The landscape of collegiate sports seems to be changing with each second and each hit of keyboards around the sports world. The reshaping of the Big 12 is grabbing the ear of the sports world at large. For some sports fans it’s an exciting new horizon and a revolution to the shape of the sports world. However, for some it is and exercise in extended stress and a nerve-racking experience about the future (or potential lack thereof) of their universities and favorite sports programs. The University of Missouri and it’s fans, students, administrators and alumni are in the latter of these two groups.
As an alumnus of the University of Missouri, I scale the fence between both. I make it my business to know the ins and outs of the sports world and relay them. I am an avid sports, so the possibility of new conference alignments and matchups is exciting for me in theory. However, in reality I also hold a strong alliance to the University that I spent some the best years of my life at, so I want the best for it. Currently, it’s tough to see where that can be found. There are so many different rumors, possibilities and scenarios around the University’s athletic alignment that it’s hard to separate the salt from the pepper.
One thing I am sure of is that the University of Missouri and it’s Tigers are both a quality school and a devoted athletic department and deserves a suitable conference alignment that reflects this. However, the non-committal statements and air of confusion from all avenues in Columbia seem to relay a feeling of justifiable worry and loss from the University as a whole, which almost yells “We don’t know where we are going to land, bring a parachute just in case.”
The Big 12 fell behind in the times and got overran, there is nothing that can change that now. Both the Universities of Nebraska and Colorado have proven this with their departures to more lucrative conferences on back-to-back days. The powerhouse programs of the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners most likely will not be far behind, toting with them the other universities in their local areas as well. In the midst of these power programs in formerly Big 12, sits the Mizzou, who is a bit of an anomaly in comparison.
The University of Missouri is a program that doesn’t bring the tradition of Texas, Nebraska or Oklahoma. Nor does it have a highly attractive singular program such as Kansas’ basketball program. In regards to attraction to other potential conferences, Mizzou is a tough spot in the current picking season from other conferences. The Pac 10 is not interested as it wants the programs further west and to the south for its expansion (they don’t even want Kansas or Kansas State). The SEC is also looking to stay south and to move along the Atlantic coast. This leaves the Big 10 as the next suitor, and this is also where it gets simply complex.
The Big 10 and Mizzou rumor has been the one with the longest legs. Mizzou was actually at the core of the first rumor that tabbed them accompanying Nebraska out of the Big 12. Time has passed and only half of that initial scenario has proven true. If the rest of the Big 12 breaks apart, which is virtually a vision waiting to made clear, Mizzou is a perfect fit for the Big 10. The Big 10 is based in the midwest and is a strong academic conference. Missouri fits both of these models well. But the concern is that the Big 10 isn’t interested in what Mizzou has to offer the overall growth of its conference. The Big 10 is looking to even further expand its reach and media capabilities into other areas of the U.S. The only place for them to look is to the east coast, with programs such as Rutgers or Syracuse in the New Jersey/New York area. Despite Mizzou carrying the St. Louis media area in full, it pales in comparison to the hopes acquiring northeastern media exposure. Also, there is always the possibility of saving a dance ticket for Notre Dame if they choose to join, which is a no brainer for the Big 10.
Another issue is that hand is the what happens if the Big 10 decides that they are good enough at 12 overall (the Big 10 was only that in title, as they have had 11 programs since 1990). Mizzou would be left to find its own way, which is a scary proposition for both the administration and fans alike. Mizzou cannot afford to go independent, it’s best bet would be to form an alignment with the Mountain West Conference, which is growing in reaction to major conference acquisitions and is a rumor to be willing to accept the remaining Big 12 schools. This is an uncertainty at best and puts the school in unknown territory and in a lesser viewed market that ever, sharing space with the states of Utah, New Mexico and Idaho. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) or Conference USA would be closer regional fits, but carry even less weight than the MWC.
My hope is that Missouri finds a place in the Big 10’s plan. If the conference decides to expand to 14 schools, it could be well served acquiring a school of the Missouri’s stature, as well as it’s growing and competitive athletic department. The focus of the St. Louis and Kansas City media coverage would be an asset to the Big 10’s growth and would lock the entire midwest for its span. The increased revenue from participation in the conference (each school in the Big 10 cleared over $19 million in 2009 thanks to its Big Ten Network deal) would help to foster growth across the entire University, athletic and academic. Missouri already participates annually with the University of Illinois in both football and basketball to large crowds and nationally televised audiences. This could be further grown with competition with Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan and maintaining the 100-year-old rivalry with Nebraska.
For the time being I’ll place my trust in Chancellor Brady Deaton, President Gary Forsee and Athletic Director Mike Alden to send a message out telling us to leave our parachutes at home.