Missouri takes its first (official) step to leaving the Big 12 behind

The University of Missouri Board of Curators met as expected this afternoon, and eventually — after roughly four hours behind closed doors in an epic executive session, possibly spent watching the St. Louis Cardinals — did exactly what it was expected to do: Formally authorize chancellor Brady Deaton to "explore" Mizzou's athletic conference affiliation. Unofficially speaking, it gave him the green light to negotiate a defection from the Big 12 to the SEC.

Alert readers may recall that that is the same action taken by university regents at Oklahoma and Texas two weeks ago, roughly 24 hours before negotiations for the Sooners and Longhorns to join the Pac-12 fell apart for good. It's also the same action taken by Texas A&M regents in August, paving the way for the Aggies' official acceptance into the SEC last month. Where Missouri's fate falls on that spectrum, we don't know, especially in light of the radio silence re: the Tigers from the SEC. When the A&M-to-SEC rumors began in earnest, the conference began passing notes almost immediately. Where Missouri is concerned, nobody's made a peep.

Still, it's clear enough that Mizzou isn't interested in joining the new Big 12 order forged in the wake of the Pac-12's rejection of Oklahoma and Texas, at least in part because it doesn't trust that allegiance to last if either has an attractive opportunity to bail on the league again. Missouri was transparently hoping for an invite from the Big Ten when the Big 12 began to crack up last year; already this year, it reportedly had an unofficial invitation from the SEC when it looked like the Big 12 was about to crack up last month.

Of all the possibilities for expanding the SEC to 14 teams, Missouri seems to make the most sense: It may not be a natural fit geographically or historically — the Tigers haven't won a conference championship in football since the late sixties — but it is on the upswing competitively, it provides access to new media markets and recruiting grounds in Kansas City and St. Louis and it is ripe for the picking. SEC fans may not necessarily be enthralled about the prospect of disrupting longstanding rivalries for road trips to Columbia, Mo., if a 14th team is inevitable, the course may already be set.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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