.  But we at MrSEC.com reported in the middle of last week that MU’s move to the SEC would be sewn up by the middle to late part of this week.

In other words, there’s no need to panic.  Cutting a deal actually takes some time.  And it’s possible that the SEC has been just as much behind this apparent holdup as Mizzou has been.  Even though it is fans and media who are screaming that there’s a holdup.  Deaton says there is none:

“There’s no delays here at all.  There’s some very specific things that have to be addressed.  We want to address those.  We really can’t rush these things.  These are things you can’t rush.  I know fans get impatient.  I gotta say I’m very sympathetic.  What I hope they will understand is that this is not a set of issues that one can just press a button and be done with it.  There are some issues that have to be addressed on behalf of the University of Missouri and that’s what we’re doing, looking out for the University of Missouri.”

Asked if the SEC had assured Mizzou that it has the votes it needs for acceptance, Deaton cut to the chase: “I’ll let them speak for themselves, we’re reasonably clear about where we stand.”  In other words, MU knows it has the votes, but a few more t’s need to be crossed and i’s dotted.

While Mike DeArmond of The Kansas City Star continues to say Missouri “remain in public limbo,” we continue to say that this deal is nearing its completion.  No one we’ve spoken to tonight — and that includes persons in two Southeastern Conference athletic departments — gave us any reason to believe things have changed with regards to Missouri.

The folks at Orangebloods.com — the Rivals site covering Texas — claim that they have heard from one source with knowledge of today’s Big 12 meeting who said: “They (MU) are dragging out the inevitable adios.  And the Big 12 continues to be good partners (by not putting a deadline on the school).”

The site also states: “Big 12 administrators say they’ll be surprised if Missouri doesn’t announce fairly soon that it plans to withdraw from the Big 12 and apply for membership in the Southeastern Conference.”

As we always, always, always say — anything is possible when money and politics are involved.

But a reversal on the part of MU at this point would lead to a fan revolt.  Tiger-backers are already frustrated and tired from a process that’s lasted — officially — for less than a month.  At this point, if Deaton were to announce that MU was staying in the Big 12, he’d likely be burned in effigy.

Sidenote — It’s possible that Mike Slive — a commissioner who has worked very hard not to create the impression that he’s a league-raider like John Swofford, Jim Delany and Larry Scott — might not want this weekend’s Missouri-Texas A&M game to be viewed and publicized as an SEC preview.  He might see that as showing up the Big 12 in some way.

We’re not saying that is the issue.  Obviously, we’ve already stated that we still believe MU will be accepted into the SEC between Wednesday and Friday of this week.  But we’re saying that could be an issue.  Slive might not see it as a gentlemanly act to turn a Big 12 game into a de facto SEC game (though it will still be unofficially hyped that way by the media).

The bottom line?  There will be a bit more waiting for fans and talking heads before this deal is signed and sealed.  But no one should be angry  about the timeline.  As we noted earlier today, the process to land Missouri is still moving at a quicker pace than the process that landed Texas A&M.

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What Just Happened? A Quick Explainer Of Yesterday’s Missouri Presser

Since yesterday afternoon, talk show hosts across the country have blasted Missouri for not making a decision quickly enough to satisfy the desires of said talk show hosts.  Many a messageboard SEC fan has posted words to this effect, too: “If Missouri doesn’t want in by now, they can get lost.”

Here’s the problem with all that — Missouri officials never said, “Hey, we’ll have a big announcement on Friday!”  The school held its pre-scheduled board of curators meeting.  The media figured MU would talk expansion so they showed up.  The media — including this site — wrote that we expected a “we’re outta the Big 12″ announcement.  But MU officials never said that was coming.

What they did give yesterday was akin to a “we’re outta the Big 12″ announcement, however.

Here’s the simplified version:

* In early October, MU’s board of curators gave chancellor Brady Deaton the power to go out and explore the school’s conference options.

* A 45-page report examining the benefits of SEC membership was leaked to the press a short time later.

* This weekend, Deaton went back to the board of curators to explain what he’d found.  And in an unusual step, Missouri AD Mike Alden was also summoned before the board.

* After hearing Deaton’s findings, the board unanimously gave him the right to work out contracts with other conferences.  (And in a very telling exchange, Deaton admitted that MU and the SEC have already exchanged information.)

* Deaton can now work out a deal with Mike Slive and the SEC without having to return to the board for approval.  It’s all in his hands.  And you can be sure the board wouldn’t have proposed playing basketball and football games in Kansas City if Deaton was expected to keep MU in the Big 12.

* Very short version: “Go look around, Brady.  What’d you find, Brady?  Go cut a deal, Brady.”

* So why not just pull the trigger as the ACC and Syracuse and Pittsburgh recently did?  That’s a good question.  To be honest, I’m not sure of the timeline of those actions.  They were so surprising that it seemed as though John Swofford had simply picked up the phone, called the schools, asked if they wanted in, and then announced the move.  But I’ll guess the conversations back and forth probably had been going on for two weeks to a month prior to the actual announcement.  That would fall right in line with what’s happening with Missouri and the SEC.

* Missouri’s timeline so far has meshed identically with Texas A&M’s.  But if/when Mizzou decides to apply for membership, it’s likely they’ll be unconditionally welcomed more quickly than A&M because the threat of lawsuit is not as great (not after the Big 12 poached TCU from the Big East).

* Why do we say “if” when it’s clear we believe Missouri is SEC bound?  Because politics and money are involved.  Something could go wrong on one end or the other.  But it’s quite unlikely things will fall apart at this point.  The SEC and Missouri have been in contact.  Things wouldn’t have gotten to the point they did yesterday if the school or the conference didn’t want them to.  I heard one talk show host say yesterday that “Missouri just likes the spotlight.”  Good Lord.  If MU officials could end all this today and stop the thousands of booster, fan, donor and media calls they must be receiving daily, you know they would.

* We expect Deaton is now talking to Slive about divisional alignment, permanent opponents, scheduling, etc.  Once MU and Slive have a handle on things, the SEC’s commissioner will go back to his presidents — including those few who’ve been holding out on this one — and let them know of his and MU’s desires.  At that point, the presidents will fall in line and MU will be welcomed into the SEC.

Earlier this week we wrote that according to our sources around the SEC and inside multiple school’s administrations, we expected this all to be played out by the middle to end of the coming week.  We still feel that way.  As we noted earlier this week, Missouri and Texas A&M are scheduled to play football next weekend and a well-timed announcement could create an SEC “preview” in College Station.

It’s our belief that…

1.  In the next 7 days — barring any major fallouts between the parties — Missouri will be welcomed in as the SEC’s 14 member.  The Tigers will begin play next season in all sports.

2.  If they are as agreeable to it as has been suggested by sources in Columbia, the Tigers will be slotted for the SEC East.  (Surprising fact: Of the eight schools closest to Columbia, four are in the East Division).  As we explained here in great detail, we have been told that the SEC wants as easy a transition as possible and MU to the East protects every major rivalry in the league and requires no current school to shift divisions.  It’s the easiest possible transition.

3.  Missouri will likely have a say in who its permanent cross-divisional rival will be — as well as those other schools involved.  Arkansas is the closest campus to Mizzou and would make sense as a rival.  Texas A&M is farther away, but Gary Pinkel would surely like to keep his recruiting foothold in Texas alive.  One or the other will serve as the Tigers’ cross-divisional rival.

4.  Eventually — perhaps as many as five years down the line — the SEC will follow the lead of every other major conference and go to a nine-game league schedule (over the protests of the conference’s football coaches).  This will insure all SEC member institutions will face each other on a more regular basis.

5.  There is no drive to 16.  Our SEC sources have told us repeatedly that the league wasn’t looking to expand this summer.  When you’re highly successful, why mess with that success?  But when A&M came knocking — a school that had been flirting with the SEC since the mid-80s — the league couldn’t pass the chance to bring in such a perfect fit (one that also helps the league’s academic reputation and geographic footprint).  That required the finding of a 14th school.  The ACC was more stable than expected.  West Virginia wanted in as did smaller schools like East Carolina, but those institutions didn’t bring enough to the table.  Enter AAU member Missouri with its large state population and big TV markets.  That’s it.  If someone else changes the landscape of college athletics, perhaps the SEC will be forced to follow, but the league will not be the guinea pig when it comes to a 16-team league.  If someone tells you Slive wants to add two more teams, they’re not talking to any solid sources in the SEC, I can tell you that.  For now, the SEC is done with the expansion process…

Assuming nothing does fall apart with Mizzou.

Could we be wrong in our assessments?  Sure.  But we trust our sources.  And we were the only site to guarantee an eventual A&M/SEC marriage in July of 2010… as well as the only site to discuss Missouri as a good expansion option in May of 2010.  So we’ve been able to add 2 and 2 together pretty well in the past.

If we’re wrong, we’ll have our mea culpas prepared.  But we think this one’s about wrapped up and Missouri will land in the SEC East.

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