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Missouri To SEC: Tigers Will 'Dilute The Nation's Premiere Product'

It doesn't take long to figure out what Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel thinks of the SEC accepting the Missouri Tigers as the 14th official member of the power conference. He hates it. In fact, he says it undermines the glory of the day before when the top teams in the SEC held the eyes of the nation in the showdown of Alabama at LSU.

"In its mad quest for television sets, the SEC, presumably intent on starting its own network, has irreparably diluted what had become the nation's premier product. At its core, the charm of the SEC was that it really was one of the last conferences in which all 12 schools were geographically and culturally similar. The same scene we saw Saturday night in Tuscaloosa takes place in similar variations every week in Auburn, Baton Rouge, Oxford and Athens. Visiting fans make road trips in droves, because they can. Missouri, on the other hand, is an average 600-plus miles from the rest of the conference. Walk around an SEC tailgate lot or tune in to the Paul Finebaum Show and you'll quickly learn just how poorly this move is playing with the constituents."
The distance is a fair point and it's been what many have pointed to since the beginning for the SEC, but honestly it's a point no one even cares about anymore. After all, the Big 12 just added West Virginia (1,500 miles from West Virginia to Texas Tech), the Big Ten added Nebraska (1,100 miles from Nebraska to Penn State) and the Pac-12 added Colorado (1,050 miles from Colorado to UCLA).

Distance is not a reason a product is watered down. And it's not as if the powers-that-be in the SEC would have been that excited if they'd have added Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State. No one wants to lose their title. The addition of Texas A&M and Missouri bring in decent schools that win the games they should (by and large) while also maintaining the tiered system. They won't replicate Vanderbilt, but they also won't embarass the conference either.

If distance is the major problem here, then Mandel has a weak argument. If it's a love for what conferences used to be and/or should continue to be, then that's a traditionist viewpoint that doesn't belong anymore in college athletics, like it or not. Waxing poetic about atmosphere, environment, tradition or rivalries is a fine exercise, but it doesn't make any money. And as we've witnessed, that's truly the only thing that matters anymore.