So how big of a mistake was made when the SEC’s official website posted a “Missouri Joins The SEC” packet late last night?
Let’s run through some of the questions raised by the gigantic goof:
1. Was it an accident or a hoax?
Clearly it was an accident. The page was done in a fashion identical to SECSports.com’s coverage of Texas A&M’s entry into the league.
Also, top SEC PR man Charles Bloom tweeted the following with regards to the error at 9:22 this morning:
“Web vendor made mistake. No agreement between SEC and Missouri.”
I don’t believe that cat will head willingly back into the bag.
2. So who is the web vendor?
The web vendor in this case is XOS Digital. They are a growing web company and have had a fruitful relationship — at least until now — with the SEC.
3. Are we really to believe this information was put together by the vendor and then accidentally released?
Apparently so. But the Q&A sessions with Chris Dortch and Tony Barnhart make it a bit harder to believe that the vendor’s only error wasn’t just posting the info early.
It was clearly the SEC’s error to have it all put together early. (Though it’s certainly possible that the league had the page made, then had to hold it due to bigger Big 12 gripes than were expected.)
Clearly, it wasn’t XOS Digital who interviewed Dortch and Barnhart.
4. What kind of position does this put Barnhart in?
You can bet Dortch and Barnhart weren’t happy about the release. Barnhart — like so many of us in the media these days — wears about 10 different hats. He’s employed in one capacity or another by CBS Sports, CSS, the SEC, and WQXI-AM 790 in Atlanta.
From reading the questions, it appears that this Q&A could have been done in an “If Missouri joins, what would you think” fashion. Still, even if the SEC asked him to do a Q&A on a hypothetical situation, Barnhart’s sharp enough to know what that would mean.
So it’s possible that he’s now stuck in a rough spot. What will his CBS Sports bosses say if they believe he had a scoop and sat on it?
Here’s a guy who answered some questions for the SEC, kept it under his hat — one of those 10 he wears — as was surely requested by the league, and then got burned for doing so.
5. So what kind of trouble could this cause for Missouri’s attempt to exit the Big 12?
A lot. Baylor president Kenneth Starr has proven to be a litigious two-face in the realignment game so far. He reportedly threatened to sue the SEC for tortious interference in the case of Texas A&M’s Big 12 exit. Then he and the Big 12 raided the Big East for TCU and currently look to do so again with West Virginia.
But seeing as how he had no issue with being duplicitous on the one hand, we doubt he’d have any problem being duplicitous on the other. “To heck with the Big 12′s Big East raid, we’ve got proof of SEC-Missouri dealings!”
If nothing else, the Big 12 just got some more leverage in its negotiations with Mizzou and that exit fee could be going up.
6. Could the SEC actually be in danger of a lawsuit this time around?
Yes and no. Yes, there now appears to be what could be viewed as a smoking gun if a lawsuit went to court in Waco, Texas or Kansas City, Missouri. (SEC claims that it — or XOS Digital — had just built the page in case things worked out with MU wouldn’t hold much water in a Big 12 state court.)
No, because the Big 12 and any individual party from inside that conference who might sue has done the exact same thing by raiding the Big East. A judge with common sense would save time and money by tossing this one out.
Still, the danger level did go up for the SEC with this mistake.
7. What must Missouri be thinking?
Since last summer, MU officials have taken a pie in the face from the Big Ten and have had to deal with a costly “the SEC is what’s left” leak from an anonymous school official. They also had a 45-page research piece and cost/benefit analysis on SEC membership reach the press.
Now, when they appear to be buttoning things up, an enormous mistake is made on the SEC side of things. Cursed, anyone?
8. Could this slow the process down further?
Most definitely. With the Big 12 now holding more leverage, it’s more likely Mizzou will wind up playing out one more year in that league (unless WVU or U of L can escape the Big East quickly). How much more likely? No one knows.
The Big 12 was playing harder ball than expected before this web error. The error now gives that league a bit more power in negotiating sessions. That’s going to equal a slow down on some scale.
This gaffe is the kind that can change lives. For the folks at Missouri, the SEC, and the Big 12. For the folks at XOS Digital who might lose some big business over this. For the poor guy who hit the wrong button to send this info into cyberspace.
Sadly, we know how easy it is to type in a wrong date and see a story post at the wrong time. We know how one key punch can release information that’s not meant to be seen yet.
So we feel for the folks at XOS Digital. Big money situations or not, mistakes happen. These are humans pushing the buttons.
But, boy, this mistake was a biggie.