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After a closed session meeting that lasted four hours, the University of Missouri took just ten minutes and 55 seconds to make an announcement that could shake the future of the school and college athletics across the country.
"Tonight I'm going to report to you on a unanimous action that was taken this evening by the University of Missouri Board of Curators," said board chairman Warren Erdman. "The Board of Curators delegates to Chancellor (Brady) Deaton the authority to take any and all actions necessary to fully explore options for conference affiliation and contracts related thereto which best serve the interests of the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Missouri system."
In addition, Deaton announced that he had informed presidents at the other Big 12 Conference schools that he was resigning his position as chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors in order to avoid a conflict of interest as Mizzou examines its options.
"We want to be sure we are doing what is best for our University," Deaton said. "I felt stepping aside as chair of the Big 12 was a step I needed to take right now with this authority granted by the board so that I could single-mindedly focus on what's really in the best interest of Tiger nation."
Speculation and reports have surfaced nationwide in the last few weeks that Missouri had cast its eyes toward the Southeastern Conference. The SEC officially added Texas A&M as a 13th member. Though the conference has said that it is not looking to expand beyond thirteen members, most believe that the league would like to get to 14. Due to Missouri's relative proximity to the current SEC schools and a state with approximately two million television sets, the Tigers have become one of a few schools in the crosshairs of speculation. Missouri administrators would not address the possibility of a move to the SEC on Tuesday night.
"We're going to be exploring options generally and we'll be making no comments specifically about areas where we have begun to look at data or examine the situation," Deaton said.
The Big 12 currently stands at nine schools. Three have left over the past 17 months and four others in addition to Missouri have taken a long look at other leagues. Just yesterday the Big 12 announced that it had come to an agreement in principle to distribute revenue from first and second tier television contracts equally to member schools for at least the next six years.
"The Big 12 Conference is now requesting its members to make binding, long-term, irrevocable commitments to the conference. We don't fault the Big 12 Conference for asking for that. It is something it should be doing in order to promote stability," said interim system president Steve Owens. "But because we are currently faced with making a long-term commitment to the Big 12, now is the time to explore our options to fully understand where we are before locking into a long-term commitment with the Big 12."
Following the announcement, Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star tweeted the following statement from interim commissioner Chuck Neinas: "Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12, and I anticipate (MU) will continue to be a member of the Big 12."
Deaton reiterated that Missouri has not ruled out remaining a member of the Big 12 and said the conference has given Missouri no deadline for a final answer. He said he would work with Athletic Director Mike Alden and other Missouri administrators to "expeditiously examine what may be the best conference affiliation for our University."
Deaton would not speculate on the timeline that would require.
"Almost impossible to give a time frame for that," Deaton said. "I'll be meeting tomorrow 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."
Missouri is not yet out the door. However, Tuesday night marked a potentially very large step in that direction.
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