Conference realignment has been a constant theme in college football over the past year and a half. Nebraska got the ball rolling when the Cornhuskers — frustrated by the Big 12’s unequal revenue sharing and Texas’ influence over the league — left for the Big Ten. Colorado departed the Big 12 as well, joining Utah in the new Pac-12. But perhaps the most interesting move came from Texas A&M, who joined the SEC after having enough of the Longhorn Network and league instability. It was only a matter of time before the SEC added a 14th team, and Missouri became that school. The SEC is a gold-standard conference, but some have questioned if the Tigers can compete for the title in the country’s toughest league. And while Mizzou will enjoy the money and exposure of the SEC, there are some concerns over historical rivalries and geographical fit.
Missouri to the SEC: Good move for the Tigers?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I think it’s a good move for Missouri because the school, with all of its flirtation with other leagues in recent years, had reached a point of no return with the Big 12. From a strictly competitive standpoint, I don’t think it’s a good move. The football program has raised its profile in the last decade under Gary Pinkel and is now to the point where it can be a factor in the Big 12 almost every season. It might be a stretch to call the Tigers one of the league’s elite programs, but they are relevant almost every season. That won’t be the case in the SEC, at least not initially. There are too many programs in the SEC that simply have more to offer than Missouri — from recruiting to fan base to facilities to tradition, etc. From a basketball standpoint, it’s probably a lateral move — or a small step down — and the school is jeopardizing its rivalry with Kansas, one of the premier programs in the nation. Not playing the Jayhawks, even once per season, is not a good thing for Missouri basketball.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It’s an absolutely great move for Missouri. The Tigers just left the craziness of unequal revenue, constant rumors, the LHN, Dan Beebe leadership and an uncertain future for college sports’ royalty. Mizzou now has a permanent home with more money and exposure than ever before. Of course conference titles are difficult to win, but no big-time school is looking to join a league “because it is easy”. Geographical fit? Missouri borders as many SEC states as Big 12 ones. Rivalries? The Tigers can still play Kansas at the end of the season, just like the Florida-FSU, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson rivalries. If KU wants to go “Rock Head, Jayhawk” and not play Mizzou because of jealously, then that’s Kansas’ fault. Recruiting in Texas? Plenty of recent SEC players — Matt Stafford, Ryan Mallett, DeMarcus Love, Brandon LaFell, Denarius Moore, Greg McElroy — were from the Lone Star State. Missouri fans are going to love trips to places like Neyland Stadium, Sanford Stadium, Rupp Arena, Bud Walton Arena and Alex Box Stadium. And they are also going to enjoy being in a top league with solid leadership and passionate fans.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
From a football viewpoint, I don’t think this move makes a lot of sense for Missouri. The Tigers never won the Big 12 title and now are moving to a tougher conference. Will there be years where Missouri can win the SEC East? Absolutely. However, I would rather take my chances in the Big 12. Also, the Tigers recruit Texas heavily, and it’s unclear how those pipelines would be affected with the shift in conferences. But this move isn’t all about football. Missouri simply had enough of the Big 12 and its instability. With that in mind, I can’t blame the Tigers for moving to the SEC. When an opportunity to join the best athletic conference in the nation comes along, it’s a very difficult invitation to turn down. Additionally, Missouri can make more money in the SEC, which is certainly very attractive to any athletic department. Only time will tell whether or not the Tigers are capable of competing for the SEC East title, but getting away from the instability and constant bickering in the Big 12 makes this move a good one for Missouri.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
This is a phenomenal move for the Missouri Tigers. The dollars and cents differential between the SEC and the new Big 12 contracts are not nearly as great as people think (a reported $12 million dollar difference per year is really more like $2-3 million). But when it comes to stability and recognition, there is no doubt that the SEC has a superior brand. And wins and losses on the field? Well, Mizzou won six conference championships since 1929 when they joined the Big 6 (which became the Big 8 and then the Big 12) and the last came in 1969, so not winning titles in the SEC won't be much of a change. Yet, the football program is currently cranking along at unprecedented levels as three of the school's five 10-win seasons have taken place in the last half-decade under Gary Pinkel. Additionally, Mizzou is 19-7-1 all-time against the current SEC programs and 7-2 all-time in bowl games against the SEC (even if most of them took place before the Cold War). This is the optimal time for Mizzou to make the move and it will be a huge win long-term for the school. Plus, as an added bonus, the SEC upgrades its academic standing and adds one of the more tradition-laden basketball programs in the country — even if both of which really have nothing to do with the move.