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October 6, 2011

TCU invited, what's next for Mizzou?





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Another day, another round of rumors on what might happen with the Big 12 Conference.

At this point, two things are known: The league has voted to extend an invitation to Texas Christian and with or without Missouri, the Big 12 will continue on as a conference.

"We're proud that TCU has been invited to join the Big 12," Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said in a statement. "Their commitment to academics and success on the field make them an excellent fit. With a solid budget and strong financial support, they have been proactive at improving facilities. Their close proximity to all conference institutions makes for a comfortable travel situation."

It is expected that TCU will accept the invitation, though that has not yet happened.

The question for Tiger fans is, what does it mean for Missouri?

Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that the Big 12 confirmed Brady Deaton had not participated in the league vote to extend an invitation to TCU. It was earlier reported that Deaton had recused himself from a portion of the Sunday call between Big 12 presidents and it seems this was that portion. On Tuesday night, the Missouri Board of Curators authorized Deaton to explore any and all options for Mizzou regarding conference affiliation.

Assuming the Horned Frogs write the $5 million dollar check to exit the Big East, which they were set to join next summer, that puts the Big 12 at nine confirmed members with Mizzou's future in limbo. Should the Tigers choose to return to the Big 12, many believe that the league would like to stand pat at ten teams. However, that could present a problem. PowerMizzou.com has previously reported that one of Missouri's desires if it is to stay in the league is a return to 12 teams and a divisional format for the football season.

It has been widely reported and speculated that Missouri has an option to join the Southeastern Conference. Mizzou officials have refused any comment as it relates to particular conferences. The SEC athletic directors met on Wednesday, but reports stated that the meeting was only to address the formation of a 13-team schedule with the addition of Texas A&M. The Birmingham News reported on Thursday morning that Missouri may not currently have the required nine votes from SEC presidents for an application to be accepted. However, multiple sources have indicated to PowerMizzou.com that if the Tigers applied and commissioner Mike Slive wanted them added, he would have little trouble gaining the necessary support.

If the Tigers do decide to leave the Big 12, the league will have to add at least one more team. Over the last couple of weeks, indications to PowerMizzou.com from various places have been that Louisville would be next on the Big 12's list. BYU has been widely speculated as a potential addition, but Chris Level of RedRaiderSports.com reported earlier today that the league has backed away from the Cougars over the last few days.

Should Louisville be added with Missouri gone, that would put the Big 12 back at ten teams. It is possible expansion would stop there. Sources have indicated the next teams on the list would be West Virginia and Cincinnati (order of preference unknown), should the Big 12 want a return to an even dozen teams and the chance to again have a conference championship game in football.

Missouri's future is unknown at this point. On Wednesday night, Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com reported that Texas had capitulated to drop all high school programming (including highlights) from the Longhorn Network for at least six years. In addition, every team except Missouri has agreed to grant first- and second-tier football television rights (along with basketball TV rights) to the conference for at least six years. However, sources have told PowerMizzou.com that the Tigers desire a longer-term commitment from the league's teams. That commitment has been said to be anywhere from ten to 13 years, at a minimum.

Rumors have also surfaced over the last couple of days that Missouri would prefer an invitation to the Big Ten over that of the Southeastern Conference, thanks largely in part to an Associated Press article quoting an unnamed Missouri source. However, PowerMizzou.com has been told by multiple sources that Big Ten interest from both sides is not an issue at this point. The choice for the Tigers appears either to be the Southeastern Conference or remaining in the Big 12.

Asked on Tuesday night to provide a timetable for Mizzou's decision, Deaton said "Almost impossible to give a time frame for that. I'll be meeting (Wednesday) with my team and examining all probabilities, all options that we want to look toward. That will require analysis and communications and that will take some time."

For a frame of reference, Texas A&M took 16 days from the time it announced its intent to look around until it withdrew from the Big 12 and applied to the SEC. Missouri's time frame could be similar, however, with all the uncertainty surrounding the Big 12, it could also be accelerated.

Should the Big 12 extend any other invitations beyond the one to TCU, it would appear as an indication that the league expects Missouri to leave. In the absence of those invitations, the next step of substance will be one of two things:

Either the Tigers announce they have agreed to the terms stipulated by other Big 12 institutions and they plan to remain in the conference or they will submit their official withdrawal from the Big 12.

Until then, stay tuned…

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