For they guy trying to figure out how to save all of the conference rivalries with a 14 team conference, its simple. You put A&M and Mizzou in the west, move Bama and Auburn to the east, and move Vandy to the west. That preserves all of the major rivalries. Vandys permanent cross conference game would be with Tennessee.
Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News reports today that “two sources familiar with the SEC’s discussions about Missouri” say it “appears” that a majority of league presidents are onboard with MU, but “that majority falls just short of the nine votes required to add a new member.”
One source told the paper that “there’s a group of presidents that wants to sit tight, believing the SEC can do better than Missouri and that No. 14 should come from the East.”
The group that favors Missouri “like the school’s academic profile, getting the SEC into the St. Louis and Kansas City TV markets, and avoiding the awkwardness of an unbalanced 13-team schedule.”
Finally, Solomon reports that Alabama is one of the schools holding out for a team from the east because the Tide does not want to lose its annual game with Tennessee. It’s therefore likely that Tennessee is also in that camp.
Auburn, meanwhile, is reported to want to leave the West Division for the East. (And that’s the cue for Bama fans to call the Tigers chicken.)
As we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, it’s unusual for leaks — especially of this size — to come out of the SEC regarding specific schools. So the timing of this is certainly interesting. Could someone be sending MU a put-up or shut-up message?
Thirteen SEC athletic directors were in Birmingham yesterday. But those guys won’t be the ones voting on Missouri’s future should the Tigers apply for membership. Could some of those ADs — say Mal Moore of Alabama, Jay Jacobs of Auburn or Dave Hart of Tennessee — have spoken off the record on behalf of their bosses to an Alabama-based writer who they know well and trust? Sure.
But just yesterday an anonymous MU official was quoted as saying that Missouri still preferred the Big Ten and that the SEC is “what’s left.” True or false, good source or bad source, imagine how that went over among SEC officials.
It could be that some schools are truly down on Mizzou. Some might be turned off by the continued “Big Ten” talk (and it’s not just the quote from yesterday, Tiger fans). And some might simply be waiting or more info on Mizzou before saying yes.
Remember, prior to Texas A&M getting a thumbs-up, there were last-minute rumors that Vanderbilt and a handful of other schools would block the Aggies’ entry. Didn’t happen. (We’re not suggesting Solomon is tossing out rumors here, he’s as good as there is in the SEC and he happens to be, in effect, the only writer in the country assigned to cover the business beat of the league.)
The problem for Missouri is this — the more debate there is over their entry, the tougher it becomes for Mike Slive and company to bring them into the league. The SEC is about consensus. It’s about doing what is obviously best for the league. Is Mizzou obviously what’s best?
From a business perspective, yes. From a cultural perspective, maybe. From an academic perspective, yes. From a realignment of divisions perspective, no.
Now, schools like West Virginia and Florida State have gotten a lot of debate among fans and pundits, too. But it’s likely both would still be viewed by the masses as being better “fits” with the SEC than Missouri, fair or not.
And thrown into all of this mix is the “chicken” factor.
If the SEC and Missouri mate now, what happens next summer if Virginia Tech or Florida State suddenly ask or admission? If the SEC passes on Missouri now, what happens if the ACC strengthens, the Big East partners with the Big 12, and the SEC is faced with standing still at 13 or accepting for membership a school that doesn’t carry as many benefits as Missouri?
For those angrily throwing barbs on messageboards, this whole thing appears easy. “Missouri!” “West Virginia!”
But for the commissioner, presidents and chancellors actually tackling this issue… it’s a helluva lot more complicated.