Mizzou to the SEC? Yes, if possible. Absolutely. Tomorrow. Whenever.
I’ve had some requests to comment on this story, since I may have spent some time in Missouri, or so the rumor goes.
I hesitate to jump on this for one simple reason: it’s not a done deal yet. Lots of folks are talking and writing like this is going to happen by Friday. But nothing is over until the fat lady sings. Or leaves Shakespeare’s.
So let’s go with a small disclaimer: IF the SEC is offering…
Then this is a no-brainer. And I don’t say that lightly.
I’m a son of the Big Eight Conference. Grew up in KC. I was raised on the Big Eight Holiday tournament, then post-season shindig starting in 1977. I saw Kim Anderson and Jim Kennedy fly over the press table against KU, saw Stan Ray take down K-State, Derrick Chievous and Lee Coward take on everyone. That tournament, in that town, is one of the great events in college sports. I’ve never been to the Big East shindig at MSG, but I can’t see how it could be better, more passionate, more electric than when the sparks that fly when MU-KSU-KU get together.
Mizzou heads south and that tourney changes, even if it stays. All of MU’s old Big Eight rivalries/series are gone. Probably even with Kansas, the border war that goes back to the Civil War. All that history is history. I don’t take it lightly. I understand the significance.
But I think a move south is a natural move, and I’ll go over a few points and then we can get back to watching Minnesota film.
1. If you turn it down, you’re betting your future that the Big 12 stays together. What has recent history taught us? Texas and Oklahoma hold the league together. Texas will do whatever is best for Texas. So will OU. You can’t trust Texas. And now you can’t trust Oklahoma. Just last month, OU was gone. Leaving. If the Pac-12 had bit its lip on the Longhorn Network, there would be no Big 12 today. The Pac-12′s last-minute stonewall doesn’t change that. Things could change in a year, three years. It happens. OU could leave again. So could Texas.
Yes, the TV tier one and two rights have been promised, and Texas can’t leave as long as the LHN is tethered to Bevo’s tail like an anchor. But how long will the LHN last? Who’s going to watch it, who’s going to distribute it nationally? I could be wrong on this. But I don’t see a long future for the LHN. And when UT and ESPN settle the money and say it was a nice try, then Bevo is free to entertain all offers.
Why would Texas leave the Big 12? Why did Texas want out of the SWC? At some point, Bevo gets tired of carrying the water for TCU, Baylor and the rest, and now ISU, KSU and KU are along for the ride. Moreover, Texas lives on the cutting edge, always pushing the envelope. Texas will eventually get bored in the Big 12.
That’s my opinion. But if you’re Missouri, do you really trust your future on Texas and Oklahoma saying they’re staying put?
Answer: If KU, K-State or Iowa State could leave, they’d do it.
2. Okay, so the Big 12 breaks up one day. What happens to Mizzou?
This notion that the Big Ten is going to be there to scoop up Ol’ Mizzou is a reach, and possibly a catastrophic miscalculation, in my opinion. Look, Jim Delany isn’t going to pick up teams like scraps to fill out a 16-hole scorecard. He may have to go 16 if the Pac-16 does, but would you bet on it? The Big Ten marches to its own drummer. Delany is very particular about who gets invited to The Club.
If the Big Ten does go to 16, I’d be willing to bet a $70 parking space across from Camp Randall Stadium that Delany already has a plan on paper somewhere in his desk. And if that plan included Missouri, why weren’t the Tigers taken last year?
If Mizzou is part of the Big Ten’s plan, why wouldn’t you step in now and take MU before the SEC does?
More than likely, because MU is not part of the Big Ten’s plan. Now. Or ever.
Maybe the Tigers would get saved by Delany. But if you’re MU, would you bet the future on that? And, wouldn’t you already have done some research with the folks in Chicago to see if that was the case?
3. This notion that Missouri football is going to get buried in the SEC is ridiculous. And short-sighted.
Historically, Missouri football can compete with anyone. It just does it in doses. Alabama? The Tigers went to Dixie and beat Bear Bryant in the opener in 1975. In 1978, Mizzou led ‘Bama — a Bryant team that would win the national championship that year — at the half before succumbing in the second half. MU seemed to win everywhere back then — USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, then come home and lose to Kansas.
Mizzou football at its best, historically, has beaten the best. The problem has always been consistency. And mismanagement. Coaches like John Cooper, LaVell Edwards and Joe Gibbs were passed over early in their careers for Warren Powers and Woody Widenhofer.
There’s absolutely no reason — none — that Mizzou can’t compete and beat Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky — and I’ll throw in Georgia and South Carolina at the moment. LSU? ‘Bama? These things go in cycles. Back in the 1990′s, ‘Bama and LSU weren’t doing much. The power was Florida and Tennessee. Who’s to say Missouri couldn’t have its run?
This will put extreme heat on Gary Pinkel. He’s built a nice program, but he’s done it in the Big 12 North. He’ll have to upgrade the run game and defense or else. But imagine Pinkel’s offensive imagination with a reliable run game and defense.
Missouri has long been considered a sleeping giant, an underachiever, much like Texas A&M. Pinkel has done a better job at in-state recruiting. The facilities are there. Imagine what MU could do with the SEC brand, and later an SEC Network, and so many games on ESPN and CBS. Instead of Fx.
Meanwhile, Missouri hoops would do very well in the SEC. It would be one of the big dogs right away. The other sports? Challenges, sure. But the SEC isn’t really an upgrade from the Big 12 across the board of Olympic sports. In fact, you could argue that, this season, Big 12 football is deeper in quality.
Sure, going to the SEC is a risk, an all-in gamble, but life in the fast lane could be just what the program needs to get to the next level. I’m sure the good folks down south don’t fear either MU or A&M. But what if those two realize their potential in the fast lane? Could be a scary thought.
Here’s a scarier thought and a bigger gamble: staying put, then watching Texas fly the coop in six years. And watching Delany turn to the east coast, or, scoop up Texas and Notre Dame and call it good.
If those things don’t happen, and the Big 12 lives, then historians will say Missouri blew it. Except that Missouri will still be in the SEC, an equal partner in a national power, rather than waiting to see if Texas wants 10 teams or 12 teams or all home games.
The only gamble here is not taking the gamble. Pass the grits.
See also: Is Missouri playing the SEC fool?