Missouri fans decided they wanted to join the SEC and they would not accept no for an answer. Over the past three weeks the Tigers have inundated the board of curators, administrators, and other athletic department officials demanding that the Tigers join the SEC. A few minutes ago those fans’ voices were heard: Missouri officially announced its board of curators had unanimously given the chancellor of the university authority to explore conference options. Welcome to the SEC, Missouri fans, you’ve fought for a league bid when your administration wanted to stay in the Big 12 and risk the future.
When the administration was too afraid to act, the Missouri fans stepped up and refused to risk the status quo. What if the Big 12 nears implosion again in a few years — which it will — what if Missouri is left standing when this game of conference realignment musical chairs comes to an end? Nope, Missouri fans weren’t willing to risk that.
That’s because the college football universe has changed. And it’s not all because of conference realignment. If this had been 1992, the last time the SEC expanded, Missouri’s administration could have ignored the fan base and the massive percentages of Mizzou fans — approaching 90% — who wanted the SEC. But with the rise of social media, the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook, fans have the ability to mobilize like never before. OKTC felt the groundswell of fan support ever since we broke the news a month ago that Missouri had become the SEC’s top target for a 14th school.
Missouri fans visited the site in record numbers as we continued to post updates on the Big 12 insanity. Finally, Chuck Neinas, interim Big 12 commissioner gave the SEC an opening. Asked whether the Big 12 would survive without Missouri Neinas replied: “Yes, I think it could be viable because there’s a lot of strength in the conference.”
If the Big 12 wasn’t going to die, then the SEC couldn’t be blamed for swooping in and making a second big-time addition in the same month.
Now that Missouri is exploring options, let’s consider what we know. (By the way, you don’t explore options with the intent of staying. Try that line on your girlfriend.)
1. SEC commissioner Mike Slive winsthis stage of realignment.
Slive’s SEC adds two AAU schools, doubling the SEC’s number of members, adds 31 million people to the SEC’s existing 50 million population footprint, goes in to two new states with large media markets, and snags two of the Big 12’s four most valuable programs — Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Missouri were the four most valuable remaining Big 12 schools.
Given that Oklahoma came with the price of Oklahoma State, Texas has always been too scared to join the SEC, and West Virginia isn’t a good school and has contractual committments in the Big East until 2014, Texas A&M and Missouri are plum additions.
2. The SEC Network in partnership with ESPN is coming.
This is still not getting much attention outside of OKTC, but I’m telling y’all this — the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri is not just about getting more money out of the existing network deals. This is about more, a coming network partnership between the SEC and ESPN that will be a stand-alone channel modeled after the Big Ten Network.
How quickly could this EC/ESPN partner network launch? In time for the 2012 football season if both sides move rapidly, which I think they’ll be incentivized to do.
3. Missouri will make a decision to join the SEC by December 1, 2011.
That’s because as OKTC told you last week — there is no legitimate fear of a lawsuit and the Big 12 bylaws are so poorly drafted the damages for departing will be limited. You can read why that is here.
Missouri’s exit fee should be the exact same as Texas A&M so long as they leave the Big 12 before December 1, 2011.
4. Auburn will probably swing to the SEC East.
This will be discussed at the SEC athletic director’s meeting taking place tomorrow.
The SEC will play with two divisions.
The SEC East will be: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Auburn
The SEC West will be: Texas A&M, Missouri, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State
5. Who will be Missouri and Texas A&M’s yearly rivals?
You’ll note that with Auburn’s move to the SEC East, the Iron Bowl will become the cross division rivalry. Auburn’s game against Georgia will be preserved now as a divisional game.
That means Tennessee and Georgia will need new yearly rivalry games. Who will play Texas A&M and who will play Missouri? That will also be discussed at the SEC athletic director’s meeting tomorrow.
Here’s an early guess for the Vols drawing Texas A&M. Yep, A&M may have dropped one UT for another.
Now, UT fans are already noting this — the yearly UT-Alabama game would be the biggest casualty of realignment. The game could be preserved for a year or two, but going forward it would require either nine conference games — a move that the lesser football schools would fight like hell because it might kill their bowl chances — or an expansion to 16 and a further reevaluation of all schedules.
That’s why I’m in favor of a simpler solution.
6. Split Missouri and A&M putting the two newest additions in different divisions in the same model used before when Arkansas and South Carolina were added.
In this scenario Missouri and Texas A&M would be yearly rivals but would play in the SEC East and SEC West respectively.
Personally, I like this plan much better. Here’s a map courtesy of Mizzou2SEC.
This would have the benefit of preserving all existing rivalries.
Now the difficulty here is that Missouri would have long trips to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Games that are difficult to travel to over a weekend.
That could be ameliorated a bit, however by assigning Arkansas as the opening opponent in the SEC West. How about this to begin for Missouri: road games at Arkansas, Kentucky, UT and Vandy, home games with Florida, Georgia, A&M, and Kentucky.
All of the first season’s road games would be easily reachable by car. Plus, the mileage for every game but Florida is less than the mileage for an old game at Austin, Texas.
Don’t believe me? Mental geography can be confusing.
Which is closer to Columbia, Missouri, Athens, Georgia or Austin, Texas?
Athens is actually 60 miles closer. Indeed, Missouri is closer geographically to every SEC East school (Florida excepted) than it is to Texas A&M.
Which do y’all prefer?
Especially with 14 likely just a couple of year stopping off point en route to 16.
7. Now comes the prolonged courtship dance between Missouri and the SEC.
It’s already started, and it’s a bit like how a vice-president is selected as a running mate.
The offer doens’t come until you’re sure of the answer.
Missouri will now prepare an application for the SEC and the SEC presidents will consider that application.
Expect for it to be accepted.
And expect for Missouri to join the conference at the same time as Texas A&M.
There’s only one complexity that can happen now — what if the Big Ten suddenly awakes from its slumber and gets interested in expansion too? Then the conference realignment hibernation comes to end in an instant. Until then, and I don’t think the Big Ten is waking, Missouri fans are going to be working on their suntans.
Put on sunglasses, Mizzou fans, your future is bright. And lined with sundresses and championships.
OKTC would like to thank y’all for choosing to stay informed on conference realignment here. We’ll stay on top of the story going forward, but OKTC has broken more news than every major news site combined on conference realignment.
Read all of OKTC’s conference realignment stories here.