Mac Engel: Missouri needs to say no to the SEC

Posted Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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According to a couple of TCU sources, one of the conferences that actually called the good people over on University Drive was actually the Southeastern Conference.

The SEC inquired about TCU. Seriously. Not kidding.

This phone call took place before TCU gave the Big East the "We're No. 1" sign and left for the Big 12. There wasn't much of a discussion, because the purple powers that be quickly decided "No, thanks."

As the Aggies will soon learn, the SEC is a "checkbook" league; large checks over the table, and big cash under it, too. TCU did not want to have to go to the necessary lengths just to be Vanderbilt.

There is such a thing as playing up, and then there is stupid and putting at risk the potential on-the-field success of the people who play and coach the actual games.

If the people in Missouri were smart, they would follow TCU's road map on this and stay put, thus stabilizing the Big 12 fault line. But here is the catch, the words "Missouri" and "smart" seldom are a good fit.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a Kansas grad, and in the fine print of my diploma I am sworn to make fun of all things about the University of Missouri Junior College. As a Texan of 15 years with another degree from TCU, it is also my responsibility to tell Truman the Tiger: Know your role, and remember who you are.

A school that has won next to nothing continues to hold the Big 12 hostage because it wants to be wanted. The Big Ten doesn't want them, and the SEC appears to want the Tigers only if it can't find someone better (Virginia Tech), if at all.

On Friday in Kansas City, the Missouri board of curators met and basically decided nothing. It decided Mizzou's fate rests with the chancellor, which is another way of saying it rests in the hands of the SEC. The Big 12 waits to see if a school that has never been to a BCS game, never reached a Final Four but has won a few conference softball titles will bring the league back to the Big 9, and trigger another need to expand.

Are you as sick of this as I am?

Selfishly, I want Missouri to stay in the Big 12 just as I did Texas A&M. MU is a good place, and keeps this conference geographically sane. It also halts, briefly, this maddening bed-hopping between conferences.

If the Tigers don't think they get enough love now from the Big 12 and conference commissioner DeLoss Dodds, wait until they fall to the back of the line in the SEC, where finishing eighth in anything, up to and including softball, will be a reason for a parade.

Revenue sharing has become a vitally important aspect to major college athletics, and thanks to ESPN, DeLoss Vision and Dan Beebe, the Big 12's revenue sharing makes Major League Baseball look charitable. UT's Longhorn Network is the YES Network, only it doesn't have to share, even though without the rest of the Big 12 it wouldn't have the type of programming necessary to sell a single advertisement.

That whole thing is gone; UT AD DeLoss Dodds played rough and no one else had any leverage to do anything about it. Only Mizzou thinks it has leverage because they are the Mighty Tigers from the North, one of the finest four-year institutions in all of central Missouri, complete with a Cotton Bowl championship.

Missouri's backdoor plea to the SEC is not about championships. It is about that yummy green-and-white SEC cake.

But at what price?

Thanks to the good people of the Missouri athletics media relations office, I learned Friday that since becoming a part of the Big 12 in 1996, MU has enjoyed championships in softball a few times, soccer twice; it won the North in football twice, and its mighty men's basketball team won the conference tournament once.

If MU couldn't win much in the Big 12, it is not going to win anything other than a Journalism Championship in the SEC.

Football coach Gary Pinkel has transformed the Tigers from an irrelevant punchline into a Top 25 program; if they were in the SEC right now, they would hover around 10th in the conference.

A men's basketball team that continues to confuse itself for something it has never been thinks it can "own" the SEC. Someone needs to tell MU that the SEC has its own "KU" that will happily keep the Tigers in their place.

The TCU realists understood what Texas A&M is going to learn the hard way -- the SEC is not the Big 12. It's a checkbook league where people get hurt.

Missouri hasn't figured that part out yet, leaving the rest of the Big 12 in limbo all because the Tigers want to be wanted.

Follow Mac Engel on Twitter @MacEngelProf and the Big Mac Blog.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

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