Monday, September 5, 2011

Conference Hokey-Pokey™: Big Ten?

We've looked at the hopes for a revitalized Big 12 in baseball. We've salivated over the SEC as a viable alternative. We've shrugged at the Pac-16 and dismissed the ACC and Big East out of hand.

Which brings us back to a familiar topic. What if Missouri finally does wind up in the Big Ten.

It certainly could happen. There's no doubt the Big Ten would be a great fit for Missouri in football, basketball and academically.

But I've made no bones about what a fall from heights it would be for Mizzou Baseball to land in the Big Ten. You can re-read my earlier diatribes on the topic if you'd like:

According to those Conference RPI rankings we've been quoting from, the Big Ten has come in at 16th (twice), 14th (3 X), 13th (twice), 12th, 11th and 10th (in '05 and '00) since the turn of the century.

Not only the SEC, Big 12, ACC and Pac-10 have consistently been high above the Big Ten in those rankings, but Conference-USA, Missouri Valley, Big East, Southland, Atlantic Sun, Big West, Mountain West, WAC, Big South and Southern Conferences have bested the Big Ten on more or less a consistent basis.

If you think being in the Big Ten would be cool (and not just because of the temperatures), take a look at Nebraska's recently released 2012 schedule. They've managed to convince the 2011 CWS participant Cal Bears to come to Lincoln in early March (the Bears, who were on the chopping block as a program well into the season, probably were a bit behind in setting up a schedule). And they've managed to convince regional Big 12 rival Kansas State to play three games, and that's good, because KSU may be one of the highest ranked teams they play in 2012 after Cal.

You know me. If MU is playing in the Big Ten for the next many decades, I'll still be there in Section E, Row 4, Seat 1 for as many games as possible.

But it won't be the same. The top-shelf recruits don't want to play in a conference that over-excels if it gets to be ranked 10th in RPI. Even the new recalculated RPI formula won't help the Big Ten become a destination conference for players who see college as a stepping stone to the major leagues. The Big Ten's restrictive rules on over-signing might make some marginal players and their parents happy, but it doesn't do the coaches and recruiters any favors.

If Mizzou makes the move to the Big Ten, I'll reluctantly agree it's a good move for the school. Overall, it would be better for the non-revenue sports than hooking up with the Big East or Pac 12 (travel costs to any of the "coast" conferences would be devastating for the Olympic sports).

And then I'll drop my head into my hands and mourn the passing of the long and storied history of Missouri Tigers Baseball in the Big 6, Big 7, Big 8 and Big 12.

The Big 12 receives its last rites (Columbia Tribune)
If that happens, the best-case scenario for Missouri would be if Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany decides the era of 16-team super conferences is here and he doesn’t want to wait until only the dregs of the expansion pool remain. If MU could emerge from this mess as a member of the Big Ten — the conference it wanted to join all along — it would be overjoyed. The Big Ten is a stable Midwestern league with great academics and an athletic competition level that suits Missouri fine. The main drawback of the Big Ten is the potential hit MU would take recruiting the state of Texas.
What's next for Mizzou and Big 12? (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
Whether Mizzou actually had something to go on or was just batting its eyes for a possible offer from the Big Ten last spring and summer may never be known. But two aspects of the dance still resonate:

MU believed it was a fit in the Big Ten, academically, athletically and culturally; the Big Ten didn't see it as an overwhelming case and took Nebraska.

And that was at a time the Big Ten had openly expressed it was studying expansion. Now it gives every indication it is content as is and not moved to react to SEC expansion.

Between that public stance and the way the Big Ten jilted MU last year, the Big Ten seems more a distant hope than a plausible landing place for Missouri in the near future. But does the Big Ten reconsider its stance as the musical chairs get going and view Mizzou differently?

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