The University of Missouri has been rumored to be one of the top choices should the 11-team Big Ten Conference decide to expand sometime this year. As someone who grew up with the old Big Eight, which later morphed into the Big 12 when four Southwest Conference Schools were added in 1996, ending decades-old rivalries is a little difficult to swallow.
Sure, Mizzou could get an equal share of the television revenue from the Big 10, or about $12 million more a year. The Big 12 doesn’t dish out its TV money equally, instead giving the biggest chunk to Texas. And, of course, the Big 12 has done Mizzou no favors in recent years when it comes to football bowl slotting.
The league’s postseason selection process allows bowl game partners to select any eligible team, regardless of win-loss records or head-to-head results. For the past three years, Missouri has been passed over by more prestigious bowl games that selected teams it had either beaten or that ranked below the Tigers in conference standings. Most notably, the Orange Bowl selected Kansas as its BCS at-large choice over Missouri in 2007 even though the Tigers beat the Jayhawks on a neutral field in the final game of the regular season.
Still, it’s hard to get worked up over a Missouri-Minnesota or Missouri-Wisconsin game. Every school needs one of those “hate” games, and Mizzou has that with Kansas. And Nebraska.
Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com writes that Notre Dame is the best fit for the Big 10, but the Irish will likely decide to remain an independent. With that scenario, Rittenberg writes that Missouri is the next best fit for the following athletic reasons:
• Missouri has elevated its profile in both football and men’s basketball the last few years, competing for the Big 12 title in football two years ago and reaching the Elite Eight in hoops last year. There’s little doubt that Missouri could be a first-division team in both sports in the Big Ten if it joined the league today.
• The school has upgraded its facilities, which are some of the best in the Big 12. It would have little trouble recruiting at the same level as most Big Ten programs. Heck, Missouri already recruits against Illinois and other Big Ten schools.
• Missouri would give the Big Ten a greater presence in the St. Louis market. Sure, it’s not New York, but New York will always be a pro town, while St. Louis could become a true Big Ten city with fans of both Missouri and Illinois, two teams that happen to play there every year in football and basketball.
• Though Missouri was an original Big 8 member with strong ties to the league, it seemingly would have an easier time leaving than, say, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas.
• As for rivalries, Missouri-Kansas could become what Missouri-Illinois is now, at least in football. The two teams could play every year in football, perhaps at a neutral site like Kansas City. The Mizzou-Illinois rivalry is already strong, and an Iowa-Mizzou rivalry would be very exciting to see. There would be some disappointment about losing the Kansas rivalry in basketball, but there’s no reason why those teams couldn’t still play once a year.
• The Big 12 likely would have an easier time replacing Missouri than the Big East would with Rutgers, Pitt, etc. While Arkansas has always been discussed as an addition to the Big 12, the rise of the Mountain West opens up possibilities for teams like TCU and Utah.