On July 1st, the Missouri Tigers officially leave the Big 12 for the SEC.
It’s a move that’s been both criticized and praised, with detractors lamenting the tradition/rivalries lost and supporters citing the structural and financial stability the SEC offers. It’s an exciting, yet confusing time to be a fan of Mizzou as it prepares for life in its new conference.
Nate Jacobson, our Missouri Campus Rep for the upcoming fall semester, answered a few questions from an on-campus perspective.
College Spun: What’s the sentiment been like in Columbia since Missouri decided to leave the Big 12 for the SEC?
Nate Jacobson (NJ): When rumors broke out in August 2011 that Missouri was seeking a conference change and the SEC was interested, there were mixed reactions at first. People who were against the move wanted to stay in the Big 12 because of tradition and the rivalry with Kansas. Since the move became official and some of the details were announced, almost everyone has come around. Students are excited to be in a more competitive conference and experience a different culture. Bars and restaurants in Columbia are thrilled because SEC fans travel well.
What do you think the primary reason was that Missouri decided to switch conferences?
NJ: Missouri switched conferences to be in a more stable situation. The Big 12 has its issues at the top, which is why four schools left the conference in less than 18 months. Before Missouri switched, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were flirting with the Pac-12 to create a 16-team conference out west. When Missouri saw this, it had to take a serious look at its options in case those four schools jumped ship. Missouri didn’t want to be in a dying conference and possibly face the nightmare of joining a mid-major conference. In the end, Missouri is now in a great conference that produces a lot of revenue and will not lose teams anytime soon.
One obvious negative is the discontinuation of the Border War between Missouri and Kansas. What are your thoughts on Kansas’ refusal to continue the rivalry?
NJ: I can understand why Kansas might be upset, because there truly was a historic rivalry between Missouri and KU. I think the refusal to continue the rivalry in football is due to Kansas going through a serious rebuilding process with Charlie Weis taking over as coach. Missouri has beaten Kansas five of the past six seasons and the brass in Lawrence probably wanted to schedule easier non-conference opponents as they attempt to get the program back on track. Still, I can see a football Border War happening in a few seasons. The refusal to continue the rivalry in basketball is puzzling. Kansas is a storied program and Missouri has had recent success under Frank Haith. A non-conference game every December in Kansas City would satisfy all college fans. It’s a shame that the Border War against Kansas is ending for now. Missouri fans can now focus on starting a new Border War with Arkansas for years to come.
The SEC is clearly an elite football conference, producing the last six BCS national champions. What does Missouri need to do to compete annually with its new SEC brethren?
NJ: Missouri is fortunate, for now, that it was placed in the SEC East and gets to avoid playing LSU, Alabama and Auburn every year. The East is still tough with Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, but Missouri can compete with those schools if it continues to ramp up recruiting. National Signing Day earlier this year was huge for Missouri as it landed one of the best players in the country in WR Dorial Green-Beckham. It was important for Coach Gary Pinkel to sign Green-Beckham because he was from Springfield, Missouri. From now on, Missouri must make sure the best players from The Show Me State stay at home and play for the Tigers. It also must continue to recruit well in Texas and develop its three-star players into contributors. Now that Missouri is playing in the SEC, the Tigers have sent scouts to Florida and Georgia in hopes of landing players from the southeast. Recruiting goes a long way in all college sports and it will be the reason that Missouri can compete in such a stacked football conference.
There were rumors last year that the Big Ten was another possible landing spot for Mizzou. Given the choice between the Big Ten and the SEC, which do you think would have been a better move for the Tigers?
NJ: It is a very close call. If the Big Ten wanted Missouri, it would’ve asked in the summer of 2010. However, the Big Ten went with Nebraska instead. The Big Ten is already a successful conference with 12 schools and a lucrative TV network, and you can’t blame it for not wanting to expand. I think the SEC is still a better destination because it is the best football league in the nation. Football is the reason for conference realignment in the first place, as it brings in the most money. The Big Ten is more geographically friendly for Missouri and the conference is better at men’s basketball from top to bottom, but overall, Missouri is in a better conference in the SEC.
On June 1st, 2014, will we be looking at four 16-team super-conferences?
NJ: No, I don’t think it will happen. SEC commissioner Mike Slive is happy with a 14-team conference and doesn’t feel the need to expand. The idea of four 16-team super-conferences was basically shot down when the Texas/Oklahoma-to-the-Pac-12 negotiations fell off. Florida State and Clemson will stay in the ACC and hope that the conference will improve with the eventual additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse.