Monday, September 5, 2011

Conference Hokey-Pokey™: SEC?

According to the BoydsWorldcom conference RPIs for the past 15 years, the SEC has led all conferences in RPI more than any any other conference. Some statisticians dispute that dominance, saying the RPI formula has been skewed to favor the SEC (or perhaps, the SEC has skewed their non-conference scheduled to take advantage of the formula).

Either way, the SEC has consistently been one of the best 1 or 2 conferences in D-1 baseball for the past decade and more.

Assuming Texas A&M's attempt to jump to the SEC becomes a reality, the general consensus seems to be that the SEC will not be interested in moving from 12 to 13 teams without immediately going for a 14th, and possibly moving ahead to the Super-Conference level of 16 teams. And the same general wisdom says they'll be wanting to add another team on the western edge of the SEC and then a pair of teams on the eastern or northeastern edge.

Missouri has been the western team named most often in that scenario. That could make MU a member of the SEC-West, which would include Missouri, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Louisiana State, Mississippi State, and Mississippi.

There are several natural rivalries and established head-to-head histories in that list for Mizzou:
  • MU vs. Texas A&M, as former Big 12 members, they've built a history of close competition

  • MU vs. Arkansas would be a natural border-state rivalry. The two have a 2-game mid-week series scheduled for May 2012.

  • MU vs. Auburn. The Tigers and Tigers played in 2011 and are scheduled for a 3-game series to open the 2012 season.

  • MU vs. Mississippi State. Former Mizzou Assistant Coach John Cohen is now the Head Coach at Mississippi State.

  • MU vs. Mississippi. Old Mizzou and Ole Miss have met in NCAA Regionals more than once in the past decade.
The SEC would be a challenging conference to compete in. Tim Jamieson and company would have to be at the top of their game to compete with these teams. But that's been true for years in the Big 12, matching up weekend after weekend against a Big 12 slate that has been getting better and better top-to-bottom.

The cachet of being an SEC member would be attractive to top-level recruits who want to play in the high-visibility SEC, but don't want to spend 3 years in the Deep South. I know of at least one top recruit from the past decade who turned down offers from the SEC and instead chose Mizzou and the Big 12 because of that very reason.

If the Big 12 crumbles, the SEC would be the best option for Mizzou Baseball. It would be one of the two most logical geographic choices for MU athletics overall - the other being the Big Ten (which we'll talk about in another post).

♦ "If the Big Ten is content to stay at 12 schools, the SEC would be the next best option based on geography and television revenue, but it is a downgrade academically and too much of an upgrade competitively." (Columbia Daily Tribune)

What's next for Mizzou and Big 12? (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
Missouri touches three SEC states and would add nice markets in St. Louis and Kansas City for TV purposes.
But despite stray conjectures by some that the SEC wants Mizzou or vice versa, there is little to support the connection. A person familiar with conference expansion talks said MU has hardly been mentioned by the SEC.
. . .
Moreover, as much as the SEC has endeavored to clean itself up, the Cam Newton saga at Auburn last year is a reminder of a renegade mind-set that still seems to persist around the conference. Either you change the conference, or you get changed to fit in. Which seems more feasible?

And while academics may ultimately be overrun by athletics in the scramble for a conference home, Mizzou has trumpeted its American Association of University membership in the context of the Big Ten — each member of which a year ago was in the AAU. (Nebraska since has been banished). The Big 12 has five AAU schools, the SEC two.

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