We've known about it for some time, but that doesn't make it any less emotional or bittersweet when the day finally arrives. As of Sunday, Missouri and Texas A&M are no longer members of the Big 12 Conference. Their conference affiliation now is with what many believe is the best and biggest of the major college conferences, the Southeastern Conference.
SEC schools own the last six BCS Championships in football, the 2012 NCAA Basketball Championship (where the SEC's Kentucky toppled Big 12 king Kansas) and three of the last four College World Series.
Texas A&M had been a member of the Big 12 since 1996, when the Southwest Conference and the Big Eight came together to form the new conference. Missouri's affiliation with what is now the Big 12 dates back considerably further, however. The Tigers were one of the original founding members, in 1907, of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which eventually evolved into the Big 12.
As a member of the Big Eight, Missouri won 13 regular-season or tournament championships in basketball, eight in baseball and two football championships. As a member of the Big 12, though, the Tigers didn't enjoy near the success in the major sports, winning just two basketball tournament championships in basketball and one conference tournament title in baseball. Now they are new conference members in a league that is even more competitive than the Big 12, in every major sport.
Kansas City Star sports columnist Kent Babb pointed out in an historical article about Mizzou's movement to the SEC that in the Big 12 you might get two or three weeks to prepare for Texas or Oklahoma, but in the SEC, you may have to play Auburn, Arkansas. LSU, Alabama and Florida on successive weekends. Imagine what that schedule could do to your conference record, let along your humility.
Texas A&M, which won 53 conference championships in all sports while in the Big 12, definitely drew the short end of the stick in being added to the West Division of the SEC, where they are joined by perennial national powers LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi and Mississippi State. Missouri is the newest member of the conference's East Division, which features, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky. While the SEC football powers reside in the West, the power structure shifts to the East in basketball. So there is no easy road anyway you look at it.
While the Big 12 bids farewell today to the Tigers and Aggies, it also welcomes two new members in TCU and West Virginia. It also marks the first time in the 16-year history of the conference that new members have come into the league.
"We're extremely proud to call TCU and West Virginia members of the Big 12," new league commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "Both institutions bring with them academic and athletic credentials that advance the conference standing within intercollegiate athletics."
With TCU and West Virginia both coming into the Big 12 as football champions in their respective conferences (Mountain West and Big East) in 2011, the conference, known predominantly as a football league, should be even stronger in football than it was before. Both schools were ranked in the top 25 in the final 2012 BCS standings, and just two years ago, TCU finished the season undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country.
Big 12 basketball coaches believe that the addition of the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers will also make the conference tougher in that major sport.
"We've been very successful (as a league) in getting teams into the NCAA Tournament and winning games in the tournament," Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. "And when you bring West Virginia and TCU in, it just helps with the numbers. In some areas, it comes out better."
Prior to its decision to accept an invitation to join the Big 12, TCU was set to move from the Mountain West to become a new member of the Big East, which at the time also included West Virginia. For TCU it helps soothe over some of the disappointment, even anger,.that is sure to have occurred when the former Big Eight agreed to add just four of the former members of the Southwest Conference, leaving out TCU in favor of Baylor.
So, call it an early Independence Day as a new era begins for Missouri and Texas A&M in the SEC, and for TCU and West Virginia in the Big 12.
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