The University of Missouri has announced it will join the Southeast Conference next July.
By Ryan Famuliner, Kaveh Kaghazi and Chris McDaniel (Columbia, Mo.)
The move was made official at an event on the university of Missouri campus that was half press conference, half pep rally - as fans were invited to attend.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased and we are proud to welcome you to the family of the Southeastern conference,” Commissioner of the SEC Mike Slive said, causing the crowd at the MU Student Center to erupt in applause.
The move comes after months of speculation and posturing. The University of Missouri Board of Curators gave MU Chancellor Brady Deaton the power to make a move on his own weeks ago. Deaton decided MU will leave the Big 12, which was the newest incarnation of the athletic conference the University had been a part of since 1907.
“We clearly don’t do this every year; we’re a Jeffersonian University who call for a change, as you know, about every 20 years. We’ve decided it will be a little more than 100 for us. But we think it’s appropriate, timely and we’re headed in the right direction,” Deaton said.
SEC Presidents and Chancellors unanimously voted Missouri into the conference as its 14th member effective July 1, 2012. As its newest member, Missouri will join the likes of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC East division. Slive said having MU in the East would maintain divisional rivalries and create the least amount of disruption. Slive pointed to the stability of the conference as to one of the reasons the SEC is a premiere destination.
“We have nearly 5,000 student athletes in the SEC –and-- men and women, and our long term goal was to provide financial stability so that 5,000 student athletes could compete and get the experience that we all value so much,” Slive said.
MU Athletic Director Mike Alden says Missouri exits the Big 12 for an opportunity that could provide more long term exposure to the school. Alden also says the university would like to continue its rivalry with the University of Kansas in every sport.
“I think to suggest that to have a conference affiliation be a requirement by why one would have to continue to participate against a another institution—I don’t know if that necessarily holds water,” Alden said.
MU joins former Big 12 counterpart Texas A&M in the SEC. The state of Missouri borders three states with SEC-member schools: Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.
Slive says MU will become a full member of the SEC from day one, and that includes financial benefits. The intended day one is next July. But MU’s replacement in the Big 12, the University of West Virginia, is caught up in a lawsuit to try to get out of its old conference before next football season. So Deaton waivered on the question of whether there could be brush back from the Big 12 as MU tries to leave.
“We have been very thoughtful in assessing the possibilities here and trying to be fair to both conferences and that led us to the date of July 1, 2012. We hope that can be resolved effectively with the schedules of other teams and other conference alignments. So we’re hopeful we’re past that,” Deaton said.
What wasn’t discussed much at the press conference, however, was how this move would affect the university’s academic potential. The University of Missouri is one of the 61 research institutions in the Association of American Universities. Once MU makes the switch, the SEC will have 4 members out of 14 with the honor. Compare that to the 11 out of 12 members that have the honor in the Big 10 conference, which Missouri was rumored to also be interested in joining. Slive praised the University for its Recent Academic Performance.
“Mizzou had a record student athlete performance in 2010-2011 with an 80% graduation success and a nearly 60% of your student athletes scoring a 3.0 or better. That’s a record to be proud of,” Slive said, again provoking cheers from the crowd.
The University of Missouri has a number of academic grants tied to the Big 12 conference, as well as joint academic research with other members of the conference. Chancellor Deaton expressed his desire for MU to retain the university’s collaborative research.
“As you’re well aware, we’re not making changes in our alliance. Our faculty work with faculty around the world. Clearly the quality of institutions in the Southeastern Conference simply point to another set of collaborative institutions. We hope that it will simply expand our footprint,” Deaton said.
Athletic Director Mike Alden likened the athletic program at MU as a “front porch” for the university, attracting attention and providing a window into the academic contributions of the institution. But the press conference was unsurprisingly dominated by discussion of athletics.