One sports writer used the same title that I am using in this article because it was about Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American basketball player. I have a different purpose in mind. Currently, the SEC enjoys and prides itself being the most dominant conference in the land and they have a good argument for it. The SEC one seven straight national titles and nine of the national titles during the BCS era. This year alone, the SEC has had a representative in all three national title games including the BCS National Championship game which featured Florida State vs. Auburn, the NCAA men’s basketball championship with UConn vs. Kentucky. As a matter of fact, two of the schools in the Final Four were from the SEC, Kentucky and Florida. Last but not least, Vanderbilt beat Virginia to win the College World Series. The SEC will launch the SEC Network, which will make the SEC even richer and even more powerful as a conference, rivaling the revenue the Big Ten receives. The SEC members are so content that they do not bother even putting exit fees or bundling their revenue into a grant of rights. The attitude the SEC has is that if you do not want or like being in our conference, do not let the door hit your ass on the way. Could you say the SEC is invincible? Conventional logic may dictate this but their is one member who may jump the first chance they get: Missouri.
Currently, Missouri resides in the SEC. geographically, they do not fit the SEC metric of being in the South. Missouri is a Midwestern state and certainly, a different culture although some would say otherwise. For example, the people living in the cities pronounce Missouri as “Mi-zur-ee” while people in the sticks pronounce it as “Mi-zur-uh.” In just two years, Missouri has made great strides adjusting in the SEC including making it to the SEC Championship Game against Auburn. Missouri has a supportive fan base that is unwavering, especially for heroes like All-SEC defensive lineman Michael Sam, who came out about his homosexuality just this year. Nonetheless, they have no natural rivalries in the SEC. they are almost an outlier. Whenever Missouri was added, there was an argument in whether they would place them in the west or east division. If they ended up in the west, Auburn would have went to the east and Alabama did not like the fact that this would give Auburn an edge in recruiting states like Florida or Georgia and plus, Bama did not want to give up its rivalry with Tennessee. Mizzou ended up in the east. Their farthest opponent is Florida, which is over 1,000 miles away in Gainesville.
Curiously, you may ask how Missouri ended up in the SEC? First in 2010, As Colorado had left the Big 12, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State were looking to dissolve the Big 12 and join the PAC-12 but Texas A&M decided to negotiate with the SEC instead. The deal fell through as the powers in the PAC-12 decided against it. Meanwhile, Missouri saw this and were saying to themselves “Oh shit.” They decided on trying to court the Big Ten. The Big Ten did their due diligence and when the opportunity presented itself, they decided on Nebraska instead. The wholesale slaughter of the Big 12 was briefly averted but the grim reaper came knocking on their door again in 2011. After adding Utah and Colorado, a rebranded PAC-12 were presented once again with the eternal question: expand or not to expand? Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State were for the second time, about to slit the throat of the Big 12 by negotiating with the PAC-12. While this was going on, Missouri was left wondering if they were on the Titanic without reaching a life boat. That same year, Texas A&M, for a number of reason, was fed up being the little brother school of Texas and they accepted an invitation to the SEC. Thirteen is an awkward number but the SEC were going to schedule thirteen anyways. Seeing that their dreams of joining the Big Ten were dashed, they saw the SEC as their only hope. In November 2011, they accepted an invitation to the SEC to become the fourteenth member. Even though Larry Scott and the rest of the PAC-12 put the kibosh on further expansion talk, Missouri rightfully could not remain in a conference that was going through so much instability.
In total, Missouri has been a great member for the SEC and has enjoyed great success in conference but nonetheless, the Big Ten would be a better home for them. First of all, the Big Ten has been a traditionally Midwestern conference from its inception. The only way that Missouri would be able to join the Big Ten is if the Big 12 dissolves. How ironic that the Big 12 holds their destiny still, somewhat in their hands. If the Big 12 were to disband, Kansas would become available and the Big Ten would add them because their basketball program is a valuable commodity. It would be asinine to sit a fifteen. Missouri would seize the moment and petition the Big Ten for membership. With Delany’s appetite for a Northeast corridor sated with the additions of Rutgers and Maryland, Missouri has a strong chance of being accepted. If this were to happen, Missouri would be overjoyed. In the Big Ten, they already have rivalries with Illinois and Nebraska and with Kansas, they could reignite the Border War again. Missouri is an AAU institution with the majority of the Big Ten schools. Purdue could shift to the eastern division and year and year, Missouri would become a potential powerhouse the Big Ten.
What would be of the SEC if Missouri were to leave? If Missouri left and the Big 12 collapsed, West Virginia would be their most viable option. It would make sense because for one, they are a public school in the South with a small-college town atmosphere, like the majority of the schools in the SEC are. West Virginia also emphasizes football first. They would actually be in the eastern division and could make a natural intrastate rivalry with Kentucky. Would this be what the SEC wants? WVU would be the best option available but as a GM in the NFL might draft someone to be used a bargaining chip, so would the SEC dispose of WVU in the same way. Although they do have a rabid fan base, market-wise, it does nothing for you. The SEC would need to add a school from a state with an equally or greater population base as Missouri. From this point on, grand wizard of the SEC Mike Slive would negotiate with the ACC and Jon Swofford to see if they are interested in a trade. Hopefully, the Swoff bites.
If Swofford takes the bait, the SEC would most likely go after a school that is in Virginia or North Carolina. Virginia Tech, NC State and Wake Forest would be your most immediate candidates. First off, Virginia Tech has grown into a perennial football power and in the short time they have been in the ACC, they have been contenders for the ACC Championship. Virginia Tech have a football-first cultural and their school is in a small town in the South. Honestly, with the right resources, Virginia Tech could be competitive in the SEC but Virginia fought tooth and nail for them to be in the conference. VT would not want to be a conference punching bag, year in and year out as school like Georgia and Florida would consistently beat them each year. Wake Forest is interesting because it resides in Winston-Salem, a moderately sized Southern town. Wake Forest would boost the academic profile of the SEC. WF also had a continual rivalry with Vanderbilt. WF would give access to a state that the SEC desires: North Carolina. Wake Forest has hardly had good seasons in football and would just become a Mickey Mouse squad in the SEC. Lastly, NC State. North Carolina State fits the profile residing in a small or moderately sized Southern town of Raleigh. For the most part, NC State is a football-first school although basketball is equally important. Also, a lot of fans and alumni I have seen in chatrooms and blogs said that they would like to join the SEC in order to have a leg up to the rest of the schools in their state. Schools in the SEC would have access to the talent rich state of North Carolina and NC State could recruit players in the deep South. NC State would not be alone. Before South Carolina joined the SEC, NC State and South Carolina had a fierce rivalry that could be important once again when it comes to prestige and recruiting.
If the exchange did take place, the ACC would be a better place for WVU. Think of it; the majority of WVU’s rivals are in the ACC like Pittsburgh, Louisville, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech. Since they would be taking the place of NC State in the Atlantic division, they could already have in place Syracuse and Louisville. With enough guile in persuasion, the ACC could be accommodating enough to allow some of the cross-divisional rivalries to be changed up and we could see the Backyard Brawl with Pitt-WVU renewed. In closing, Mizzou left the Big 12 and joined the SEC not out of want, but of necessity. If given the chance, Mizzou would join the Big Ten in a heartbeat. I would not blame them one bit. The only conference that has the clout to pilfer any of the schools in the SEC would be the Big Ten. The Big 12 could collapses sooner than their grant of rights runs and out and you know what: that would not see such a bad things.