Missouri to SEC talks heat up. Midwest Region Left Reeling

By Steve Goldberg

Jeremy Sickel and Geoff Ratliff

Rumors continue to circulate about Missouri moving from the Big 12 to the SEC. Last week, University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton stepped down from his leadership position on the Big 12 board, and the school abstained from conference votes about equal revenue sharing and expansion. The signs are clear, Mizzou wants out.

Last year, Colorado and Nebraska bolted for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively. This year, it was Texas A&M who left for the SEC. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas were also negotiating with the Pac-12 before they seemed to have recommitted to the Big 12. And now Mizzou is talking about a possible move to the SEC.

This comes as a surprise because amidst the chaos of the past two years, Missouri has been the one school that appeared to be committed to staying in the Big 12, and fixing the situation. Mizzou appeared to be the glue holding the conference together, voicing their opinion for reform and keeping hopes alive for the smaller schools.

The University of Kansas is the most distraught by Missouri’s decision to explore other options. The rivalry between the two schools is bitter, but historic. Not only is it the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi, but it is also the only sports rivalry in the country derived from actual warfare, known as the Border War. Losing Mizzou would not be ideal for any of the smaller schools hoping to stay in the conference, but it would hurt Kansas the most.

“If they choose to be somewhere other than with us and with the other schools that they’ve been a part of and could jeopardize the future of the other schools, I’m not going to make a commitment now that we’d ever play again,” KU basketball coach Bill Self said about the issue.

In addition to the University of Kansas, the Kansas City Sports Commission wrote a letter to Chancellor Deaton expressing their wishes for the school to stay in the Big 12. Losing Mizzou would end the annual MU-KU Border Showdown football game at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Big 12 basketball tournament would likely be moved from Kansas City to a more central location in the conference, like Oklahoma City or Dallas. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Commissioner Deaton:

By empowering you to decide the future athletic conference affiliation of the University of Missouri, its Board of Curators has entrusted you to make a critical, momentous decision. We do not envy the enormity of the choice you face, nor do we suggest that reaching the right conclusion is a simple task.

We know that many factors must be considered, including the academic, financial, and alumni relations implications of your decision. And, of course, the history and future of your University’s athletic program.

That program, as you know, has Midwestern roots more than a century old. It pulses with intense regional rivalries of enviable duration. It contributes strongly to our regional identity and economy.

We cannot imagine the University of Missouri’s athletics tilting away from this region and the athletic history to which they have contributed so mightily. Your university’s absence from the regional sports scene would be felt for many years to come, especially among your many local students, alumni, and fans. Surely, traditions lost could not be recreated for the region, the University of Missouri, or its rivals.

So, as you weigh your decision, we want to make our thoughts known to you. We speak for ourselves but believe ours is a voice echoed across your communities and our region. We ask only that among the myriad factors you weigh, those simple as history, tradition and compatibility receive ample emphasis. And that you take into account your University’s natural affinity for this region and the Big 12 Conference – and theirs for you.

We know that this is a complex and emotional decision. But we want you to know that we believe this region collectively values University of Missouri athletics–has, does, and will–to a degree that won’t be replicated elsewhere. And that staying here, in the Big 12 conference, within your home region and among your fans and rivals is the right decision. To honor your history. To fulfill your present. To secure your future.

With our respect and support,

The Board of Directors and Staff of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation

The Board of Directors and Staff of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association

The Midwest region is getting down on their knees and begging Mizzou to stay in the Big 12, but it is completely out of their control now. The future of the university’s athletic program will be determined sometime in the upcoming days, weeks, or months. The only thing fans, alumni, and rivals can do is sit back and wait for the final decision from the University of Missouri.

Steve Goldberg is a freshman sports journalist at the University of Missouri. You can follow him on Twitter @SG_Mizzou15 or find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bostonfan93.

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