Big Ten Expansion - the case for Missouri

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The topic of Big Ten Expansion has been covered by every major and minor newspaper, TV outlet and blog since Jim Delaney made the announcement in late 2009. We here at TDG haven't really weighed in on the issued. Clearly as bloggers of a current Big Ten institution we will be significantly impacted by the conference additions. But since virtually everyone with a keyboard has thrown out their speculation as to who, how and when I haven't seen the point in adding to the monkey pile of opinions. Essentially everything written is pure speculation. Who is going to be added? How will the conference align? What makes the most sense for the Big Ten?

So rather than throw out my own opinions I've decided to bring everyone together from the schools suggested as likely candidates for Big Ten expansion. Rather than figuring out what is best for the Big Ten, I wanted to know what the Big Ten does for these schools? As bloggers, they are representing their fan base and I want to know if they even want anything to do with the Big Ten.

I asked the following bloggers a series of questions regarding Big Ten expansion. I think most of us in Big Ten country have our wish list of school we want to add for whatever reason. Notre Dame brings a national power, Nebraska brings tradition, Texas bring Texas, Rutgers brings NYC, etc. But do these schools even want to join the Big Ten? We know what is in it for us, but also what is in it for them? And most importantly does their fan base really want to switch conferences and come to the plodding and perennially-labled overrated conference?

Moving on from the Big East, let's move into flyover country. The Big 12 also has a few candidates being mentioned for Big Ten expansion. Missouri and Nebraska were quickly mentioned and then curiously Texas started to creep into the conversation. But I'm going to hold off on Texas for another day or two. Today's candidate school is going to be Missouri. The Tigers, much like Pitt, seem to be a solid choice and a school that would fit nicely in the Big Ten. So I reached out to my SBN cousin (maybe soon my brother), Rock M Nation to get his thoughts on the legitimacy of Mizzou and how the fan base feels about this proposed arranged union.

So to I asked the boys at Rock M the same thing I asked all of the Big East bloggers...What can we do for you? What does the Big Ten have that the Big 12 does not? The obvious answer is below...

What can the Big Ten do for Missouri? For starters, how about a 224 percent raise in conference money allocated? According to the most recent available tax records (from 2007 - arguably the best season in school history), Missouri received $8.38 million in disbursement from the Big 12, good for sixth in the conference. Average Big Ten allocation that year was around $18.8 million. Pardon the Jay-Z reference, but the Big Ten is checkin' cheddar like a food inspector.

Who knew that Jay-Z had such a strong influence down in Missourah. But they continue beyond the straight cash homey and delve into academics.

The other positive is what the move would mean for Mizzou academics. Everyone expects/hopes MU would receive the same 10-15 spot bump in the US News Rankings that Penn State received upon joining the conference. Administrators and faculty members are absolutely giddy about the possibility of inclusion to the CIC, and I certainly can't blame them. Even the Missouri governor was temporarily mired in a shitstorm of his own making by saying the following: "I'm not going to say anything bad about the Big 12, but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern, when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you begin looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at. "Needless to say, there's support at all levels, academically speaking.

All excellent points and how nice to hear that we (the Big Ten) mean more to someone for more than our wildly financially successful BTN (that was for you PJS!). With that said, what are they going to do for us? Rutgers is promising millions of BTN subscribers, what can you do for us? Let's start with athletics...

I've been joking around that in the eyes of Big Ten football fans, Missouri is a perfect fit: A team that everyone seems to think is respectable (and therefore helps the conference image) but won't seem to threaten the establishment or challenge the status quo. Missouri football has certainly been trending up during the last few years, as it currently sits in the midst of the most successful stretch in school history, averaging 10 wins per year in the last three seasons. In basketball, that upward trend is even more evident. After being in complete and utter purgatory after the Quin Snyder debacle, Mike Anderson has brought a sexy brand of basketball to Columbia that has absolutely reenergized Mizzou fans. The 2009 Elite Eight run was magical, the 2010 second round run was fantastic for a rebuilding year, and now Mizzou brings in the sixth-best recruiting class in the country to take aim at bigger prizes for at least the next two seasons. The catch here is that, while both sports have been trending up, there's always the fall back to earth or "Mizzou Karma Junk PunchTM" lurking around the corner. I'll knock on wood that it won't happen, but consistency isn't this athletic department's historical strongpoint.

Missouri's non-revenue sports don't have much of a history of success, but they are in the midst of one their strongest runs, as they continue to climb in the Director's Cup standings. Mizzou baseball is traditionally a strongpoint, as this year [a rebuilding year] will probably be the first time in seven years they won't qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Missouri softball is a Top 10 program at the moment and defeated traditional powerhouse UCLA in the Super Regionals last year to advance to the WCWS. Missouri women's soccer has been a Top 25 program during the last three seasons and there's some interest from a small group of fans in adding men's soccer (which isn't supported by the Big 12). Missouri wrestling has produced three national champions in the past few years. Missouri volleyball has followed up a stretch of eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances with two straight seasons ending without an invite but appears geared up for a shot at an invite next season. Hopefully you're getting the point I'm trying to make here: You wouldn't be importing any long established powerhouses, but you'd likely be importing teams that could come in, compete, and not be a complete afterthought.

All in all Missouri brings some talented revenue sports to the conference. Both basketball and football are up-tempo, exciting and all-around non-Big Ten-ish. I think I'm turning on Missouri, they'll make us all look bad. But there is always more. What about money and BTN eyeballs?

Would you like to wrap up ALL of the television sets in the No. 21 media market? How about a little over a third of the sets in the No. 32 market? If the Big Ten is as concerned with eyeballs and subscriber fees as they make it sound, Missouri appears to be a worthwhile candidate. It's clearly not the urban legend that the New York market is, but it's a very solid addition to the Big Ten's subscriber base without being geographically illogical.

That sounds OK, but Charter does already have the BTN as part of their basic digital package. That may not be the most basic package but it is clearly shy of a premium sports package. No doubt adding Missouri would bring eyeballs to the BTN, I'm just not sure how many.

On a side note, this is a REALLY good article on the BTN's success from St. Louis today.

Let's keep moving on. What about rivalries? Missouri was, of course, one of the original members of the Big Eight. What will be lost in a move to the Big Ten?

The most immediate negative to joining would be the nearly complete forsaking of tradition and history. Missouri has had relationships with Kansas and Nebraska for over a century now (dating back to the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association), and relationships with those schools plus KSU, ISU, CU, OU, and OSU have been a staple through transitions between the Big 6/7/8/12. I could care less about relationships with the Southwest Conference castoffs, but losing Big Eight ties means officially closing the door on Missouri's athletic history. The inclusion of Nebraska in Big Ten talks is a boon to continuing that particular rivalry, but losing home-and-home basketball games in basketball AND conference ramifications in football with Kansas would REALLY hurt.

I'm thrilled at the possibility of keeping the Missouri-Nebraska football rivalry alive. If MU and NU don't stay
together in the new conference landscape, the rivalry would surely die. Nebraska has dominated the series, but Missouri's recent rebirth has truly reignited a rivalry that had laid dormant since the 1970s when Missouri went to sleep for three decades while the Huskers ascended to dominance.

The Illinois rivalry would get a boost, although I think that means more to St. Louisans far more than it does to anyone else. It's a tremendous basketball rivalry, but I'm not sure how it translates into other sports. Others have tried to point to a "natural rivalry" with Iowa, but I can't bring myself to believe that would automatically come to fruition.

The good news for Missouri fans is that we'll probably bring Nebraska over before Missouri anyway so at least that tie will remain. And you can now replace your yearly "rivalry" Illinois games with Kansas in both basketball and football. That would of course aid the Big Ten's overall strength of schedule :).

The Rock M Boys also brought up recruiting as a negative which I thought was rather interesting...

The other negative that seems predominant right now is the loss of Texas as a recruiting hotbed for football. Much of Missouri's recent football success has been predicated upon pulling talent out of Texas. The current recruiting philosophy by Pinkel and staff has been "Lock down Missouri and pull what you can out of Texas." There's a raging debate in Missouri circles about whether or not Missouri will be able to maintain its recruiting success in Texas, and although I'm not here to say decisively whether they can or can't, the fact that there's even a doubt about this is a negative for Mizzou.

Personally I think they'll keep that Texas pipeline. Much of recruiting is about relationships, which have been established already. But as a Big Ten school, with more money than before, you are now the southernmost Big Ten school as opposed to a more "northern" Big 12 school. Going head-to-head with UT is likely going to be a loss, but I'm assuming that it is going to be a loss anyway. Now you'll be fighting for the rest of Texas with the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc. Missouri would have some recruiting advantages over just about any Big Ten school when it comes to southern kids. Maybe if they were a Big Ten school they would have landed Lawrence Maroney (not sure if they even wanted him but it is all I could come up with to take a weak jab at Mizzou fans).

Let's start wrapping this up. Great information, as I expected from Rock M Nation, but my final question needs to be answered.

If the Big Ten calls, does Missouri pick up the phone? And do you even want it to happen?

Yes. If the Big Ten was the girl at the bar who gave Missouri its phone number, Missouri wouldn't even wait the customary three days to call her. As soon as the offer arrives in Columbia, Mizzou is going to scramble to find a pen for the dotted line.

Change is coming. Mizzou can't afford to get left behind. The financial windfall is too robust and the academic resources are too great to be ignored. Personally, as a native Texan, I'll miss having a game in my home state practically every year and I'll miss those getting a chance to rib my friends at Big 12 South schools. But there's no doubt that this is absolutely the right move for Missouri, athletically and academically.

I think Missouri is as strong a candidate as anybody else. If the Big Ten expansion is small-scale, then Missouri is probably out of the picture. But assuming we go to 14 or more, then they are right in the mix. Reports have surfaced enough that is seems pretty clear they are willing and excited to make the move. So if we go back to the "girl in the bar scenario" maybe Missouri is that slutty, easy girl. I have no problem with that!

great new idea, let's add a poll...

(photo via www.chriscreamer.com)

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