NCAA Conference Realignment: Why Missouri Should Stay in the Big 12

David Moore@@CougarCentreSLCCorrespondent IIOctober 3, 2011

Oklahoma declined SEC interest, so should Missouri
Oklahoma declined SEC interest, so should MissouriBrett Deering/Getty Images

BREAKING NEWSLate Tuesday afternoon the University of Missouri Board of Curators authorized Chancellor Brady Deaton to explore other conference possibilities.  This doesn't mean Missouri will be going to the SEC, it merely means the administration on the Columbia campus can look at other than Big 12 membership options.

Tuesday’s Board of Curators for the University of Missouri will merely bring about the authorization for Chancellor Brady Deaton to peruse the best possible conference alignment for the Tigers.

But Deaton and the Curators (Similar to a Regent, Director or Trustee) have much more to consider than a more stable league environment or possibly bigger television paychecks.

Academics will be what keeps Missouri in the Big 12, just the same as Oklahoma has refused SEC overtures over the past couple of years.

Missouri is a proud member of the Association of American Universities, something similarly that Oklahoma aspires to be.

Historically, the old Big 8 was entirely AAU affiliated with the exception of the Oklahoma schools and Kansas State after 1966 when Colorado joined the academic elite club.

The SEC is largely devoid of AAU affiliated schools with Vanderbilt, Florida and Texas A&M (only since 2001), the only three in the now 13 institution alignment.

As interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas put it; “Missouri is not a cultural match with the SEC…but is rather a fit with what has been historically the old Big 8.”

Neinas couldn’t have put it better, despite the fact that Missouri geographically is perfectly situated to be part of the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12.

Despite the desire for attaining large television markets (Missouri represented the largest TV market in the old Big 8 with St Louis and Kansas City), academic makeup still plays a role in league alignment.

AAU latecomers Florida (1985) and Texas A&M (2001) clearly meet a culture that a school like Missouri, which joined the organization in 1908, will never mesh with.

It is no doubt on the minds of the Chancellor and Curators that AAU membership is something that Missouri can and will value and defend.

They do not want to do anything that could potentially place the university on the infamous AAU review that Nebraska and Syracuse faced over the past year, resulting in the resignation of Syracuse and the expulsion of former fellow Big 8/Big 12 conference member Nebraska.

By seeking to join the SEC, Missouri could potentially jeopardize this more important academic relationship that it can still maintain by holding out for an eventual stronger conference union with possibly the Big Ten.

Further degradation of the Big East, by the ACC possibly pursuing Rutgers or Connecticut, could ultimately force Notre Dame to exercise an open door option to join the Big Ten.  This could be the door Missouri needs to get the invite it really wants and lost out on to Nebraska last year.

By pursuing SEC membership, Missouri would possibly be pulling themselves out of an even bigger prize that would provide a much more significant cultural and academic fit. 

West Virginia fits the SEC culture much better, even though it is much less of a television market than Missouri, but perhaps only after taking a pass at Virginia Tech or North Carolina State, which would give the SEC the television sets they need.

And staying in the Big 12 for at least the next five to six years at the very least might not be such a bad idea after all since Texas and Oklahoma seem to be taking steps to stabilize the league, with the equalization of Tier 1 and Tier 2 television rights being affirmed.

Still further, the Big 12 now appears poised to expand and extend membership to Brigham Young University perhaps as early as this week.  Other schools such as TCU would welcome a Big 12 membership, too.

By pursuing SEC membership, Missouri could be making perhaps its greatest strategic mistake academically and athletically—not to mention progressing institutionally only to please a significant number of fans who mostly want a different venue to poke out the eyes of Bevo and Texas.

My advice to fans who may not like a board and administration decision to remain in the Big 12 is to be careful what one wishes for.  This has all the appearance of merely being imitative behavior that could ruin a good school.

Oklahoma said no to the SEC interest due to academic aspirations, so should the “Show Me State” flagship institution.