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Why Missouri should stay in the Big 12

10/2/2011

We get it, Mizzou.

Last summer was scary. What started with so much promise and excitment ended with the equivalent of a near-death experience in college sports. Being left behind by the Big 12 South as one of the Forgotten Five that weren't part of a Pac-16 wouldn't have been fun.

Yes, the Big 12 is dysfunctional. Yes, you might have to deal with this kind of drama again soon.

But sit down and listen: The SEC is not the answer.

Have a little self-respect and perspective, Mizzou. Sure, maybe you get left behind last year if the Big 12 breaks up.

In today's cash-driven world of college athletics, how long would that have lasted?

You're now the SEC's most realistic 14th team. If that's not a wake up call, a sign that you bring plenty to the table, then what is? The football program is winning, the fans are showing up and you're located between two major media markets.

You don't have a weaker in-state school that would have to tag along to any conference move.

Have a little faith. Missouri is never again going to be faced with the prospect of being left out of a conference that lacks a BCS bid and the BCS money that comes with it.

For now, Missouri is sitting at home in a conference that it's learned to win within over the past decade, and is enjoying the most successful four-year run in school history.

Think Texas A&M's move to the SEC is risky? (It is.)

At least the Aggies are located in one of America's most fertile recruiting grounds and at least have a hope of beating out Texas and/or Oklahoma for top-flight recruits.

Missouri? How, exactly, would that recruiting pipeline continue to flow from the Lone Star State to Columbia? By playing one game every other year in College Station and moving to a conference with one tie-in to a bowl in Texas?

The Aggies are at least one of the most physical teams in the Big 12.

Missouri's wide-open spread scheme? Not exactly the formula for SEC success. Finding athletes that can make plays in open space but weren't hounded on the recruiting trail by college football's blue bloods has been the foundation of Missouri's 40 wins in four seasons entering 2011.

Missouri is not going to beat out college football's premier programs for elite recruits often enough to keep this run going if it leaves for the SEC. There isn't enough talent in Missouri for the Tigers to win consistently in any league. After decades of ineptitude, the Tigers have found a way to win. Don't forget all the trial and error(s) it took to find it.

It ain't broke. Don't fix it.

Missouri, as it stands, is built to sustain this success. Before the four Southwest Conference schools merged with the Big 8, Missouri struggled through 12 consecutive losing seasons and the program played in two bowl games from 1984-2002.

Since Pinkel established those recruiting inroads in a conference with four Texas schools and three Texas bowl tie-ins of varying prestige, he's been to the postseason in seven of eight seasons, including four berths in bowls played in Texas.

The next step? Spoiler alert: It's not located anywhere near Birmingham, Ala.

Anyone betting that level of success continues in the SEC West once it trades that Texas base for a chance to share a division with Alabama, Auburn, LSU and friends?

Don't run from something, run to something. What, exactly, does the SEC offer Missouri? The SEC would love Missouri, and it should. Missouri should say thanks, we're flattered, but no thanks.

Plenty of folks at Missouri don't want the Big 12. I don't blame them. It's frustrating to be embroiled in what's now become annual shakeups. There's no shame in wanting out. Right now, though, there's no realistic exit strategy that would be good for the program.

Chasing conference stability is not worth risking the end of one of the best runs in school history.

Show some pride. Missouri has plenty to offer. No one's forcing it to leave, and the Big 12 is, at least for awhile, viable. Until that day changes, Missouri should keep doing what it's doing -- winning -- where it's doing it.

An uncertain future off the field is a better option than certain losses on it.