The SEC needs Missouri more for image than for football

Former Mizzou man Sean Weatherspoon, who's now a Falcon. (AP photo)

Former Mizzou man Sean Weatherspoon, now a Falcon. (AP photo)

Missouri’s curators voted Tuesday to ponder the school’s Big 12 exit. Put simply, Missouri’s curators voted — unanimously, FYI — to bail on the Big 12. At issue now is what the school would bring to its new home, which is apt to be the SEC.

Here were pause to note that some folks see Missouri as a better fit in the Big Ten — the Tigers already have a heated basketball rivalry with Illinois — but the Big Ten hasn’t been overt in its ardor to expand. The Big Ten might be happy as is. The SEC needs a 14th member to offset Texas A&M.

The SEC also needs Missouri for another reason: This whole round of conference-hopping has given big-time college sports the look of me-first-and-everybody-else-last Wall Street, and that’s not the look you want in the year 2011. (It’s reality, but it’s still an unseemly image for institutions of supposed higher learning.) Missouri plays pretty good football and good basketball, but that’s not its greatest lure for the SEC.

Missouri is  a state school in a state — heck, a region — where the SEC doesn’t have an outpost, and it would also deliver the St. Louis and the Kansas City television markets. (That’s an upgrade over A&M, which delivers the less-prestigious College Station market.) Those are nice things to have, but they’re not essential. Of greater importance: The SEC views Missouri as another vehicle in its quest to spruce up its academic image, which could use sprucing.

If it adds Missouri, the SEC will count four schools among the high-minded Association of American Universities. That’s double from a month ago. Texas A&M is an AAU member, and so are Florida and Vanderbilt. Both the Aggies and the Tigers play good enough football that they won’t sully the SEC’s brand, and the SEC doesn’t need an Oklahoma or a Texas to burnish its standing as the best football league. (Check the latest Associated Press poll: SEC teams are ranked first, second, 10th, 15th, 17th and 18th.)

The SEC has been measured in its approach to School No. 14. It didn’t fall over itself when Texas and Oklahoma were making eyes at the Pac-12. It didn’t so much pursue Texas A&M as it allowed itself to be pursued. Adding a 13th member just sort of happened. Adding a 14th will be a considered choice.

Adding Missouri would do more for the SEC’s image off the field than on, and that’s a consideration a lot of us missed when this whole round of choosing-up got going. The SEC is often regarded as the root of all collegiate evil, but this is one time when the league ruled by football is trying not to act as if football is the only thing that matters.

By landing Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC all but destroyed the Big East. The SEC doesn’t need to destroy anything to ensure its survival; it’s the biggest conference today, and it’ll be the biggest 20 years from now. Mike Slive, the SEC’s commissioner, didn’t always carry water for King Football. He was the AD at Cornell and assistant AD at Dartmouth; he was also commissioner of the Great Midwest and Conference USA.

Slive is 71. He’s at an age where thoughts of legacy loom largest. (Indeed, at the SEC Media Days in Birmingham this summer the hot rumor, quickly refuted, was that Slive would announce his retirement.) He has presided over a decade of massive SEC growth, and now he wants to make sure that growth won’t be regarded, in the cold eye of history, as rampant pillaging.

When Mike Slive leaves this conference, he wants to be able to say, “We tried to do it the right way.” Others will quibble over the definition of “right,” but if the SEC pairs Missouri with Texas A&M it will be harder to make the case that the biggest league was utterly craven in its desires. Those are two good schools. They’ll broaden the base without rendering the league top-heavy. They’ll make the SEC not just bigger but better.

And that’s the key. As fascinating as the notion of the SEC with Texas and/or Oklahoma would have been, it would also have given rise to the charge of overkill. At some point the best league has to realize, “We’re good enough.” Slive and his associates have come to that quiet conclusion. If Missouri is indeed No. 14, the SEC will have done something the SEC doesn’t often do: It will have made a subtle splash.

By Mark Bradley

506 comments Add your comment

Joe in Woodstock

October 5th, 2011
7:54 am

Not gonna say it!

dap01

October 5th, 2011
7:56 am

The SEC needs nothing. If any team is added, it will be for TV audiance only.

Perhaps GT can be added, I hear they have 32,000 screaming fans each week.

Doggg

October 5th, 2011
7:56 am

First!… and we need to focus more on academics in all schooling, I think… your comment “This whole round of conference-hopping has given big-time college sports the look of me-first-and-everybody-else-last Wall Street, and that’s not the look you want in the year 2011. (It’s reality, but it’s still an unseemly image for institutions of supposed higher learning.) <<<<<< TRUTH!!!

Doggg

October 5th, 2011
7:56 am

OK… third… lol… =P

jeffrey d

October 5th, 2011
7:58 am

You’d have to change the name “Southeastern Conference.” Missouri is kind of a stretch.

Mark Bradley

October 5th, 2011
7:58 am

Neither am I, Joe.

But I thought about saying, “Kudos.”

Dawg In PA

October 5th, 2011
7:58 am

Mark, good article and great thoughts on adding Missouri. I hope we add them for the same reasons. Also, it’s not like South Carolina was anything great when they were added in the 90s.

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Gordon

October 5th, 2011
8:02 am

This has been talked about before, but if the SEC adds Missouri I would assume Auburn would move to the east. Then Alabama and Auburn would become permanent cross division opponents. So the Alabama/Tennessee game would be lost on an annual basis, and I assume Georgia and Tennessee would each take either Missouri or A&M as their permanent opponent. I also assume the SEC would move to 9 conference games, otherwise the rotation would be VERY slow.

done

October 5th, 2011
8:02 am

Does adding Missouri put Alabama and Auburn in the Eastern Division? If so, this will be UGA’s last year to have any hope of playing in SEC Championship.

Dog Island Gator

October 5th, 2011
8:02 am

Florida a member of AAU. Not just a football factory. A lot of tomato heads there too.

GR82BAG8R

October 5th, 2011
8:03 am

So, Missouri is in the Southeast???? Wow.

Did the U.S. just annex Canada?

Mark Bradley

October 5th, 2011
8:03 am

I can’t imagine both Auburn and Alabama would move to the East.

Gordon

October 5th, 2011
8:05 am

If both Alabama and Auburn moved to the east, one of the current east teams would have to move west. The east would be too loaded. LSU would win the west every year.

rxdawg79

October 5th, 2011
8:06 am

If Slive could somehow find a way to upgrade his league’s horrendous officiating crews then he would go down as greatest commissioner ever, in any conference.

rxdawg79

October 5th, 2011
8:08 am

@done: Only one team will need to switch conferences. Fourteen divided by two = 7. Auburn is the logical geographic choice.

So?

October 5th, 2011
8:10 am

Won’t we have to go to 16 then for sure??? Both of those teams will be SEC West you would think.

Shug

October 5th, 2011
8:11 am

Uh, Mr. Bradley, if you’re going to say that Missouri brings in the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, then you must say that A&M brings in the much bigger Dallas and Houston markets. I’m sure there’s some yahoo at another paper writing that Missouri isn’t a big catch because all it brings are the Columbia viewers.

And Mike Slive shouldn’t worry about his legacy. He’s a bureaucratic apparatchik whom no one is going to remember 6 months after he’s gone.

who cares?

October 5th, 2011
8:19 am

SEC and academics….chuckle

J

October 5th, 2011
8:20 am

I would think they will move Auburn to the East for sure, There has been some Rumor that Bama would stay in the West and MSU would move to the East.. Kind of Strange but You know the Big Boys get what they want.

red foxx

October 5th, 2011
8:22 am

mark why does SEC taking 2 teams from Big 12 not decimate the conference while ACC taking 2 teams from the Big East decimate theirs? both conferences are going to load up to replace the losses

DawgFan

October 5th, 2011
8:27 am

Should the SEC add Missouri it will, by necessity, force divisional realignment within the conference. The logical choice is Auburn, purely for geography’s sake. But then you are splitting up Auburn and Alabama. You could make the Iron Bowl participants permanent cross-division rivals, but that ends the guaranteed Tennessee-Alabama game each year. The other option is to move Alabama and Auburn to the East and send Vanderbilt to the West. This move doesn’t tear down too many rivalries and actually balances the power quite nicely within the conference. Here’s what it would look like:

SEC East:
Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee

SEC West:
Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Venderbilt

Herschel Talker

October 5th, 2011
8:28 am

MB:

Why would anyone think 2 teams would have to move to the East? With the addition of 2 teams, only one has to go to the East whether that’s one of the two new ones (highly unlikely) or whether the 2 new ones go to the West and a team currently in the West (read: Auburn) moves to the East.

HT

Mr. Obvious

October 5th, 2011
8:28 am

The SEC doesn’t need to be defiling itself by adding yankee schools like Missouri.

‘Tis better to have a lowly Vanderbilt in the SOUTH in the SEC than a relative football “powerhouse” in Midwest or North.

Anon

October 5th, 2011
8:30 am

College Station is closer to Houston than Columbia is to St Louis or Kansas City. The Houston TV market is larger than STL & KC’s combined.

Oh yeah, and then there’s Dallas, too.

DawgFan

October 5th, 2011
8:30 am

@red foxx
The Big 12 will have an easier time reloading than the Big East. If the Big East can convince Notre Dame to bring their football team into the conference thne it would be a big win, but don’t hold your breath.

The Big 12 can probably get BYU pretty easily, and could go after Houston or SMU.

SimpleDawg

October 5th, 2011
8:31 am

Please stop with all of the “footprint” garbage.

Let’s maintain a little tradition here. It’s “The SEC” – The Southeastern Conference. Unless you’re geographically challenged, Missouri is not in the southeastern part of the US. There are plenty of Universities in the Southeast that could be added to balance out the conference. Adding Missouri would be that pillage/plunder move that you argued against.

Let’s keep our SEC in the area for which it’s named. If the product remains good, there will be plenty of TV money to go around. The roads are full of people moving south….not too many folks headed north.

John

October 5th, 2011
8:32 am

I say, bring in West Virginia. It is better fit geographically and they play good ball – football and basketball.

atlvol55

October 5th, 2011
8:32 am

No, no, no. I agree with you on most article’s Mark, but Missouri adds nothing to the SEC. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but Missouri has no history in football and is so so in basketball. Does the SEC really need the Kansas City and St. Louis markets,,no??

If the SEC expands it needs to be someone actually in the South…again…Clemson, FSU, or even West Virginia. I doubt the SEC has too hard of a time drawing viewers. I have friends that live in the northeast and even they know the SEC is the best conference and watch SEC games.

globeflyer

October 5th, 2011
8:33 am

I would say neither Mizzou nor the SEC need each other. If they do reach an agreement, it would be just another case of “synergy” and would benefit both. Missouri has two of the best TV markets in the country and the SEC is the best conference, so, cultural differences aside, it would be a good move; a no-brainer. Let’s get real here, the “academic” conversation is is just a sideboard, this is about athletics and money.

Ace

October 5th, 2011
8:35 am

Missouri brings neither the Kansas City or St Louis markets, both of which are overwhelming professional sports markets. Additionally, they have little regional and ZERO national TV appeal, and will provide no significant TV revenue.

This shows that the sec is settling…might as well bring in WVU, they fit the sec academically and socially.

Curious George

October 5th, 2011
8:35 am

If a member of the SEC, would Missouri be able to learn how to proficiently cheat from expert institutions like Alabama & Auburn?

Glenn

October 5th, 2011
8:38 am

LOL !!! The College Station market . Yeah I think maybe the SEC was thinking more about the Houston , Dallas , Austin , and San Antonio market . The College Station market ? Did you really type that ?

DawgFan

October 5th, 2011
8:39 am

If Missouri is not in the “Southeast” then how do you justify Kentucky being in the conference? How do you justify the talk of bringing in West Virginia? You don’t bring in a school just because they are already in the southeast. If the SEC brought in Georgia Tech they would gain nothing financially, as Tech’s potential fan base is already covered moreover by Georgia’s. Same goes for Clemson and FSU.

To me, the logical choice for expansion is NC State, but Missouri brings you bigger financial windfalls.

roerunner

October 5th, 2011
8:40 am

Atlvo, you are totally wrong about Mo. not having a history in football – do your homework! That being said, I hope Mo. doesn’t go to the SEC, ’cause I don’t want to see our butts get kicked on a regular basis.

DAWG07

October 5th, 2011
8:42 am

Lets hold out for TX or OK.

Stuffy

October 5th, 2011
8:43 am

Mark,

You REALLY need to get your blog filter fixed.

I am tired of my clean, on-topic comments never getting posted.

My comment about the absurdity of Missouri making 3 “Tigers” teams in the SEC was priceless.

ATLBadger

October 5th, 2011
8:44 am

Ace above is right. I lived in St. Louis for a few months. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I heard people talking about Mizzou sports (especially since I was there during baseball season). I would imagine its similar in KC. Plus, I’m sure Jayhawk basketball is probably the most popular college sport in KC anyways. It’s not like driving around ATL and seeing UGA stuff everywhere. Aside from academics, it would be an average at best add for the SEC. I just cannot picture many people in St. Louis sitting around on a fall day watching SEC football anymore than they already might.

lanier

October 5th, 2011
8:45 am

hogwash the SEC is not the Ivy League. if they are gonna add someone get a school that can add football prestige

RTD

October 5th, 2011
8:46 am

The AJC (Atlanta Urinal and Constipation) needs to get rid of Mark Bradley!

DawgFan

October 5th, 2011
8:48 am

For the sake of geographical arguments, Columbia, MO is about 60-65 miles farther north than Lexington, KY and is nearly 100 miles farther EAST than Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Lenny

October 5th, 2011
8:48 am

Missouri would be a very solid addition to the SEC. I agree with you Mark. I hope they will be placed in the Eastern Division, contrary to the popular opinion Auburn will be shifted to the East. Missouri can get three divisional games with teams from KY and TN, states Missouri borders. Against USCe it would be Columbia vs. Columbia. Georgia and Florida need not both be away games for Mizzou in the same year. The difference in travel between Missouri in the East or West is minimal. This would not put any traditional rivalries in jeopardy. Arkansas could be Missouri’s permanent opponent in the West. USCe could then find a new pairing with another team such as LSU (they don’t want to play Florida annually) or A&M.

Atlanta Gator

October 5th, 2011
8:49 am

Missouri is the best available choice. Mizzou will give the SEC access to the St. Louis and Kansas City media markets, plus an awfully large number of cable TV subscribers in the rest of the state. Among other SEC state populations, only Texas, Florida and Georgia are significantly larger.

Missouri is also a comprehensive land-grant university (like 10 of 13 SEC institutions), and the state’s flagship university. It’s an AAU member (like Florida, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt), with strong academic and research credentials. With 33,000 students, it would fit the profile of SEC schools very nicely.

Missouri, however, is going to have to work to upgrade their overall athletic program. The Tigers are going to find that the SEC is much more competitive overall than the big XII is, and not just in football. Their women’s volleyball and softball teams are top-10 programs and could compete for SEC titles immediately, but they are going to have to find another conference home for their wrestling program, a sport the SEC does not sponsor.

The only school I would recommend for SEC expansion before Missouri is Florida State, and I recognize that’s a judgment call because Missouri expands the media footprint and FSU does not. If the Seminoles are the least bit interested, they need to call Birmingham and quit being coy because it looks like Missouri is about to submit an application for SEC membership and it may be a long time before most SEC presidents and chancellors have any appetite to expand the conference beyond 14 teams—-if ever.

Pascual Perez Atlanta Tours

October 5th, 2011
8:49 am

I have no qualms with adding Missouri. Just a state north of Arkansas and a state west of Kentucky. They should fit just fine…that being said, adding a North Carolina school, i.e. North Carolina State U., is my preferred choice if schools like Clemson, FSU, and GT are out of the question. Geographically, I don’t think you add WVU without jumping into Virginia and NC first, regardless of their similarity to some SEC schools.

pragmatic

October 5th, 2011
8:50 am

If Missouri is added then Alabama and Auburn move to the east. Bad for Dogs.

Curious George

October 5th, 2011
8:50 am

Where is my question?

falcon fred

October 5th, 2011
8:52 am

missouri boarders 3 sec states..let them in…they are as competetive in football/basketball as uga is today…and uga is proof that you don’t need tradition to remain in the sec…

Dawgsfan82

October 5th, 2011
8:52 am

If Missouri does indeed join, they should be placed in the EAST. That way, our big games will remain in tact. To UGA, please move the REDCOATS back to their original home.

Joe Bob Thibodaux

October 5th, 2011
8:54 am

Mark, get a grip. The SEC represents DIXIE, and if you ain’t from Dixie, then, you ain’t never gonna be from Dixie.

JBT

thUGA

October 5th, 2011
8:55 am

I doubt Missouri qualifies for the SEC as it has an APG well below 1.2.

APG = arrests per game.