Defying geography, Missouri will join the SEC

KANSAS CITY — Finally, inevitably, the Southeastern Conference on Sunday morning announced it has unanimously approved Missouri as its 14th member.

And in what could be considered as a shot across the bow of the Big 12 Conference, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in the league statement:

“We look forward to having the Tigers compete in our league starting in 2012.”

The Big 12 Conference, which on Sept. 25 also lost Texas A&M to the SEC for next season, has frequently inferred Missouri might not be free to depart the Big 12 until 2013. Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said as much.

There was no reference nor any acknowledgement of that in the SEC statement Sunday morning. The SEC and Missouri jointly confirmed Mizzou plans to join the SEC effective July 1 and begin competition in all its sports for the 2012-13 academic year.

“The presidents and chancellors of the Southeastern Conference are pleased to welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC,” said Bernie Machen, president of the SEC presidents and chancellors board and president of the University of Florida. “The University of Missouri is a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.”

Machen is a graduate of Webster Groves High School in St. Louis and has long had a close relationship with Brady Deaton, the Missouri chancellor who was authorized by the MU Board of Curators to guide the school through negotiations with the SEC.

In early September, The Star reported Missouri has an informal offer from the SEC, but the process of negotiating the details had stretched on for more than two months.

Deaton, in a statement of his own, underlined the primary reason Missouri sought to depart the Big 12, which now has lost Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri to other conferences in the past 16 months.

“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri,” Deaton said. “In joining the SEC, MU partners with universities distinguished for their academic programs and their emphasis on student success. The SEC will provide our student-athletes with top flight competition and unparalleled visibility.

“We came to this decision after careful consideration of the long term best interests of our university. We believe the Southeastern Conference is an outstanding home for the Mizzou Tigers, and we take great pride in our association with this distinguished league.”

Slive said: “I am pleased to officially welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC family on behalf of our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, students and fans. Missouri is an outstanding academic institution with a strong athletic program.”

A public celebration and news conference with Machen, Slive, Deaton and MU athletic director Mike Alden will take place at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Mizzou Student Center in Columbia.

The move ends the Tigers' century-plus affiliation with the Big 12 and its predecessors. It also puts the future of the 119-year Border War rivalry with Kansas and the Big 12 basketball tournament at the Sprint Center in jeopardy.

KU has indicated it will not continue its games against MU in a nonconference setting and there is question as to whether the Big 12 would continue an event in a state in which it does not have a member. The men's tournament is contracted at the Sprint Center through 2014.

The news – announced around 9:30 a.m. central time – spread quickly, especially on American Airlines flight 1627 from Dallas to Kansas City.

Several Missouri fans were on board and got the news in midair or as soon as they hit the terminal at KCI.

“Now that I live in the Midwest I love getting more exposure to the SEC,” said Sam Mowad, 39, who works for Harrah’s in Kansas City and is a graduate of SEC power LSU. “I hope it doesn’t mess up the Border War (with Kansas) and what goes on at Arrowhead, and the benefits that Kansas City gets especially when it comes to basketball.”

On that same flight was Harry Hite of Belton, grandfather of Missouri linebacker Andrew Wilson. He too, was pleased by the news upon returning from Waco and Missouri’s 42-39 loss to Baylor.

“I think it’ll be new and exciting,” Hite said. “There maybe some down side. We will see. Kansas City is a little bit wondering about it.

“But I’m glad and I’m glad its over.”