published Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Missouri to SEC is done deal

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After weeks of waiting, Missouri’s move to the Southeastern Conference became official on Sunday.

The SEC released a statement saying the conference’s presidents and chancellors acted unanimously, and Missouri will join the league effective July 1, 2012.

“The Presidents and Chancellors of the Southeastern Conference are pleased to welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC,” Florida President Bernie Machen said in a statement. “The University of Missouri is a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.”

Missouri will be leaving the Big 12, a conference it has been a part of since 1907, including its days as the Big Eight.

“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri,” Missouri Chancellor Brady J. 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.”

The addition of Missouri will increase SEC membership to 14 schools, including Texas A&M, which announced last month that it was also leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.

Asked what division Missouri would be in, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long posted on his Twitter account that Missouri will be in the “East initially.”

Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas declined comment.

Sunday’s announcement comes as no surprise. Last month the Missouri board of curators gave Deaton the permission to change leagues and from that point on it seemed only a matter of time before the Tigers said goodbye to the Big 12.

Apparently, legal issues and other details took time to work out. The Big 12 needed to have a replacement for Missouri lined up, because the conference needs 10 schools to fulfill its TV contracts.

The Big 12 took care of that and bid farewell to Missouri 10 days ago, when it invited West Virginia from the Big East to join the conference. The league did not even list Missouri among the schools it anticipated would be competing in the Big 12 next year.

But despite what the SEC and Big 12 plan, the Big East still will have a say in when Missouri and West Virginia will be allowed to start competing in their new conference homes.

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto has been adamant about enforcing the league’s 27-month notification period and holding West Virginia in the conference for the next two years.

West Virginia filed a lawsuit challenging that rule and the Big East countered with a lawsuit asking the courts to make the school abide by its contract.

The Big East is in rebuilding mode now and is expected to start adding new members in the next few days. The league last week approved inviting Boise State, Navy and Air Force for football only and SMU, Houston and Central Florida for all sports.

Its goal is to form a 12-team football league, but even if all the schools its targeting accept invitations, there are various hurdles that would have to be cleared — including waiting periods and exit fees — to have them in the Big East by 2012.

It’s possible Missouri could be stuck in the Big 12 until West Virginia can depart from the Big East.

The SEC had said it was working on schedules for a 13-team conference when Texas A&M joined.

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