When in the past 18 months hasn't the Big 12 been waiting on one or more of its member schools to make a decision on whether they were staying put or leaving to take up residence in another league, with prospects of a better economic future. Seems like the trendy thing to do in these changing and challenging times in college sports.
The Missouri Board of Curators is scheduled to meet later today, when it is widely anticipated the board will begin the process of formally withdrawing from the Big 12 Conference and submitting an application for membership to the Southeastern Conference. The New York Times reported Monday night that a reliable source with close knowledge of the Missouri situation said MU's application to become the 14th member of the SEC was "inevitable" and "imminent."
So, again, we wait for another Big 12 member to decide what it is going to do. Let's see, as I recall, Missouri was the school that started all of this talk about realignment and breaking off from the Big 12. Then it was Nebraska, followed by Colorado, both of whom are now out of the Big 12 and members of other conferences (Nebraska went to the Big Ten, and Colorado to the Pac-12).
This past July, Texas A&M began making serious overtures about having had enough of the instability and inequitable financial structure in the Big 12, although this was basically a smoke screen for A&M's real beef: having to play second fiddle to Texas. Long story short: The Aggies formally withdrew from the Big 12 and were accepted as the 13th member of the SEC. A&M will officially become an SEC member for the start of the 2011-12 season.
Then, a week or two before the start of the current college football season, Oklahoma President David Boren came out publicly and declared that his institution had had enough of all of this, and after considering all its options, OU began the process of apply for membership to the Pac-12, which it had been speculated a year ago was where the Sooners, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech were headed. Meanwhile, everyone else in the Big 12 waited to see how this was going to play out before having any talks inside or outside of the conference regarding the future of the league.
In an interesting turnaround, though, the governing board of the Pac-12 decided that conference was not interested in expanding beyond its present 12 members at this time. Good news for the Big 12, but you've got to wonder what happened from a year earlier when the Pac-12 commissioner was putting a full-court press on the same four schools to drop their Big 12 affiliation and come over to the then-Pac-10.
So, now, the aforementioned former South Division schools are, of course, again fully committed to the long-term success of the Big 12 Conference. Just like they were previously, right?
Are you still with me? Now, it's Missouri that is on the clock. And it's not just the Big 12 and SEC that are standing by in anticipation of Missouri's next move. If Missouri ultimately elects to end its 104-year affiliation with the Big 12 and all of its former conference alignments in favor of joining the SEC - and, of course, assuming that the SEC accepts MU's application for membership - the Big 12 is expected to consider several schools from the Big East Conference to form either a 10- or 12-team league, as it was prior to the departures of Nebraska and Colorado.
If Missouri chooses to stay, which many experts are saying is a lower probability than a decision to leave, the general belief is that the Big 12 may be content to keep the membership size at 10, with TCU already in the fold. If the decision is to go, Big 12 officials most likely in will look at Louisville, West Virginia and possibly BYU or Cincinnati, in that order, to fill out a 12-team conference structure. Anyway you look at it, the Big East is treading water downstream, waiting to take whatever action that conference needs to after all the dust settles from the storm that Missouri is about to trigger.
Unlike Nebraska, Colorado and, apparently, Texas A&M, Missouri might have to wait two years before joining the SEC, if that is the path that MU school officials choose to take. Some experts are saying, however, that the Tigers' wait would only be one year, like all the others thus far. Missouri obviously would want to expedite the process as much as possible to avoid the awkwardness and animosity that an elongated lame-duck membership status would create.
As far as the Big 12 raiding the Big East for prospective new members, the Big East bylaws stipulate that members must provide a 27-month notice of any plans to exit the conference. That would mean that any Big East schools that elect to change their conference affiliation to the Big 12 would not be available to officially join their new league until the 2013-14 season. The Big East also recently increased its penalty fee for exiting the league from $5 million to $10 million, which adds further complexity to the whole matter.
I personally am among those who would prefer to see Missouri remain in the Big 12. As one of the founding members of conference, which goes back to 1907 when it was called the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, it would be a huge to lose Missouri, not just from the economic impact it would have on the Kansas City area but from a cultural perspective in potentially ending traditional rivalries with Kansas and Kansas State in football, basketball and other sports.
So we wait. We can expect the next wave of realignment news when Missouri plays its next card after the Board of Curators has its say. Until then, all any of us can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
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