For the past couple years, Missouri's relationship with the Big 12 has been somewhat contemptuous at best.
When Mizzou made a public showing about wanting to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten, there were sour feelings. But those seemed to heal after Mizzou and the rest of the Big 12 decided to fight expansion and stay together as a conference despite the loss of Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.
Well, that strawberry gumdrop aura only lasted so long as Missouri once again tried to find a way out of the Big 12 and this time found a willing suitor in the SEC. The SEC had already lured Texas A&M, threatening the membership sustainability of the Big 12, and now it wanted Missouri to complete it's 14-team league.
The Big 12 had had enough.
According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, which reviewed more than 1,500 emails regarding Missouri's departure, Big 12 interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas was ready to slap an injunction on Missouri to keep it in the Big 12.
The lawsuit, slated to be filed in Boone County Circuit Court, never came to pass. But the 12-page draft of a petition for injunctive relief was obtained by the Tribune this month. It charged the SEC with illegally enticing Missouri to breach its contractual commitment to the Big 12 — an effort the suit states was "willful, deliberate and in bad faith" and the cause of "irreparable injury to the Big 12 for which money damages is not an adequate remedy."
The draft requested an injunction to bar the SEC from accepting Missouri before June 30, 2016, the final day of the current Big 12 member agreement.
The goal of the injunction was to keep Missouri around for at least another year because the conference did not know whether West Virginia would be able to get out of its contract with the Big East (which it eventually did).
"We need to discuss litigation idea with Slive even if we do not intend to file," Neinas wrote in a Nov. 8 email to Kansas City-based lawyer Kevin Sweeney and Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis, who replaced Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton as the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors. "Remember, Slive is a lawyer and was sensitive to what the SEC has done to B12. … Taking two members within a year appears to be designed to purposely weaken a conference that challenges for BCS positioning."
Sweeney responded three days later with a draft of the lawsuit.
"This gives you something to 'wave around' … when you speak with Commissioner Slive," he wrote to Neinas.
To Neinas' credit, this wasn't necessarily an attempt to just stick it to Missouri. It was an attempt to keep the Big 12 together. With Missouri and Texas A&M's departure, in addition to the previous departures of Nebraska and Colorado, the Big 12 was looking at lost revenue from broadcasting partners such as Fox and ESPN renegotiating their deal if the conference had fewer than 10 schools.
In another twist, former UM System President Gary Forsee prepared to make an 11th-hour appeal for MU to remain in the Big 12. Despite Missouri's move the SEC appearing to be a foregone conclusion, on Oct. 25 Forsee laid out his plan to Neal Patterson, the CEO of Cerner, a Kansas City-based healthcare services firm.
"I have written a 3-4 page 'response,' " wrote Forsee, who resigned from MU in January 2011 to care for his wife, Sherry, after she was diagnosed with cancer. "I'll sleep on it..my sense is time is about up and I need to be clear…I have been trying not to meddle and they may have no choice .. But if big 12 got it close, no question what MU needs to do."
The Columbia Daily Tribune mentions several folks within the Big 12 and their varying feelings about Missouri and it leaving the conference.
No one thought this was a smooth transition — that was evident by Kansas' refusal to play Missouri in the future — but this is the first time the details of what was a really tense and angry breakup have been revealed. An injunction probably would have been the only way to keep an unhappy Missouri in the Big 12, but then the Big 12 would have been in the same situation that the Big East was in with West Virginia, which is something Neinas adamantly criticized.
This was a breakup that was destined to happen and it's probably better that it wasn't dragged out through the court system.
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