November 06, 2011
Happy Sunday, Missouri: The Tigers may have just lost to Baylor to fall below .500 for the season, but as of Sunday morning, they're officially in the fold as the 14th member of the Southeastern Conference. SEC presidents and chancellors have unanimously approved the addition for all sports, effective July 1, 2012. The bureaucratic waggle dance has reached its inevitable conclusion.
Mizzou's imminent arrival from the Big 12 was such a poorly kept secret — even the SEC's own website prematurely "broke" the news late last month — it was less a secret than a foregone conclusion, albeit one some 18 months in the making.
The university was fairly overt in its one-sided flirtations with the Big Ten last year, when the Big 12 stood on the brink of disintegration at the hands of both the Big Ten and Pac-10. This year, Missouri was the only Big 12 member that refused to pledge solidarity to a reformed conference after it miraculously escaped another existential threat in September, following Texas A&M's defection to the SEC. Last week, various university sources described Mizzou departure as "inevitable and imminent" and "100 percent sure." Reading the writing on the wall, the Big 12 has already approved West Virginia as the Tigers' eventual replacement and wished them good luck.
The move may not be as much of a financial boon for Missouri as it would have appeared a year ago, thanks to the Big 12's fat new television contract and plans to move to an equal revenue-sharing model that divvies the pie evenly among each school. It obviously makes no geographic sense, splitting the Tigers with their century-old rivals in neighboring Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma for a league that will occasionally send them to the East Coast.
But the ties that bound Mizzou to the Big 12 were already beginning to fray when its old Big 8 colleagues, Colorado and Nebraska, bailed on the conference last year. And in terms of big-picture stability, while the Big 12 continues to scramble for a foothold that will halt the attrition from its ranks, the SEC is expanding its ranks into major new markets — first Texas (especially Houston), now Kansas City and St. Louis — that stand to make it an even larger, wealthier, more powerful force than it already is. Given a choice between a 16-year-old conference that's already been raided by three other leagues in the span of a little over a year, and an 80-year-old conference that's orchestrating the raids, it's no choice at all.
SEC fans, predictably, have been slightly more reluctant to make way for another, even more far-flung interloper more than 40 years removed from its last conference championship in football into the most closely knit, self-reverential family in college sports. But the time for that debate is passed: The votes are in, and they say Missouri is in. So while we start working out some of the nuts and bolts, how about y'all pull up a chair, pass the barbecue and tell us about this "Rock M" thing y'all got going on?
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