The MU Alumni Association’s Twitter account posted a link this morning to frequently asked questions about the University’s move to the SEC, and took very clear parting shots at the Big 12′s instability:
Q: What are the main reasons Mizzou is leaving the Big 12 Conference?
A: During the entire decision-making process, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, Athletic Director Mike Alden and the University of Missouri Board of Curators have focused on one goal: Determining the wisest course of action for the best long-term interests of Mizzou and its student-athletes. Initially, they focused all efforts on maintaining and strengthening the Big 12, in the face of the loss of Colorado, Nebraska and later Texas A&M. And at one point they also feared the loss of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to another conference.
MU is responsible for the continued viability of a 20-sport Division I athletic program, more than 500 student-athletes and the maintenance of a large athletic complex. We could no longer base future planning on the uncertain makeup and financial stability of the Big 12 Conference, however strong the historic and emotional ties. The UM Board of Curators fully recognized these responsibilities and authorized exploration of options and, later, the ability to make the move to a different conference.
MU has faced harsh criticism from traditionalists and Big 12 supporters who were unhappy with what it felt like was Missouri’s abandonment of the conference. It has responded accordingly, and is right to point out just how unstable the Big 12 was. Casual fans who didn’t follow the day-to-day conference realignment news may not have noticed, but the Big 12 was an absolute mess. Teams’ long-term statuses changed on an actual daily basis, and the entire story was fueled by rumors and purposely leaked information.
Chancellor Brady Deaton emphasized his primary focus was doing what was best for MU throughout the whole process, and the FAQ detailed why the conference move is financially beneficial for the university:
Q: What are the short-term and long-term financial ramifications of this move?
A: MU’s athletic program has an annual operating budget of $56 million. Almost the entire budget (96%) is self-generated, and $8 million is devoted to scholarships for student-athletes. MU expects a long-term financial advantage by switching to the SEC, gaining an estimated $2 million to $3 million annually in television revenues. A decade of declining state funding and the goal for MU’s athletic program to be entirely self-sufficient were part of the context for MU’s decision.
No state-appropriated funds will be used to pay for any exit fees related to MU’s departure from the Big 12 Conference. In addition, Mizzou will not use current or future tuition revenues to pay for such exit fees.
MU also continued to reiterate the lack of logic in Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger’s assertions that the “KU-Missouri belongs in the Big 12,” reinforcing that MU has done everything possible to still stick to tradition while moving forward to the SEC:
Q: How do you reconcile the potential loss of historic rivalries, some of which go back more than 100 years?
A: In the end it was a “head vs. heart” decision. No one wanted to leave behind Mizzou’s historic rivalries, but it was clear that it would be a move to a more stable athletic conference from one where three universities have departed in about 18 months.
Gov. Jay Nixon summarized it well when he said: “Mizzou has a long and proud tradition of athletic and academic achievement, and we now begin another chapter in that legacy. As we move forward in the SEC, it’s important that we also maintain the time-honored rivalries that have developed over generations during our long and proud involvement with the Missouri Valley, the Big 6, the Big 7, the Big 8 and the Big 12. The Tigers will continue to uphold Mizzou’s outstanding traditions both on the field and in the classroom.”
Many of the country’s longest-running athletic rivalries continue today, though many of the teams are no longer affiliated with their original athletic conferences, including Iowa vs. Iowa State., Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and South Carolina vs. Clemson.
Honestly, there’s no reason the rivalry with Kansas could not continue. MU has taken too much criticism for supposedly abandoning tradition, but it has done all it can to ensure the most historic rivalry in sports will continue. Kansas’ refusal to continue the Border War rivalry, not MU’s move to a new conference, is to blame for the rivalry’s end. Any claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.
As a whole, most of the criticism of the university’s move to the SEC, especially the misguided belief the Tigers won’t be able to compete in the conference’s weak East division, is based on sloppy reporting and failure of media personalities to discuss the complexities of MU’s conference move. As the media, largely responsible for steering the fan base’s conversation, oversimplifies the issues behind MU’s departure, fans who want to know what’s happening are served with simplistic soundbites that do nothing to enhance their knowledge. The resulting consequence is the dumbed-down discussion Tiger fans have seen at online boards and real-life water coolers around the state.
As the misguided information continues to survive, expect MU to continue pushing material to educate fans about the nuances of conference realignment, something most media outlets – from local outlets all the way up to ESPN – failed miserably to do.