Inevitable and imminent indeed. Probably.
Following a path blazed by Texas A&M in September, and after what some perceived as the institution dragging its feet on a decision, Missouri is on the verge of joining their conference brethren in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.
A couple of month’s worth of speculation continued to trudge toward a conclusion Friday as Mizzou’s Board of Curators gave president Brady Deaton sole power to determine the school’s future conference affiliation, which is academia code for “send an application to the SEC”. The latest announcement comes after two days of curator meetings and one back-door exit.
The decision was unanimous among the board members to empower Deaton to make a unilateral decision — pending legal approval by the school’s attorneys — on whether to move to another conference or remain in the Big 12. In other words, if Deaton decides to move to another conference, which is expected, he would not have to go back to the board for approval. This move comes exactly 17 days after the curators gave their president limited power to look into moving into another conference.
In addition to the board giving Deaton autonomy on deciding the school’s future conference, the curators passed another resolution that involved keeping an MU sports presence in Kansas City, specifically future football games — i.e. continuing the Kansas rivalry — as well as hosting an invitational basketball tournament. It’s believed boosters of the school are concerned about those issues if Mizzou were to leave the Big 12, particularly as it involves the Big 12’s hoops tourney.
Once Deaton officially decides on the school’s conference course he will chart, the next two step for Mizzou would be to inform the Big 12 of its decision to withdraw from the conference and officially apply for membership to another conference, which, barring an unexpected development, will be the SEC. It’s highly unlikely Mizzou would have taken this latest step, or any of the other steps they’ve taken since last month for that matter, unless they had received back-channel assurances from the SEC that they have enough votes for membership approval. SEC bylaws state that nine of the current 12 members — the Aggies will not have a vote as they won’t officially become a member until July 1, 2012 — must vote in the affirmative for a new school to officially enter the conference.
Perhaps the biggest unknown is when exactly Mizzou would join the SEC, if that’s indeed the culmination of this process. Schedule-wise, the SEC would like nothing more than to add Mizzou for the 2012 season, giving the conference 14 members and a balanced slate of football games. During the press conference this afternoon, Deaton indicated that any actions he takes would result in Mizzou playing in that conference in 2012.
Another unknown? The division in which the Tigers would reside. Some assume that would be the West — with Auburn moving to the East — although at least one current member favors sending Mizzou to the East.
As for the Big 12, it’s operating under the assumption that Mizzou will be in the conference in 2012 regardless of their future SEC intentions and that the league will have 10 members next year. Irrespective of Mizzou’s timeline for a departure — again, we’re operating under the assumption that there will be a departure — the Big 12 will look to add a replacement for MU. Or, as the case may be, replacements if the conference decides to get back to 12 members.
It appears that a school from the Big East would be the Big 12’s top target for a new 10th member, with some reports suggesting West Virginia is that school while most others point to Louisville as the likely candidate.