Though it may be through no fault of its own, Missouri doesn’t seem to be making any friends in the SEC. The Tigers are at the center of a heap of fan questions from Gainesville to Fayetteville. And from Lexington to Baton Rouge, most SEC supporters just want some form of closure.
But while the deal between MU and the SEC appears to be done, no official announcement has been made yet.
We were told two weeks ago that MU-to-the-SEC would be announced by the end of last week. Soon after we posted that news, numerous other reporters got similar word from their sources. Outlets from Kansas City to Texas to the SEC said that they expected an announcement last week.
But then word leaked out that the Big 12 was putting up more of a fight than expected over potential broken television contracts. The Big 12 also had to deal with an internal battle over whether to invite West Virginia or Louisville to enter its ranks.
In a bizarre twist, the SEC and XOS Digital accidentally showed their cards by briefly posting a number of pages on SECSports.com dealing with the “announcement” of Mizzou’s entry into the league for the 2012 season. How that impacted the negotiations between MU and the Big 12 no one knows.
On Friday, the Big 12 officially invited WVU and in its press release it said the Mountaineers would join the conference next summer. Left off the 10-team league roster entirely? Missouri.
Between the SEC web leak and the Big 12′s flat-out statement that Mizzou was leaving, it’s pretty clear that a handshake agreement exists between the school and the conference. It appears that the guessing is over. (Though Big East commissioner John Marinatto could muck up the works by fighting to hold WVU to a 2014 exit.)
Except for that bit about an official announcement.
On Friday, PowerMizzou.com — the Rivals site covering Missouri — reported that MU and the Big 12 were hammering out the school’s exit deal. That work apparently isn’t finished.
Knowing that MU followed Texas A&M’s plan for granting its top administrator the power to look around and then the power to cut a deal (right down to the day), we pointed out yesterday that A&M’s move was announced on a Sunday with a celebration coming the following Monday. So could that mean…
Nope. No announcement came Sunday either. And with Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton heading to India for about nine days tomorrow (story updated below), it seems imperative that his school and Mike Slive’s conference make an announcement today. (The SEC’s dummy web pages referred to a Monday decision, too.)
Incredibly, there’s some sentiment that MU won’t announce today because it won’t want to show-up the Kansas City Chiefs’ Monday Night Football appearance and further alienate the people in that metro area. This after previous suggestions that MU would hold up its announcement so as not to trump the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals’ championship, last night’s exhibition Tiger basketball game and fundraiser for tornado-stricken Joplin, etc.
No one’s had this much trouble getting an exit visa since Victor Laszlo and Ilsa Lund fought to escape Casablanca. A tip to MU chancellor Deaton: Just bypass Senor Ferrari at The Blue Parrot and head straight over to Rick’s Place. That’s where you’ll find the letters of transit.
So will today be the day? Maybe, maybe not. On Friday, we were told by an SEC official that his/her boss — an SEC president — expected a vote on Missouri to be held on Sunday. To our knowledge — as of yet — that hasn’t happened. In other words, it’s beginning to look like top officials around the conference don’t know what’s happening with the Missouri-Big 12 negotiations, either.
So we’ll not hold our breath.
There’s no telling what’s going on in Columbia, Dallas and Birmingham. But the longer this drags out, the more SEC fans will assign blame to Missouri. As you’ve probably witnessed on talk radio shows and internet messageboards, many league fans aren’t excited about adding the Tigers. At best there’s a lukewarm, “okay, whatever Slive says” feel to their entry.
The longer this drags out — whether it’s Missouri delaying matters or not — the bigger the PR job Slive and company will have to do to convince SEC fans that MU wanted the SEC and that the school fits in the SEC.
Some headlines regarding Missouri…
1. Martin Manley of The Kansas City Star (just can’t wait for Tiger fans to fill our comment boxes with reports that Manley is a Kansas man) says that he believes an announcement will come today. He also says that from a football perspective, the Big 12 won’t miss “A&Who and Mizzou.” Yep, sounds like an objective journalist.
2. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon — who insulted some Big 12 institutions last year when he said MU would be better off in the more academically-respected Big Ten — refused to comment on the SEC situation last night. “I just think anything else I say at this point… I’ll let others… I might be too quotable. I’m a fan. I don’t run the athletic department.”
3. Over the weekend, Missouri AD Mike Alden was asked about his school’s timeline. “You guys are asking me a question I don’t know the answer to.”
4. Orangebloods.com — the Rivals site covering Texas — reported early this morning (behind a paywall) that Missouri “is still gone,” but “still awaiting the exit fee number.” The exit fee is believed to be between $26-30 million. That charge would be negotiated down, and that appears to be the current hangup.
5. While Big 12 interim commish Chuck Neinas says his league is finished with expansion and will stand at 10 teams next fall (WVU in, Mizzou out), Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman reported yesterday that a Big 12 source told him the league still might invite Louisville and go to 11 for next season. (Which would mean 12, if Missouri unexpectedly changed its mind.) You know what this sounds like, of course? Texas wants 10 schools and Oklahoma wants 11. It was OU president David Boren that was convinced by old Congressional pal Mitch McConnell that U of L would be better for the Big 12 than West Virginia. That league should be named the San Andreas Conference because it’s built on an enormous fault line that’s destined to give way at some point.
UPDATE — This morning, The Associated Press reported that MU chancellor Brady Deaton has cancelled his speaking engagement in India to stay at home and continue work on the school’s conference affiliation mess. An MU spokesperson said “the chancellor won’t go so he can deal with other duties in his office that are more important.” Take that symposium on radiopharmaceuticals.