Mizzou 'officially on the market now'

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
11:31
AM ET
Remember yesterday, when it seemed like the Big 12 had taken a major step back from the conference realignment abyss? Me too!

That lasted approximately 12 hours.

On Tuesday morning, a day after the Big 12 membership voted in favor of a revenue sharing plan that seemed to balance the league's haves and have nots and satisfy the financial concerns of teams like, say, Missouri, the league appeared to be sitting on more solid ground than at any point in the past two years. Hooray for revenue sharing! Then, Tuesday evening, Missouri went ahead and did this:
University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board's members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system's St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically "any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation....which best serve the (school's) interest."

If you're confused by all this, you're not the only one. One day, Missouri issues its vote in favor of a unanimous revenue-sharing agreement that would keep the Big 12's members committed to the league for at least six years. The next day, it tells everyone it decided to peek around anyway. What gives?

Apparently, Missouri doesn't trust the new Big 12 allegiance to last if Texas and Oklahoma get a more attractive offer somewhere down the line, and it wants to make sure it protects its own neck in advance. It's the same old realignment story: Everyone's paranoid and nervous, everyone sees chairs available and no one wants to be the last school standing. Texas can afford to be casual in this game; it knows it has a chair anywhere it wants. Missouri has no such luxury.

Which should tell you something about the boldness of Missouri's move in the first place. It still thinks it may have a place in the SEC. Mizzou believes it might have just what the SEC is looking for: competitive athletics and a entry into new television markets -- Kansas City and St. Louis, namely. Likewise, Missouri has never been subtle about its hopes of joining the Big Ten; it practically begged Jim Delany for an invitation during the first wave of conference realignment in 2010. The Big Ten added Nebraska instead.

Why is the situation different now? It isn't, really, except the the SEC has more overtly stated its plans to expand. Just ask Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, who told the Associated Press as much last week. For much of the past few months, it looked like Missouri was using the SEC's desire to a) hedge risk against an imploded Big 12 or b) improve its negotiating position among its Big 12 colleagues. Now, it just looks like Missouri wants out.

As one Big East coach texted ESPN.com last night:
One Big East coach feared the worst, telling ESPN.com via text message, "the big east is finished."

It's hard to begrudge Missouri the right to do what's best for its school and -- actually, you know what? Yeah, it is. Because in this case, what's best for Missouri -- a school that has been informally ignored by the SEC and Big Ten before, mind you -- is also what's best for the Big 12. Only the Tigers' curators seem to disagree.

Instead of ratifying that new revenue sharing agreement -- an agreement it voted for on Monday! -- and getting on with life in a committed, two-sided relationship, Mizzou seems intent on chasing every handsome new suitor that casually glances her way. These are classic commitment issues: He says he loves me, but he'll probably leave me anyway. I might as well do it first.

In the meantime, the collateral damage escalates. But hey, you know anxious, barely attractive college programs these days: Can't live with them, can't live without them. Or something like that.

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