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Elliott Berry Says He’s Heard ‘Nothing’ From Tennessee

Many Tennessee fans are hoping to see brothers Elliott and Evan Berry sign with the Vols in 2014.

That’s because their older brother, Kansas City safety Eric Berry, was a star player at Tennessee from 2007-09.

There’s a long way to go until the Berry twins will be able to sign with a school, which might be a good thing for Tennessee. That’s because the Berry twins haven’t heard recently from anyone at the school.

“Nothing,” Elliott Berry told MaxPreps.com. “They fired the coach (Charlie Baggett) that has our area.”

Baggett’s departure from Tennessee was described by some as a “retirement,” although some close to the program believe the move was forced by the school.

Tennessee is expected to recruit Elliott and Evan Berry, who project to be two of the top athletes in the 2014 class, but the Vols will have plenty of competition. Elliott told MaxPreps he’s been offered by and has been hearing from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU.

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Kansas City Aims To Become An SEC City, But The SEC Should Be Picky With Its Tourney

To your immediate left is a map of the Southeastern Conference region.  That red dot at the extreme Northwest of the map?  That’s Kansas City, Missouri.  (You can click the headline above for a bigger look at the image.)

Kansas City wants to continue to make money off of Missouri athletics after the Tigers move to the SEC.  Missouri wants to maintain a presence in the city for its KC fanbase (though the area is a lot closer to the University of Kansas than the University of Missouri).

With the Jayhawks balking at the idea of continuing their football series with the Tigers in Kansas City, the city is looking for new ways to stay connected with MU.  City leaders met with Mizzou officials and state lawmakers yesterday to see if the Tigers were serious about playing games there in the future.

“It was real clear to me that Missouri was absolutely sincere in wanting to keep a major presence here in Kansas City,” said Jim Heeter, the head of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.  And that was enough to lead Heeter to say this:


“I suggest it’s a great opportunity for Kansas City.  We keep our Big 12 base and then expand our base to the SEC.  We can make what’s already one of the great sports towns in America an even greater sports town.”

Sounds good.  But the idea of the Kansas City community embracing the SEC is a bit of a longshot.  Columbia definitely will.  St. Louis — which is on the other side of the state from Kansas City — probably will as well, eventually.  But KC?  Take another look at that map above.

That said, there are a couple of options Kansas City and Missouri are already discussing:

1.  Have the Tigers play an annual football game in KC… even if it’s not against Kansas.

2.  Let the Tigers host a holiday basketball tournament in Kansas City.

3.  Bring the SEC basketball tournament to Kansas City.

Mizzou AD Mike Alden says he’s in favor of bringing the tourney to KC by as early as 2017-18.  “(The SEC is) gonna take a look at bids throughout their entire footprint, which includes KC.  I know they’re hoping they would receive a bid and proposal from Kansas City to be able to host their tournament here.”

Are 20,000 or so of you interested in heading to Kansas City in March to watch the SEC Tournament?  Didn’t think so.  Heck, even Kentucky fans might view that as being a bit of a haul.

It’s good business for the Southeastern Conference to award its tourney to the highest bidder.  The league should just know that the attendance will likely be rather low for such an event held in a place far from the South.  Like it or not, Kansas City is still Big 12 territory.  There won’t be much walk-up traffic from folks wanting to buy a seat to an afternoon session between South Carolina and Auburn.

For that matter, very few SEC fans chose to travel to St. Petersburg for the 2009 tourney and St. Pete’s in long-time league territory.

Since being revived in 1979, here’s a breakdown of the cities that have hosted (and are scheduled to host) the league’s annual basketball championship:

City Hosted or Will Host
Birmingham, AL 79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 92
Lexington, KY 82, 86, 93
Nashville, TN 84, 91, 01, 06, 10, 13
Atlanta, GA 87, 95, 98, 99, 00, 02, 04, 05, 07, 08, 11, 14
Baton Rouge, LA 88
Knoxville, TN 89
Orlando, FL 90
Memphis, TN 94, 97
New Orleans, LA 96, 03, 12

Obviously, the SEC has outgrown the days of playing the tourney at on-campus sites.  Good.  It shouldn’t go back to that.  Ever.

The SEC wants prime bids and it wants great exposure and it wants to expand into new territories and convert new fans.  Fine, fine, fine and fine.  But there’s a price for going too far outside its region.  Namely: Perception.

If the SEC hosts its tourney in Kansas City, Mike Slive had better be prepared for a national TV audience to see scores of empty seats surrounding his teams.  If that issue and overall gate revenue are not concerns, then to KC the tourney should go.

But if we at MrSEC.com were handling things — and obviously we’re not — the league would create a regular rotation of host cities based upon top-notch facilities, good infrastructure, tourist opportunities, and a location close to multiple schools in the SEC.

Here are the cities that would fit the bill:

* Atlanta, obviously.

* Nashville is another fine tourist destination with good facilities and a great downtown.

* New Orleans is a vacation destination and it should be in the mix regularly.  Though we’d keep an eye on this year’s tourney to make sure.

* With Beale Street and barbecue, Memphis would make sense as well — especially with the addition of two Central Time Zone schools to the league — but we notice that the league hasn’t been there in a while.  So Memphis would be a big maybe.

That’s it.  That’s three cities (and possibly a fourth) in the rotation.  If the SEC wants to reward Missouri and Texas A&M with tourneys in their backyards, then the league should focus on St. Louis and Houston which are closer to the SEC’s natural footprint than Kansas City, Dallas or San Antonio.

And St. Louis and Houston would still take the league into new, unconquered territories.

Kansas City?  That seems a bit too far way for the average SEC fan.

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Missouri Press Conference Update

The University of Missouri board of curators is scheduled to begin a press conference with reporters as soon as their final closed session meeting wraps up.  That meeting has already run longer than expected.

As any SEC-related announcement is made, we’ll let you know right here.

* The presser was tentatively scheduled for 12:30pm ET.  It’s now 1:15pm.  Still we wait.

* And still waiting.  An MU backdrop is not being put up in the media room.

* AD Mike Alden is scheduled to be on hand for the presser.

* Unanimous resolution: Chancellor Brady Deaton has authority to engage in contract talks with other conferences.  

* Missouri also wants to look at continuing to play football and basketball games in Kansas City.  (Why offer to play games in KC if you aren’t leaving that area and those area rivals?)

* 2 + 2 = SEC

* Deaton wouldn’t speak specifically about leaving Big 12 or joining SEC, but things wouldn’t have gotten this far if the SEC and Missouri hadn’t already nailed things down.

* This is almost the exact timeline that Texas A&M followed when entering the SEC.

* MU reps are working hard to not say too much — due to legal concerns — but it certainly looks as though Mizzou and the SEC are going to start speeding up the process.

* “No timeline” set but MU expects things to move “expeditiously.”

* “This is a very complex transaction to consider.”  “We have to exercise our fiduciary duty.”  By giving Deaton the the right to cut a new contract, MU is all but announcing they’re leaving the Big 12.

* Missouri anticipates any move it makes taking place before next season.


1:54 — That’s it for now.  Mizzou is heading toward the SEC and the chancellor now has the ability to act on his own without having to run back and forth for board approval.  The next stop — from what was suggested today — will be an announcement that Missouri has reached an agreement with the SEC or it has decided to stay.  There will be no “What do we need to do to leave the Big 12?” step as there was in Texas A&M’s case.

We continue to believe that Missouri’s move to the SEC will be completed by mid- to late-next week.

We’ll have reaction on the site later this afternoon.

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Missouri-SEC Expansion Notes To Fill The Quiet Before The Storm

Quiet before the storm.

That idiom seems to apply to the expected marriage of Missouri and the SEC.  Sources close to the Mizzou program began talking to media outlets from Kansas City to New York City earlier this week and the message was the same: Tomorrow’s board of curators meeting could be D-Day for the Tigers.

It’s believed that the board — which gave MU chancellor Brady Deaton the right to explore conference options 15 days ago — will decide tomorrow or Friday to abandon the Big 12 and ask for a membership application from Mike Slive’s league.

After a flurry of information from MU’s side of things, all’s gone quiet of late.

Below are a couple of the headlines that have been posted in the past 24 hours on the subject… in case you want something to break up the silence before tomorrow’s announcem… er… meeting.

1.  Missouri’s decision to stay or go will have an impact on three different conferences — the Big 12, the SEC, and the Big East (which stands to be raided by the Big 12 if the Tigers bolt).

2.  From Mizzou to the Big East, everyone is looking for stability.

3.  This Kansas City writer says he and a lot of Kansas City sports fans will lose interest in Missouri if the school joins the SEC.

4.  Next Saturday — October 29th — (“Saturday week” as some of us say down South) Missouri will play at Texas A&M.  It would be fitting if Mizzou and the SEC tie the knot prior to next Sunday, turning that contest into an SEC preview.

And one last extra note from last week (just because it’s brought up on a regular basis…

5.  While Missouri’s exit fee on paper might be $23-35 million, “no one ever pays” the high end penalty for leaving a conference.  Those exit fees are negotiated down, which is why Chuck Neinas said last week that MU would be in the Big 12 through 2012-13.  At MrSEC.com, we believe he was simply laying the groundwork for his “high end” starting point in the Big 12′s negotiations with Mizzou.

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Kansas City Lays Guilt Trip On Missouri Regarding SEC

There figure to be a few losers should Missouri move to the SEC and it appears that the city of Kansas City is at top of the list.  And the muckety-mucks in KC aren’t afraid to use that fact in putting a guilt trip on University of Missouri leadership.

A move by Mizzou would likely pull the Big 12 basketball tournament out of Kansas City and that event is worth $14 million a year to the metro area.  Missouri and Kansas have also been playing their Border War football game in KC, which brings in additional currency.

Following pleas from the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kansas City Sports Commission, yesterday mayor Sly James sent an open letter to MU chancellor Brady Deaton asking him and his school to stay put… for the benefit of that state.

“It is imperative for that money should remain in the Show-Me State,” read the letter.  And, yes, that’s the quote.

According to The Kansas City Star, the letter closed as follows:

 

“We believe this region collectively values University of Missouri athletics — has, does and will — to a degree that won’t be replicated elsewhere.  And that staying here, in the Big 12 Conference, within your home region and among your fans and rivals is the right decision to honor your history, fulfill your present an secure your future.”

 

That sounds good.  Especially to those who believe Missouri is Midwestern, not Southern.  The only problem is, Arkansas once stretched the boundaries of the traditional Southeast as well.  That program has survived.  It was also claimed that an Eastern school like Penn State would not mesh well with the Midwestern schools of the Big Ten.  But the Nittany Lions still have as many fans today as they did when they joined that league.

Folks can use a lot of arguments against a Missouri move to the SEC.  Geography shouldn’t be one of them.  The state borders three SEC states and is no further west than Arkansas or Louisiana.  The majority of the state is no further north than Kentucky and Virginia.  And for those of you still chatting about the Civil War, Missouri was a border state just like Kentucky.

Kansas City may indeed lose money in a Missouri exit from the Big 12.  They’re free to beat that drum and guilt the MU administration if they like.  Heck, it may work.  But to suggest another region won’t “value” Missouri athletics is a bit pointless.  I doubt fans in Florida or Georgia value the athletics at Arkansas.  They don’t have to.  They compete on the field.  As long as the people of Arkansas value the athletics of Arkansas, all will be right in the Natural State.

Ditto Missouri.

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Linkin’ And Thinkin’ About SEC Expansion – 9/22/11

It’s been another long day on the expansion front.  Many of you are as sick of this mess as we at MrSEC.com are.  There are simply too many variables to follow in a 24-hour period.  And each variable seems to impact a dozen other variables.  Trying to get a grip on how things will play out in this shuffle is like trying to figure out whether or not to move in for a first kiss.  ”She touched my hand at dinner.  But she seemed to dislike my choice of restaurants.  Then again, the bottle of Night Train with our meal seemed to please her.”

A man could go crazy trying to read the signs and hidden messages involved in both activities.

Before we begin a quick run-through of a day’s worth of our thoughts on Expansion-palooza 2011, let’s first catch you up on some of what’s being written and said by pundits from all across the country.  Without further ado, here are the reports, the rumors, and the ridiculous… enjoy:

 

Let’s start with the gang at CBSSports.com where everyone must’ve been drinking from the same coffee pot on Wednesday.

1.  Tony Barnhart says college football “is imploding before our eyes.”

2.  Ray Ratto says schools have been chasing the almighty dollar for years.

3.  Gregg Doyel wants Congress to step in and stop expansion and realignment.  (But wouldn’t that make Congress a bunch of Socialists trying to control the free market?  How ’bout we let Congress worry about creating jobs and getting rid of debt.  Let’s try to help them keep their eyes on what’s really important.)

4.  Dennis Dodd runs through all the madness of the past week and asks that someone wake him when the “realignment nightmare” is over.

5.  Over at ESPN.com, Andy Katz reports that the Big 12 board of directors will meet soon, that the league is starting to stabilize, and that Dan Beebe’s job as commissioner will be a hot topic.  (CBSSports.com says Chuck Neinas is already being kicked around as a possible replacement… which is good practice for when he spends the next 12 months being kicked around by Texas.  And before we could even post this story, news leaked that Beebe is working on a deal to resign.)

6.  Pat Forde writes that the Big 12 has been to the brink and back.  Again.

7.  Heather Dinich has a suggestion for the ACC’s divisional set-up after Pitt and Syracuse join.  (So do we: Drop the nonsensical Atlantic and Coastal Divisions and split the league along a North/South line.  That would enable fans to figure out which games matter most.  Are you paying attention, Big Ten?)

8.  UConn and West Virginia released statements on Wednesday, but neither pledged to stay in the Big East.  (Most believe UConn still wants into the ACC while WVU would be thrilled with either an ACC or SEC bid.)

9.  Meanwhile, East Carolina is applying for membership in the currently-on-life-support Big East.  (So it’s safe to say that Mike Slive never called?  Shocking. But here’s hoping the up-and-coming Pirates get the bid they seek.)

10.  Andrea Adelson lists some other potential Big East targets.

11.  Adam Rittenberg says the Big Ten anticipates no movement despite Joe Paterno talking about “speculation” that Penn State might need to move East, presumably to the ACC.  (Paterno wants an Eastern partner for PSU in the Big Ten and this was likely his way of angling for Rutgers, UConn or WVU to be included in Penn State’s current league.)

12.  Ted Miller reports that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott says his league absolutely could have expanded, “but the deal didn’t make any sense at the end of the day for us.”  (That doesn’t mean a new deal couldn’t change the Pac-12′s mind.)

13.  Texas president Bill Powers says the Longhorns would consider re-working the money split in the Big 12… but AD DeLoss Dodds says the cash from the Longhorn Network is untouchable.  “That’s never been in play, that’s not in play,” Dodds said while stroking a bag of cash and calling it “Precious.”

14.  Matt Hayes of The Sporting News says that everything’s gone perfectly according to the SEC’s master plan.  (Let the spin begin.  We’ll have more on this below.  But we’ve been predicting that the SEC — like everyone else — would emerge and claim that things worked out just peachy for them.)

15.  According to The Kansas City Star, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel doesn’t sound like he’s fully onboard with his chancellor’s “Save the Big 12″ push:

 

“We have problems in our league and we all know what most of them are. But we don’t solve them.  We’ve lost three really good members in a year and a half and we think we’d maybe wake up and try to fix the problems so that we could have a great league.  Because until the problems are fixed this stuff’s going to be happening. In my opinion, it’s going to go on and on and on and it’s not a whole lot of fun to be part of it.”


16.  The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas’ Dodds scoffed at rumors of an OU-UT rift.  (Nevermind that whole list of demands thing turned in by the Sooners.)

17.  The Chronicle also reports that Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp says it’s all systems go for a move to the SEC:

 

“There is no doubt A&M is going to the Southeastern Conference.  In our minds, we’re already there – already working out the schedules… I’m not going to have too many comments about Baylor wanting to sue everybody, but I have never seen a situation made better by a lawsuit… We are going to the Southeastern Conference to play with the big boys.”

 

18.  Sharp also said that A&M wants to continue to play Texas and if that doesn’t happen “it will be because Texas decided not to.”  Alas, UT’s Dodds says it would be “problematic” to work around both schools’ new conference schedules.  (Yep, that’s certainly stopped Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, and Florida-Florida State from playing.  How cowardly.)

19.  More spin: An Oklahoma source says the Sooners never really wanted to go to the Pac-12 anyway.  (Again, everyone will claim to come out of this mess a winner, but more than a few will be about as victorious as Charlie Sheen.  And for now, that includes the snubbed Sooners.)

20.  USA Today points out that the SEC’s options for a 14th school sure seem limited.

 

And now, some random thoughts and ruminations from a day spent staring at a laptop screen with a cellphone pushed against my ear:

 

1.  There are secondhand reports from the Show Me State that a move to push Missouri into the SEC has begun within the Tiger fanbase.  We’ve received a number of emails from Mizzou fans claiming that MU’s chancellor might’ve put himself in some hot water by working so hard to save the Big 12… while an opportunity to move to the Texas-less SEC was on the table.  We’re not saying that this is accurate or not, we’re just pointing out that the pro-SEC vibe seems to be growing across the Mississip.  This is what happened at Texas A&M, if you recall.  Aggie brass voted last summer to stay in the Big 12, but the more they and their fans thought about the potential of an SEC jump, the more it seemed like a smart idea.  Tiger fans may be experiencing that same moment of enlightenment right now.

2.  Now here’s a totally random thought for you.  When asked about rumors that Florida State might move to the SEC, president Eric Barron said last month that he liked the ACC and that he hadn’t spoken with anyone in the SEC.  He didn’t deny interest, however.  Then, FSU board of trustees chairman Andy Haggard said last week that his school was putting together a committee to study expansion/realignment possibilities (a claim he flip-flopped on a day later).  Then this week, while in the process of stating that he loves the ACC’s recent expansions and that he doesn’t see any possibility of his school moving to the SEC, Haggard said point blank that FSU would listen if the SEC called.  So… could it be that Florida State is interested in the SEC but the league doesn’t have the same feelings for FSU?  We’ve been told that some in the SEC offices still resent the fact that State picked the ACC over the SEC 20 years ago.  And while we’ve also been told repeatedly that there is no official policy to blackball schools located in current SEC states, you have to wonder if there is some backlash among league schools.  That said, it would be shortsighted and stubborn of Slive’s league not to chat with one of the few “national brand” programs in the South that doesn’t belong to the SEC right now, so we’re not buying this theory.  But it did cross our minds.  And since we so often say that anything is possible in the expansion/realignment game, we thought we’d share it.  So what do you think?  Is FSU angling for an SEC phone call that just won’t come?

3.  There’s been a lot of talk that the ACC didn’t do very much to help itself in terms of expansion.  Pitt and Syracuse are good schools with good tradition in football and basketball, but they’re not mega-brands like Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State or Florida.  At least that’s the thought.  But it’s been clear for years that eventually — in a super-conference world — there would be only one league on the East Coast… either the Big East or the ACC.  Just a few weeks ago one major blog predicted that the Big East would gobble up and undo the ACC.  But by grabbing two founding members of the Big East — to go along with the three Big East members the ACC nabbed earlier this decade — the ACC this week assured itself of being the ultimate survivor in its death struggle with the Big East.  Even if it’s someday raided by another league, the ACC has enough schools and big media markets to survive.  The same cannot be said for the Big East.  So the ACC’s expansion wasn’t a good one?  Please.  The ACC just guaranteed itself a future.  That’s a pretty good move in our book.

4.  When we discuss expansion, we often talk about “brand.”  The brand of a school is important.  So is its population base.  Its alumni base.  The number of television viewers that it will bring to a league, as well as academic reputation and resources.  But what’s most important to one league or school one minute might not be most important to that league or school a minute later.  Take for example the Pac-12.  That league views itself as an academic juggernaut.  Oh, sure, they’ve got Arizona State in their ranks, but UCLA and Southern Cal and Stanford and Cal and Colorado and Washington are all AAU institutions.  This week, Pac-12 presidents weren’t pleased with the idea of Texas fouling up the league’s money share plan, with the geography issues presented by an Oklahoma/Oklahoma State entry into their league, or by the potential addition of Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, two schools that might sully the league’s high-brow academic rep.  But just last year, racing to reach 12 schools, the league voted to include Utah.  No offense to that school, but it’s not exactly Yale by the Salt Lake.  Last summer, the Pac-12′s commissioner told his presidents that adding Utah and reaching 12 schools would enable him to cut a ridiculous television deal.  So Utah was voted in and Scott made good on his pledge to get more money.  A lot more money.  With that new contract in hand, the Pac-12′s presidents could afford — quite literally — to be more finicky when it came to this year’s applicants.  The point is this: After cash, branding and television markets and academics all play a role in expansion.  But the importance of each of those factors can change from situation to situation and day to day.  There are no hard and set rules for this stuff.  (Aside from making more money, of course.)

5.  As we noted above, Matt Hayes of The Sporting News reports that “multiple SEC sources” have told him that everything that’s happened so far has gone according to Slive’s grand plan.  The league wanted Texas A&M and it got Texas A&M.  If another school fell into the league’s lap, super.  If not, the SEC is aces with the idea of remaining a 13-school conference for a while:

 

“The sideshow of who would be the SEC’s 14th team, or the possibility of expanding to 16 teams with three other superconferences and the collateral damage that would follow, was simply background noise.

The SEC was never going to 16 teams. The SEC was never interested in schools within the borders of its current schools. And more important, the SEC was never interested in driving the expansion train.”

 

And…

 

“All you need to know is SEC commissioner Mike Slive was on the sidelines coaching this clown act from the beginning. The SEC wanted the state of Texas for television expansion, recruiting gains and general dominance of all things oblong.

Who cares about No.14? If it’s Missouri, and the league can gain the St. Louis and Kansas City television markets and get more involved in Midwest recruiting, so be it. If not, it will find someone else.”

 

“Cool, baby.  It’s all good.  What?  Us panic.  We knew how this would all play out.”

Question: What the heck are SEC sources going to say?  We’ve said all along that if the SEC reeled in a 14th school, it would quickly claim that it had had its eye on that school all along.  And if no one came knocking, well, then the league would leak word that it really just wanted a 13th school from the get-go (despite what numerous SEC sources told numerous other outlets — including this one — when the A&M story first broke).

But here’s hoping Slive really is sipping a boat drink by his pool right now.  Here’s hoping he does know that the SEC will land a mega-brand to go along with A&M.  Here’s hoping the college sports world really is Slive’s personal stage and that the rest of the presidents and commissioners out there are just puppets on his strings.

But as of yet, the SEC hasn’t named a mega-brand.  In July, when Slive said his league could get to 16 schools in 15 minutes, we don’t think he was talking about adding West Virginia, East Carolina and TCU to A&M.  We believe the most powerful commish in sports thought that some big name schools would knock his door off its hinges in order to gain entry into the SEC.  And if that actually happened, then it means the SEC has for some reason turned down major names like Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, Oklahoma in order to stick at 13.

Ya really think that’s what’s happened?

We like Hayes and we know he’s got some good sources inside the Southeastern Conference.  He’s one of the national writers we most enjoy reading.  But we’re not buying the spin coming out of Birmingham anymore than we are the spin coming out of Norman, Oklahoma or Austin, Texas right now.  No one knows what’s going to happen when dozens of people with large egos and big money on their brains start playing high-stakes poker.  And that includes Slive and his team of presidents.

So if the league could have grabbed A&M and Virginia Tech a month ago, the SEC would be at 14 schools right now.  Period.

Now, do we think Slive should be desperate to find School #14?  No.  Desperation isn’t good.  Desperation is the Big East and the Big 12.  Desperation is how girls wind up facing first-kiss scenarios with guys like me.

We do, however, believe the league should be motivated to bring in another big-name school.  Like right now.  Conference brass can pitch the positives of a 13-school league all they like, but the truth of the matter is this a league where fans lose sleep over how many coming-off-open-date opponents their favorite school will face.  So if Slive and crew think an unbalanced divisional format with an unbalanced schedule won’t cause many, many, many people to scream “Conspiracy!” at the top of their lungs, they’re dreaming.  Heck, it could be argued that going the 13-team route is more a sign of desperation than trying to lure a 14th school from an existing league.  (You know, like the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC have all done in the past 16 months.)

Everything’s gone according to the SEC’s plan?  Sorry.  We don’t believe that one, in part because of what our own SEC sources have told us.  But that doesn’t mean things won’t turn out well for the SEC when the music stops.  Under Slive’s leadership they usually turn out very, very well.  Even if they don’t go exactly according to his master plan.

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Where Does Missouri Fit And Where Do Tiger Fans Want To Go?

Last summer, we dove into the expansion game with a series of reports called “Expounding on Expansion.”  We compared 18 different SEC schools in a number of categories — athletic budget, bowl and NCAA tourney bids over a 20-year period, academic rankings and AAU status, population base, television markets, etc.  We then ranked all 18 schools according to those hard and fast figures.

The number two school on our list of “good” expansion moves for the SEC was Texas A&M, just behind Texas.  And if there were a way to take points off for ego and an inability to get along with others, we have no doubt the Aggies would have bumped the Longhorns from the top spot.

Missouri — a school NO ONE was talking about as an SEC candidate last summer — came in right in the middle of our rankings.  The Tigers bring in everything that everyone has now come to realize matters: big TV markets, a big population base, solid athletics, and a good academic standard to please the presidents doing the voting.

But Missouri angled loudly for a Big Ten berth last year.  No wonder.  A university president would love to partner his institution with an academically-respected conference.  And for those who still don’t get it, the Big Ten’s various academic partnerships (learn more here) enable the average Big Ten school to grab about $500 million per year in research funding.  That’s about five times more cash than the biggest athletic budget in the nation.  So, yes, academics matter.

This summer, there are still many Mizzou fans and administrators who’d like to wait around for a Big Ten berth that may someday come.  Meanwhile, MU chancellor Brady Deaton is serving as the chair of the Big 12′s board of directors and he’s reportedly become the key man in trying to hold the Tigers’ current league together.  And at the same time, Deaton and the MU administration have supposedly been chatting with Mike Slive and the SEC, too… to the point that the school received an informal “if your league blows up, come join us” offer for SEC membership.  The Tiger fans on this site — probably because it’s a site covering the SEC — claim that the majority of Tiger fans want Mizzou to move South, not North in the expansion game.

As we’ve stated, if Missouri does eventually land an SEC bid, it would be the first school to enter the league without offering a full-throated “Hurrah!.”  See Texas A&M if you want an example of what a conference wants to hear from a potential new member.

Trying to gauge Mizzou’s interest in the SEC (and Big 12 and Big Ten) is tricky business.  Luckily, Mike Mitchell — my partner here at MrSEC.com — and our weekend and occasional “Overtime” contributor is a Show Me State product.  Asked why his home state seems so divided, Mike made it clear that that’s always been the nature of Missouri.

I asked him to put his thoughts — as a Missouri native and as someone who still lives part-time in that state — into a quickie post for the site.  Here’s his take on the mixed messages coming from the MU fanbase and administration:

 

Where does Missouri fit in all this expansion talk?  Just about anywhere.  And nowhere.  Maybe because it borders so many states (eight), there’s no consensus in Show-Me country where the Tigers fit best. 

Go to the western part of the state and the rivalry with Kansas dominates.  On the eastern side, Illinois is a natural rival.  Where I grew up in the Missouri bootheel, the television market features a CBS affiliate in Missouri, an ABC station in Illinois and the NBC affiliate broadcasts from Kentucky.  As a child, I watched a lot more Kentucky and SEC basketball games than I ever did of the Missouri Tigers and the old Big 8 (the Paducah, KY station used to pre-empt Saturday Night Live to show tape-delayed broadcasts from Rupp Arena).  In this part of the state, proximity to SEC country is closer than you think.  From the bootheel town of Sikeston – population of about 20,000 – you can be in Oxford, Mississippi just as fast as you can drive to Columbia, Missouri.

For that reason, I suspect many fans in southeast Missouri are sympathetic to a move to the SEC.  Ditto for the southwest part of the state where Springfield (the third largest market in the state after St. Louis and Kansas City) is only about 150 miles from Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

But go north of there and attitudes change. St. Louis media cover Illinois sports. Each year, Mizzou and Illinois play a basketball game in St. Louis.  The Illini represent Mizzou’s biggest non-conference rival.

About four hours west in Kansas City, the rivalry is different but the passions are even deeper.  Disagreements between Missouri and Kansas go back to Civil War days and William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence.  On the football field, the Missouri-Kansas game is the oldest major college rivalry west of the Mississippi. I suspect many fans on the western side of the state are more interested in preserving an old rivalry than expanding to new territory. 

I was in college at the University of Missouri in 1985 when the St. Louis Cardinals played the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.  Because Columbia is roughly equidistant from the two cities, Sports Illustrated sent a writer to campus.  I recall a quote from a sociology professor who said something to the effect that, “St. Louis looks to the east.  Kansas City looks to the west.” It’s as true today as it was then.

The baseball teams remind me of another complicating factor in all of this: Unlike many SEC states where professional sports only arrived in recent decades, Missouri is dominated by pro sports teams. Both Kansas City and St. Louis have MLB and NFL teams.   The Cardinals have been a part of the National League since 1892.  If there’s a fan base in Missouri that can rival the passion of SEC football fans, that’s the group. In St. Louis, college sports receive second tier status. The Cardinals consume much of the media oxygen.

If you’re expecting consensus from the Missouri crowd on what conference is best, you’re going to be disappointed.  For reasons of history, culture and geography, it’s a divided state on so many issues.  Always has been and, I suspect, always will be.

 

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SEC Headlines – 1/5/11 Part Two

1.  John Brantley won’t make a decision to stay or leave until he meets with new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis (who is still coaching Kansas City in the NFL playoffs).

2.  Brantley has a lot to consider while making up his mind.

3.  Florida’s basketball team heads into SEC play on a good note.

4.  This writer wonders why it took Mark Richt so long to realize that changes needed to be made.

5.  This scribe compares the Georgia program to Alabama’s.

6.  Kentucky’s players are glad the BBVA Compass Bowl is giving them one more shot to go out as winners.

7.  John Calipari is still looking for more consistency out of his Wildcats.  (Even though UK is a lot more consistent that any other team in the SEC these days.)

8.  The Georgia basketball team will take part in a tournament in Kansas City next November.  (Out of order, I know.  Sorry.)

9.  South Carolina used a 24-3 run to smoke cross-state rival South Carolina State 91-56 last night.

10.  Tennessee’s Melvin Goins said, “We just don’t like Memphis” when asked about the team his Vols host tonight.

11.  The Tigers will be a big test for a struggling UT team.

12.  If you think bowl season is about as exciting as I do then you’ll love Eric Crawford’s “This Bowl Season Has Been A Joke” Column from The Louisville Courier-Journal.  Brilliant.

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Weis Says There Was No Rift With KC’s Haley; Former ND Aide Joining Him At UF

Despite reports from across the NFL saying that he and head coach Todd Haley weren’t the best of buds, Kansas City offensive coordinator Charlie Weis says that’s not the case.

“I almost get offended when people say that.  People always want to look for a different angle for why you’re doing this (meaning: going to Florida).  … But this decision had absolutely zero to do with relationships in Kansas City.”

Instead, Weis told The Kansas City Star that he has become friends with new Gators’ coach Will Muschamp.  His son will also begin attending Florida next year and will serve as some type of assistant on the Gators’ staff while he’s in school.

“He wants to coach.  It took us very long to try to find a place where he could be involved with the football program in a student-assistant capacity.  When I finally did talk to Will, we chatted about that and then we talked about me.  I had to really reflect on that, spend time with my wife and Charlie (his son).  We talked about a whole bunch of thigns and at the end of the day, I don’t think anybody could understand how wonderful an opportunity it would be to be able to work at a place and see your kid on a daily basis.”

“It’s a tough business,” Weis said.  “To go to a program like Florida and be able to be around my kid at the same time… is almost a dream.”

Regardless of how or why Weis is moving to Gainesville, the Gators have landed a coordinator who has worked with Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Cassel. 

That history alone should put a smile on the faces of Gator fans and quarterback recruits.

Also, Muschamp and Weis have brought in former Notre Dame offensive line coach Frank Verducci.  Verducci will serve in the same capacity in Gainesville though he will also have the title of “run game coordinator.”

Muschamp has grabbed George Wynn from Texas as his director of football operations.

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Report: Mitch Barnhart to Interview for Kansas AD Position

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Per SPORTSbyBrooks.com, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart will interview for the vacant Kansas University athletic directior position in December.  The report states that along with Barnhart, Tulsa AD Bubba Cunningham will interview for the opening.

Barnhart is originally from Kansas City, Kansas.  He has been at Kentucky since 2002.


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