Missouri Loves Company: Why the Big 12's Tigers Will Not be Asked to Join the SEC

Yesterday, when I saw that fans of the Texas A&M Aggies were pushing the Missouri Tigers as possible partners to join them in the 14-member SEC, I posted a fanshot whose purpose was to mock the Kentucky Wildcats, who also are pigskin underachievers from a border state that sent soldiers to both sides during the War.

Since then, I have learned that this wackjob idea actually is a real thing being discussed sincerely by some people, which strikes me as absolute nonsense. Accordingly, permit me to take this opportunity to rebut Beergut’s rationale for inducting Mizzou into the Southeastern Conference, lest this atrocious notion gain even the slightest degree of traction.

Beergut begins:

Geographically and culturally speaking, there is no argument for Missouri to join the Southeastern Conference. Yes, Missouri shares borders with Arkansas and Tennessee, but they are not a Southern school or area. Hell, Missouri was a border state during the Civil War, sending troops to both the Union and Confederate sides (albeit at a ratio of more than 2:1 for the Union). Culturally, Missouri does not identify themselves with the South.

Frankly, this ought to end the argument. The fact that Missouri had a star on the Confederate battle flag is the only reason I even bother continuing, but continue I shall.

He goes on to write:

Missouri shares physical borders with Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska, all three schools members of the 12-team Big Ten Conference, and all three of whom share in the healthy television revenue offered by the Big Ten Network. As a lesser partner in the current 10-team Big 12 Conference television contract, Missouri is guaranteed to make somewhere around $15-$17 million per year, while Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois take in over $20 million per year under the current Big 10 television deals. . . .

Missouri doesn't have the football-first culture of most SEC schools (they are closer to basketball-centric Kentucky, when speaking of athletic culture), but they would be able to bring the Kansas City television markets to the SEC, and they would even out the number of conference members at 14 (assuming A&M joins the SEC). The SEC allows member schools to control their own third-tier television rights, which means Missouri could cut their own deal with Fox Sports KC to show any third-tier media content. . . .

Moving to the SEC would also allow Missouri to further its reputation as a football program. While the Midwest is a basketball mad area of the country, the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs do have a fanatical following, sometimes compared to a passionate college fanbase. Even if they do not identify themselves as college football fans first, or even Missouri fans, i have no doubt some of these fans would travel to Columbia to attend an Alabama-Missouri or Tennessee-Missouri football game. SEC conference games would increase Missouri's football attendance, and raise the national profile of their program.

With one exception, those are all reasons why Missouri would want to join the SEC, not reasons why the SEC would want Missouri to join. This is the program that sat around all last summer waiting on the invitation to join the Big Ten that never came; there are reasons why no one is swooping in to snap up this program. Outside of the demographic appeal---Missouri is a good-sized state with significant media markets, and the Tigers have no in-state Division I-A competition---there’s not a lot of "there" there, and, frankly, Mike Slive isn’t running a charity.

This brings us to Beergut’s one and only reason why the SEC would have the slightest interest in Missouri: "they would be able to bring the Kansas City television markets to the SEC, and they would even out the number of conference members at 14." Technically, that’s two reasons, but the second one doesn’t count, because any warm body would fulfill the latter criterion.

That just leaves us with the notion that the Tigers deliver the Kansas City and St. Louis television markets. I don’t know how to say this, except to just come right out and say it: no, they don’t. The Kansas City market is shared with the Chiefs, the Royals, and the Kansas Jayhawks. The St. Louis market is shared with the Blues, the Cardinals, the Rams, and the Illinois Fighting Illini. Show me a media market that still has an NHL team, and I’ll show you a media market no college athletics program can claim to deliver.

The mere fact that Missouri is a Big Ten reject is alone enough to keep the SEC from taking the Tigers; Slive wouldn’t give Jim Delany the satisfaction of letting him condescend to us about taking the Midwest’s sloppy seconds. However, if Missouri---the state, not the university---and its major media market isn’t enough to attract the Big Ten, whose network model is based on how many subscribers are in the area, what possible interest could Missouri---the university, not the state---hold for the SEC, which actually needs some of those televisions to be on in order for the league to make money?

I’ve said this before, and I will continue saying it because it remains true: Texas A&M is a perfect fit for the SEC, culturally, financially, and geographically. Since the Aggies obviously would join the SEC West, bringing in Texas A&M would require bringing in another team in the East. Otherwise, the Auburn Tigers would have to be bumped over into the Eastern Division. Although I would be just fine with that, Auburn’s permanent cross-division rival would have to be the Alabama Crimson Tide, which would mean the end of the Alabama-Tennessee game as an annual affray. That will not happen, and Mizzou offers nothing even remotely attractive enough to make Mike Slive go through the political wrangling that such a move would require. (Also, three sets of Tigers in the West? Really?)

In short, where rumors of SEC membership are concerned, the team from the Show Me State has shown me nothing, culturally, financially, or geographically, that would make me consider Mizzou even remotely attractive as an option. It’s just a rumor, and it deserves as much credence as the claim that Arkansas is considering joining the Big 12, which is to say . . . none.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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