Published Tuesday, October 18, 2011 AT 3:22 PM / Updated at 11:10 AM
Conference realignment: Is Missouri about to play the SEC’s fool?
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

The University of Missouri could be on the verge of making a stupendous mistake of impatience, borne out of a handful of university and state leaders wanting to wipe egg off their face from last year’s Big Ten debacle with a move to the SEC, a league that has neither the academic pedigree nor the competitive atmosphere suited for such a starchy Midwestern institution.

Mizzou in a ditch fight with SEC programs who embrace cheating and slippery ethics like a favorite uncle? The Tigers’ so-so fan base traveling to South Carolina, Georgia and Auburn? In trade for what? A little more TV money? Long-term security?

See, this is how powerful people get. They beg for one thing — the Big Ten — get shut down there, and figure there’s a better move to make outside of waiting. There isn’t. And I’m not going to go into some painful 3,000-word exegesis about this, either. Save exegeses for Occupy Wall Street or child welfare or something. This is a great school making a dumb move and all the Kansas City media and Mizzou alums will stomp and cheer and all the rest of it (the St. Louis media will pay attention when the World Series is over, thank you) while the SEC-centric college football sites that bloat and pillage my Twitter feed will write 4,000-word blog posts comparing this change to the conquest of whole plate of chicken and waffles in Memphis. Or whatever. It’s dumb. It’s the wrong play.

Missouri has a home in the Big 12. It’s as secure and comfy as it needs to be — for Missouri. It’s not going anywhere now; the Pac-12 made sure of it by closing down its own expansionist interests. And if it went somewhere — if the whole league fell apart because Texas and Oklahoma headed to wherever the heck they’re going to head now that the Pac-12 is out — then the Big Ten expands. And Jim Delany invites Missouri naturally.

Let’s be clear: There’s not going to be a world where the central partners in college football’s biggest bowl game — the Rose Bowl — have different means of qualifying for that game. If Pac-12 goes to Pac-16, the Big Ten goes to 16. Delany’s never going to say it, but it’s the play; the Big Ten’s not going to be at 12 when the rest of the college powers go to 16. And if a world of superconferences were to exist — and it’s not going to for the time being, remember — then Missouri is one of those 64 teams. In the Big Ten.

The issue of security seems relevant, but it’s not. It’s bunk. Mizzou would always have a better place to land than Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.

Will Missouri make more TV money? Sure. In aid of what? More losing. What Missouri program gets better in the SEC? Women’s basketball? Surely not football. Men’s basketball is a wash. Baseball? No way. Wrestling program goes away. Softball? No. Track? Gawd no. What? Nothing.

The money’s just for money, in other words. Who counts that? Money people? It won’t translate into a better on-field product.

Beyond that, TV petro dollars are slated for an eventual decline. ESPN overpays for its contracts because it bilks cable companies into gigantic per-subscriber fees. The cable giants have a hard time getting away from it because ESPN is owned by Disney, which strong-arms cable companies into accepting those high costs are part of the whole Disney family bundle. But a rise in a la carte cable packages — along with the Big Ten and Pac-12 Networks owning and controlling league production — means ESPN’s influence is bound to decline. ESPN is not AMC.

Missouri’s financial projections will hold up — for a while. In the long run, the advantages are negligible if the money just go toward more losing teams — and the Big Ten, Mizzou’s preferred destination, makes far more money thanks to giant media markets and the ability to profit off its own network.

So much of this conference realignment game is being able to chart the shifting nature of it. You have to be willing to admit you’re dead wrong about certain assumptions. I thought Texas would go independent; it’s obvious UT wants a conference to strong-arm with content. The Big 12 will exist as long as Texas and the Pac-12 desires for it to exist, which could be a long time. And even if it isn’t, the Big Ten is a good home for Missouri.

On Oct. 7, Delany was in town for NU’s inaugural Big Ten home game with Ohio State. He said this about conference expansion: “Some institutions will be helped by it, some institutions will be hurt by it. Whenever there’s that much change and uncertainty, there’s going to be winners. I think probably there will be some losers.”

Aside from Utah, Nebraska’s the biggest winner. Huge academic upgrade. Access to an academic consortium that might as well print grant money. An opportunity to recruit students from several of America’s largest cities, thereby creating stronger, bigger donor bases. A seat at the big money table. And folks, the big money isn’t really in football — it’s in scientific research.

What would Missouri get? A trip to the SEC Media Days in suburban Birmingham?

See also: Tom Shatel approves the move.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at sam.mckewon@owh.com. And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.

Comments

  1. Fred Golfweight says:

    You know nothing about the SEC. People who don’t win, call winners “cheaters.” Nebraska will fit in well in the Big10, a conference full of nerd schools who won’t win another national championship in the next ten years. The SEC is “not competative”???? …HA!

    1. Dr. Eric says:

      Apparently not “competitive” in academics.

    2. Mel says:

      Fred, you have to win in the SEC to get a sniff of the NC. Right now your Tigers are about as close as they will ever come to that.

    3. Larry says:

      SEC will have more AAU schools than the Big 12 with the addition of MU. If we are average in the Big 12, we can be average in the SEC with more $$$ to expand and upgrade facilities.

      SEC is a top heavy conference. Does Ole Miss, Miss St, Vandy, Kentucky, Tenn, South Carolina really make you feel like you cant compete?

      Good move for MU. Why wait on a gamble that the B1G may want you later on.

      1. mitchs3 says:

        Great theory. One way to prove it – B1G invite MU now. The 2010 genuine possibility of being left out in the cold makes passing this opportunity up too big a gamble. If B1G wants to give us a choice to make do it now, ’cause this train is leaving the station. Headed South.

  2. Me says:

    You make a lot of assumptions in this article that are nothing more than pure speculation on your part. The Pac-12 going to 16 will not necessarily force the Big10 to do the same. The fact that they’re both are couple to the Rose Bowl is of nearly zero consequence. The B10 goes to 16 only if it works for the B10. If it merely dilutes the pie then they won’t do it.

    Moreover, say hypothetically the B10 does goes to 16, a) how do you know with certainty that Missouri is one of those 16 and b) who says they can’t leave the SEC for the B10??

    Going to the SEC right now assures them of a safe landing spot. You’re essentially asking them to play without a net. It is a very real possibility that the B12 implodes, the B10 doesn’t expand, and the SEC moves on. Then what does Mizzou do?? Mountain West?

    I’m not trying to predict how the dynamics will play out. But the point is their decision was made in an effort to stabilize their position. These leaders are in charge of an institution. They can’t simply gamble with that, which is what you are essentially telling them to do. Its reckless and completely irresponsible.

    As far as them competing in the SEC, you’re also assuming their recruiting profile won’t change. They will start picking up better recruits now. And let’s face it, its not as though they dominated the B12. They were a mediocre program in the B12 and that is what they’ll be in the B10. And in terms of Men’s Basketball, they’ll be one of the top teams.

    I’m no fan of MU and would love nothing more than for them to get owned in the SEC. But the reality is they are certainly no worse off, and they’ve just bought a lot of stability.

    You’re also assuming the B12

    1. Me says:

      I meant: Mizzou will be a mediocre team in the SEC…

      1. HuskerGuy says:

        they were a mediocre team in the Big12 besides for a couple of fluke years

    2. Nathan says:

      Sam is making a lot of assumptions and he can because this isn’t a news article, this is a blog. A news article is fact, this is opinion and meant to be.

  3. Aaron says:

    The Kansas City media will not cheer, Missouri leaving is a big blow to the KC area. The basketball tournament is a beloved institution here, and there is a lot invested in being the northern Big 12 crossroads. By and large, though, agree with this post.

    1. TJ says:

      The tournament can go on if MU isn’t in it. Why are ku and ksu people so bent on making this a monetary issue? MU got a better offer. Better league, more passion, more money. Make the best of your situation and get over MU leaving.

      1. TigerNuts says:

        There is zero chance the Big XII will play a tournament in a state that doesn’t contain a member school

        1. John says:

          KU is only an hour from the site of the bball tourney, KState and Iowa state within 2 hours, same as Mizzou so Mizzou being gone doesnt mean it cant exist, its even better for Texas schools than say Oklahoma cause less teams have a home court advantage when you eliminate one of the local teams.

          1. Mike says:

            Iowa State 2 hours from KC? Not even close.

          2. Big red in KC says:

            Why would the Big 12 bring that much money to Kansas City, Missouri…when there are no Big 12 teams in Missouri. Makes more sense to have the tourney in a state where they have a team represented. Location works…but so do a lot of other venues that have a Big 12 team located there. I just think the Big 12 would be dumb to bring in that kind of money to Mizzou when they left the conference hanging high and dry.

  4. Jay says:

    Sam, agree with you especially about Mizzou not being patient. If they go to the SEC now, they can kiss the B1G goodbye forever, most likley. They have a solid home right now in the Big 12 that appears like it’ll be around for a while. And if not, they’ll get picked up (like you said) before ISU, KU, or KSU, and more than likely, it would be by the Big Ten. They should know by now it’s never ideal to be the northern most school in a southern based conference. At least in the Big 12, they have several other north schools to beat up on, not so in the SEC.
    As for your comment on Nebraska, is the huge academic upgrade worth the drop off in football quality? It’s fairly clear the level of play in the B1G is a step down. Take Wisconsin, who even if they go undefeated may get shutout of the NC game by the SEC and Big 12. Playing against Dan Persa and Kirk Cousins is one thing, playing Tannehill, Weeden and Jones is another.

    1. TJ says:

      Why would MU wait around for the B10, or any other conference for that matter, when they can get in the best conference in the Nation? Once again I must ask: What is the motivation for someone from another University to degrade another University for doing what is best for them? Jealousy maybe?

      1. Bill says:

        Nobody from the U. of Nebraska is degrading Missouri. Sam doesn’t work for NU.

        Missouri is a pretty good middleweight joining the heavyweight division. Playing the likes of LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina every year, they’ll have a minimum of four losses per year for the foreseeable future.

        1. Travis says:

          Mizzou will not be playing LSU Alabama Auburn Florida Tennessee Georgia and South Carolina every year. There are 2 divisions and we will most likely be in the East. So we will have to play Florida Tennessee Georgia and South Carolina every year and LSU Alabama and Florida something like 2 out of every 5 years. So saying that, turn your 4 losses into 2 some years and we are right where we are right now in the big 12. And in years like 2007 when everything falls right we could find ourselves with a chance at the NC.

  5. sec = southerners excuse cheating says:

    Seriously, SEC is 100% fueled by cheating. The whole conference should be banned from participation in college athletics.
    How do you spell SEC?
    C H E A T E R S

    1. Fred Golfweight says:

      Cry all you want. We don’t cheat but because we always beat your ass, we must be. NOT GUILTY! …Roll Tide!

      1. Dave says:

        Oversigning + lax academic requirements = SEC stockpiling of good players. The SEC would come back to earth, like in the prior decades, if it followed the same rules as the other conferences.

        1. Fred Golfweight says:

          The SEC has a 28 signee limit just like the Big 10. Next argument????

      2. dave says:

        Check your sec vs. NU record there, Bubba.

        The sec has done well for a few years, but they will go away again. They are way, way overhyped this year. That’s what happens when espn has a financial interest in their success.

      3. Phil says:

        You’re still a moron Fred!

    2. Nubs Suck says:

      You’re right. I’m so happy Big 12 schools are oh so clean. Can you imagine if Big 12 teams had ever cheated?

  6. matt porter says:

    KC people wont like this. But, I, very much, did.

  7. Nubs Suck says:

    “The issue of security seems relevant, but it’s not. It’s bunk. Mizzou would always have a better place to land than Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.”

    The fact that you think the last statement proves the first statement shows how flawed you’re understanding of logic is.

    This is a discrete situation, not continuous; just because MU is historically better than ku, ksu, and isu doesn’t mean they WILL end up in a better spot. Does it mean MU should? Yes, but it doesn’t mean they will. It won’t do MU any good to be a better choice in 6 years if all BCS conferences are happy where they are. MU could end up in the MWC with ku, ksu, and isu and it won’t matter that MU is “better off”. There is no continuum of choices, there are a set number of conferences, each with a “max” number of spots.

    So unless you can provide an actual logical argument for why the security issue is bunk, the security issue remains.

    I don’t care what any of your other arguments are, security is all that matters, and simply being better than other schools doesn’t mean you’re safe. After all ku, ksu, and isu aren’t exactly the same, 1 of them is better off than the others but all 3 still have a security problem. You seem to not understand relativity or logic.

    1. DT says:

      Nub sucks, I think the lack of logic is fully in your corner. First of all, Missouri HAS NOT been historically better than KU or K-State in athletics. If you look at the number of championships won by Missouri since the inception of the Big 12, you’ll see Missouri is at the bottom of the pile..under KU and KSU. Secondly, Sam’s reasoning behind Missouri ending up in a better spot is because of population and ultimately TV sets. A state of nearly 6 million people will always remain the main reason for Missouri’s attractiveness to conferences…period!

      Missouri needs to wait this out. The Big 10 will come calling and Missouri will be in the posh surroundings that it has always wanted. Missouri’s academics don’t belong in the SEC and neither do their sports teams. Academically, Missouri flogs most of the SEC brethren..and conversely will get clubbed in athletics by the SEC teams. Wait it out, Mizzou, and come join the Big Red in the Big 10 in a year or two..

      1. Nubs Suck says:

        It really doesn’t matter why MU will be better off, my point remains. Whether it was because of athletics or pop and tvs was in no way a major point of my argument.

        There is nothing MU NEEDS to do, and they especially don’t need to sit on their hands and pass up a great opportunity because you think the Big 10 will change their mind in 6 years and suddenly decide they want to expand beyond 12.

        1. William says:

          Even if Mizzou joins the SEC, they would immediately accept an invitation to the B1G in the future if an invitation were offered. This may be one reason that the SEC seems to be slow in making an offer.

  8. Bill says:

    You may be right Sam, but if I was Missouri I would head to the SEC. I just don’t have much faith in Big XII longevity. There is no guarantee the PAC 12 won’t expand later and there is no guarantee the B1G will ask Missouri into their big tent. And the argument about competitiveness is a not convincing to me. Football is cyclical, there was a yag above who indicated they always beat, etc., etc. But even that dominance is not guaranteed. You make good points as usual but jeez that is asking a lot of a unversity that (in my humble opinion) seeks stability. And I will tell you, watching a game in Columbia is a wonderful experience. If I was a Missouri fan (thank god I am not) trips to Knoxville, Arkansas (that would be fun) and other venues would be a blast. The academic argument is a good one but you look at the universities in the Big XII (other than Texas and ISU) whats the rumbus when comparing the SEC to the Big XII.

    But again Sam, you do a fine job of detailing this…

    1. Tim says:

      Sorry, I just can’t agree. B1G ran the numbers. MU adds enough money to cover its share, but that isn’t enough for B1G to move. MU could have taken a lesser deal, but why go from being a jr. member in the Big xii to be a jr. member in the B1G? It solves nothing but stability

      Speaking of stability, who says UT would want to keep subsidizing the Big XII once the LHN is a big enough money maker? Also, who says that being in a situation where one school dictates the direction of the conference is remotely in Missouri’s interests (short term or long term)?

      The SEC is by far the best football conference and a great conference in other sports. MU WILL improve recruiting in the SEC. I was disappointed when MU did not get the invite to the B1G. If I had a choice back then I would have picked B1G over the SEC solely on the academic standing and the CIC. However, as a fan I’m happier with the SEC. The travel destinations are better. The football is better and the SEC is likely to do a conference network too. The revenue is going up and will be significantly better than the B1G.

      The economic truth of all of this is that MU adds more to the SEC than they can offer the B1G. B1G already think they own the STL and KC markets via Illinois and NU. That’s not entirely true, but they have a footprint. SEC doesn’t have any claim over TV sets in Missouri outside of Springfield and Cape. That’s a lot of new TV sets. With networks based on households subscrived to cable sports packages, MU offers more to the SEC. As a result, the SEC can offer MU a better long-term opportunity.

      On the research front, MU will be no worse off in the SEC and a move by MU actually makes the SEC a better academic conference than the Big XII.

      Could MU wait it out and end up in the B1G? Perhaps. More importantly, is the B1G worth a wait? Different people will answer that differently. From my perspective, if the SEC says, we will accept your application if you sign over your rights for 20 years, MU should take it. It’s that important for MU to secure a prize like the SEC.

      1. dave says:

        Because “junior” members in the B1G still get equal money and votes. And Mizzou is interested in academics far more than sec schools. As soon as the footbal cycles again Mizzou will just be in a crappy southern conference with poor academics.

  9. MUfan says:

    Criticizing MU’s move (if it happens) is easy from the safety of a seat at the BIG table. There is no reason, given the events of last year and this fall, to believe that the BIG has significant interest in MU. In fact, if the BIG does not offer MU on the eve of it bolting to a league that will foreclose the opportunity later, we can safely assume that the BIG does not value MU as a chip worth adding.

    Nubs said it best above: this is a discrete situation. Every time conference expansion takes center stage will be a different discrete situation. There are no guarantees in the future and a “now” opportunity is worth 15x more than the x% chance of a future opportunity.

  10. Curt313 says:

    Bottom line: who cares where Missouri goes? Who needs to explain it in paragraphs!?

    1. Nubs Suck says:

      MU fans, a lot of Big 12 fans, a lot of Big East fans, a lot of SEC fans, national media………… etc

  11. egoing says:

    Sam a fly is about to go up one of your nostrils. Your high horse might start bucking, thanks for butting in regarding matters to mizzou. I happen to support Missouri joining the SEC as a resident of Huntsville, AL. You aren’t just bashing a conference, but the southeastern united states.

  12. Confused says:

    Shouldn’t you master a language before you attempt to blog in that language?

  13. The Big Red One says:

    This reads like your gettin hard up for things to write about….Like what his name said..Who cares what MU does?

  14. Garrett says:

    I wish Fred Golfweight wood tell awl off us mor aboot how grate SEC futbol is as well as the wunderfull akademics they have. He sonds lyke a smart feller.

  15. Saint says:

    Let’s see, NU has 5 Nat’l Championships & 4 of those championships came in games where we beat SEC opponents:
    70′-LSU
    71′-Alabama
    95′-Florida
    97′-Tennessee

    Just saying.

    1. Danny says:

      And unfortunately, if they go unbeaten in their new conference they’ll not be playing for another title unless there are no unbeatens from the SEC, Big 12 or Pac 12. Sorry but they downgraded their competition.

      1. Bo says:

        Poppy cock. When was the last time an undefeated Big 10 champ was left out of the BCS title game? Oh that’s right, never.

    2. Tndefender says:

      1997? Michigan (and the rest of the country outside Nebraska) begs to differ.

  16. Jon says:

    When you’re talking Misery, “stupid is as stupid does”. Not a fan of MW. Big fan of NU! GBR!!!

  17. Clem says:

    Getting into the SEC is a huge upgrade in academics for Misery too, right?

    1. John says:

      Clem, but we will still hold onto our AAU standings unlike ‘eh hem” the Big Red junior college.

  18. Andy says:

    According to a study conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace, below are the top 17 least peaceful states in the United States. When determining rankings, the U.S. Peace Index takes into account the number of homicides, violent crimes, jailed population, police officers, etc.

    1. Louisiana (SEC)
    2. Tennessee (SEC)
    3. Nevada
    4. Florida (SEC)
    5. Alabama (SEC)
    6. Texas
    7. Arkansas (SEC)
    8. Oklahoma
    9. South Carolina (SEC)
    10. Maryland
    11. Missouri (SEC???)
    12. Georgia (SEC)
    13. New Mexico
    14. Arizona
    15. Delaware
    16. Illinois
    17. Mississippi (SEC)

    Is there anything that jumps out about this list to anyone? Anyone?

    1. SEChusker says:

      Mizzu: We don’t want yankees in the SEC. Period. Stay up there and play your brand of ball, and leave us alone down here to play ours. We’ll meet occasionally around the turn of the year so you can take your whoopin’, but otherwise, get lost.

  19. J says:

    Except that you didn’t avoid it. In fact you read it after realizing what it was and then commented on it.

  20. ReadyFred says:

    Interesting piece. As an SEC fan, I agree wholeheartedly, but for different reasons.

    This is just another snobbish northern perspective. Frankly, no one in the south wants the University of Missouri in our conference. Only our greedy conference commissioner seems to be pushing this and the University presidents are reluctantly going along, and not unanimously I might add.

    Consider this; The University of Missouri is #100 on the prestigious U.S. News and World Report list of universities, tied with the University of Tennessee and falls below 6 other SEC universities which certiainly does not help the average of our conference. Missouri is ranked ahead of only of Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and South Carolina.

    As for the AAU that everyone keeps bringing up, The AAU is another northern based, elitist organization that only continues the prejudice of northern aggression against the south and southern universities. Interesting isn’t it that out of the 60-plus members of the AAU, only 10 are in the south and NONE of those schools are major African American Universities.

    Keep your lousy athletic program and “fantastic” journalism school. We do not want you and we do not need you. I can only hope that more sensible heads prevail and they will vote down this ridiculous Idea.

    Plus, how would it feel to be the “whipping boy” every year of every SEC school, including Vanderbilt? Lousy, I am sure!

    Elitist pig!

  21. [...] See also: Is Missouri playing the SEC fool? [...]