SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts on Mizzou
Hold that Tiger!
Hold that Tiger!
Posted Oct 5, 2011

With the announcement Tuesday that Missouri would begin formally exploring conference realignment, and Chancellor Brady Deaton stepping down as chairman of the Big 12's board of directors, it appears probable that the Tigers are moving south. CFN's SEC Bloggers explore why this is happening, what conference realignment will look like, and who's next?

Brian Harbach: On why Mizzou is coming to the SEC?

Missouri moving from the Big 12 to the SEC makes more sense than many outside of Missouri and the SEC want to admit. Obviously all of the expansion discussion starts and ends with money, and the SEC is in the best financial position in the country. It is very difficult for any athletic program not to take a serious look at what the SEC has to offer and Mizzou was targeted early by Mike Slive.

Second, given the long-standing unreasonable behavior of Texas, in terms of "playing nice' within a conference of "equals", and the resulting departure of Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M(all powerful brands), how could Missouri be comfortable in the long-term viability of the Big 12? Particularly when compared to the security offered by the SEC. No brainer there.

Third, the "third Tiger" will become a part of the SEC because the state of Missouri was highly coveted by Slive for some of the best TV markets in the country. Kansas City and St. Louis are both in top 31 nationally and while many feel that those markets are more geared towards professional sports, the SEC is a feeder system to what many of those viewers care about. MLB and the NFL rule Missouri, but it is not hard to believe fans will get excited about a conferences that is dominant in College Baseball and Football having won the last three College World Series and five BCS titles.

Fourth, Missouri has a long and proud sports tradition, starting with football but including many other varsity programs. While football may be a bit more competitive, Missouri will immediately compete in virtually every other varsity sport. This moves also expands the Tigers' recruiting range/exposure.

Finally, Missouri can take a leadership role from an educational perspective, joining both Vanderbilt and the University of Florida as the conferences only AAU schools.

This move is a win/win for both the Missouri Tigers and the SEC.

Russ Mitchell: On what is conference re-alignment going to look like?

If you wanted any further proof that the SEC is moving to 16 teams, we give you Missouri, University of.

As we've been telling you, the conference was not going to sit pat and play the 2012 season with 13 teams, and it now appears quite likely it has the match for Texas A&M. However, that means the conference is still unbalanced, with eight teams in the West and six in the East.

As a short-term fix, either Alabama or Auburn can move over to the East for a season or two, however, that's not likely a long-term solution (more on that in a moment). Regardless, the next two teams either both come from the West, and UA & AU moving permanently to the East, or more likely two teams from the East.

As you spend time breaking down all the potential, non-overlapping, value-add properties available for the SEC to select, and with some measure of geographic restraint, it becomes evident that there are only two more choice properties out West: Oklahoma and Texas. For a number of reason, ego not far from the top, Texas is never joining the SEC - this in and of itself significantly diminishes the likelihood of Oklahoma joining, as the SEC would be forced to use its last pick on a team out West to maintain balance, and there are no other choice properties. If not Texas & Oklahoma, the selections will come from the East.

As we begin to look East, remember first and foremost that the overriding purpose of this expansion is additional revenue, most predominately in the form of broadcasting rights. In order to maximize this, the schools selected must not overlap current TV markets. Again, after serious evaluation of those independent or Big East schools available, it quickly becomes clear that with some measure of geographic restraint, the best, non-overlapping, value-add properties reside in the ACC. The SEC already owns all of the TV markets from the Carolina split to Cuba, so its likely the most valuable properties would be from North Carolina and Virginia, from which the most probable choices are North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. Alabama and Auburn then stay in the West.

As we have said since July, if the sport is moving towards 16 team conferences, and given the limited number of choice properties and the SEC's current dominant position among conferences, there is no reason to wait and let another conference take the properties that the SEC wants. Truly, regardless of whether or not any other conference wants to move to 16 teams, if by doing so the SEC can ensure its continued success, then it is in the best interest of the conference to do just that. Which is why can expect to hear the next to announcements sooner, rather than later.

Gabe Harris: On if it's possible for a pro sports state like Mizzou to embrace the SEC sports culture?

Missouri is the first state with a university in the SEC that has a definite pro sports lean. The states of Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Louisiana all have multiple pro teams but the average fan in those states cares more about the college teams than the pro teams. The state of Missouri is the opposite with the St. Louis Rams and especially the St. Louis Cardinals.

If the Cardinals are making a run to a World Series then Missouri football will take a back seat until baseball season ends in late October and if the Tigers are no longer in the hunt for an SEC West championship then talk will quickly move to the Rams. Mizzou has a real chance to get lost in the shuffle early and often.

Missouri has never had the most rabid fan base (especially in football) though there will likely be a spike in interest for the first couple of years or so as the curiosity of being in a football mad conference takes hold. But can it be sustained?

The university enrollment is large enough at over 33,000 to have an exciting student section. Missouri has been one of the most consistent Big 12 schools under Gary Pinkel so that is no doubt breeding a new type of Missouri football fan. As fans from Athens, Baton Rouge, and Auburn make the trip to Columbia, MO and vice versa then their fans will see the passion that runs throughout the SEC and will want to be involved with that excitement.

It will take a while for MIzzou to push their way into the Rams and Cardinals limelight but with a few years and a little bit of winning it is definitely possible. The SEC's more established fanbases will rub off on Missouri ones. The added excitement that being in the SEC will bring towards Mizzou gamedays, ticket sales, memorabilia sales, and SEC fans traveling to Columbia are just a few of the reasons they are making the move to big-time college football.

David Sweigart: On whether Mizzou is a smart choice for the SEC?

First you need to get over the fact that Missouri was not the first expansion choice of the SEC for team #14 (it's also possible the Big 10 might have been Missouri's preference).

Past that, Missouri is a smart choice for the SEC. With the ACC locking up their teams with huge buyouts and Texas not interested in coming to play in the South, as Russ notes above, there is not a whole lot out there from which the SEC can choose.

The University of Missouri is a flagship state university. Academically, UM is a strong school. On the map, Missouri actually fits regionally, with borders on Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Facility wise, Missouri has spent, and continues to spend, money on its sports programs. Finally, the Tigers will bring a strong fan base and recently successful programs for football and basketball, not to mention its other varsity programs.

Then there is the real reason expansion is upon us: new TV markets. By adding Missouri to the SEC, the conference expands the SEC footprint and brand to another state and two more huge metropolitan areas in Kansas City and St. Louis - both of which are avid sports cities. Given the unlikely chance that the SEC was going to remain at 13 teams for any serious amount of time - and the fact that a raid of the ACC was not going to happen (sorry, Russ) - adding Missouri as team #14 is a smart choice for the SEC.

Barrett Sallee: On who's next?

Let's get this out of the way - no school that is currently in the SEC's TV footprint will be coming to the SEC. That would defeat the purpose.

If Missouri does, in fact, land in the SEC, I have a hard time believing that Mike Slive is done expanding. By adding Texas A&M and Missouri, the SEC will have signalled the gold rush, and other conferences - the Pac-12 in particular - will be forced into moving forward with expansion plans in order to maximize their earning potential and not be left behind. Sure, the ACC has already expanded to 14, but that was more of a preemptive move. In his most honest moment to date, do you think ACC commissioner John Swofford really - REALLY - is happy with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse? I don't.

Slive is the type of person that gets what he wants, and if we are headed to 16-team superconferences, he's going to be the first to do it. This is all about money, and the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri will add the No. 5 (Dallas-Ft. Worth), No. 10 (Houston), No. 21 (St. Louis) and No. 31 (Kansas City) media markets to the SEC footprint. That already gives the SEC plenty of ammo to come to the table during the next TV negotiation and cash in. So, if the SEC is going to 16, go for the home run and add Virginia Tech which will bring the No. 8 market in Washington, D.C., and N.C. State which would bring the No. 24 market in Raleigh-Durham.

Back up the Brinks truck, Mr. Commissioner.

Why N.C. State and not North Carolina or Duke? Those two would probably be attached at the hip, and while N.C. State doesn't have the following that the other North Carolina schools have, it does have the market, and this is all about money. No, the $20 million ACC buyout won't prevent ACC teams from bolting to a new-look SEC, and I expect all potential candidates to deny interest until the ink is dry.

If the SEC isn't enamoured with the idea of completely selling out by bringing in a downtrodden program like N.C. State just for eyeball purposes, I'd re-visit the idea of Oklahoma. It's clear that Oklahoma has eyes for the Pac-12, but did the deal that fell apart last month sour the Sooners on heading West? Oklahoma City is the No. 44 media market, which isn't bad; and it would certainly bring a level of football prestige to this round of expansion that none of the other candidates bring. But are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State tied together? That's the $64,000 question, and I don't think the SEC would be able to pry one away without the other.

One thing's for certain, whatever the SEC's plan is, its top priority is to keep the traditions of the conference in tact. If the SEC stops at 14 with Texas A&M and Missouri, Auburn would likely move to the East and Alabama would become Auburn's permanent cross-division opponent. As a result, Alabama would lose its annual rivalry with Tennessee. Do you see that happening? I don't.

The SEC is going to go to 16 sooner rather than later. It will either be with two teams in each division or four in the west, which would allow Auburn and Alabama to move over to the east and most big rivalries to stay in tact. My gut tells me that Mike Slive is going to swing for the fences.

Nico Roesler: +1...On a Big-12 writer's perspective

Confidence. That's all the Big 12 wants.

The confidence that the conference will prosper, that it will continue to generate money, and that schools will actually want to be a part of what it is doing.

Missouri isn't inspiring confidence.

The interim Big 12 commissioner announced earlier this week that the conference would equally divide revenue from all league-wide television deals for the next six years. The move assures even the small market Big 12 schools like Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and arguably Missouri equal shares of the conference revenue as Texas and Oklahoma. Obviously, Missouri doesn't have confidence that those funds would be enough.

That, or they no longer have confidence in the Big 12's chance of survival.

With the announcement Tuesday that Missouri, led by Chancellor Brady Deaton, will "take any and all actions necessary to fully explore options for conference affiliation," everyone knows what they are trying to do.

Missouri wants in with the SEC along with fellow Big 12 escapee, Texas A&M. Whether Missouri is also fed up with Texas' dominance of the conference revenue or just want a wider television market, a move to the SEC at this point would be the ultimate insult to the Big 12.

Apparently, Missouri has the confidence that it can compete in the conference that has won the last five National Championships. They feel they could make more revenue drawing the likes of Alabama, Florida, and LSU to Faurot Field in Columbia. They feel that anything would be better than being beaten up in both ratings and on the field by Oklahoma and Texas.

But if Texas A&M - a team said to have the ability to possibly upset Oklahoma for the Big 12 title - can lose to Arkansas - a team that is destined for the top-to-middle portion of the SEC - how does Missouri expect to fare?

Whatever the Tigers' annual record will be in football, they probably feel anything is better than the Big 12. With the loss of Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M, and now possibly Missouri, the Big 12 is pulling itself off the ground and trying to find clutches to lean on. Texas tried to control the Big 12, and now the Big 12 is turning on Texas, and itself.

Nothing Missouri is doing inspires any type of confidence. All it does is raise questions for both Missouri and the Big 12.

And the last thing the Big 12 needs right now is more questions.

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @HarbachCFN, Gabe Harris @gpharris Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee and David Sweigart @DMS225.

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