MO State HS Sports

Stop with this “Mizzou should go back to the Big 12” talk

Are we seriously doing this?

Conference realignment is once again dominating the college sports landscape, as several programs are set to jump to different conferences over the next couple of years. Probably the biggest loser so far in this latest round is the Pac-12, who are already set to lose USC and UCLA to the Big 10 next year, and just recently lost another school, as Colorado is reportedly planning a move to the Big 12 in the fall of 2024.

This is a move that makes sense for Colorado. The Pac-12 is in dire straits with their lack of a new TV rights deal, with expiration coming next July. It’s led to its schools feeling the heat to look for other landing spots. With the Big 12’s recent inking of its own TV rights extension with ESPN and FOX, Colorado can feel security to continue raking in television dollars from the conference pool, while still competing with quality competition.

And just because it makes sense for Colorado, does not mean it makes sense for everyone else.

Including Missouri.

Not everyone seems to agree, however, so I’ll try to present some common arguments in favor of Mizzou hopping back to its old conference stomping grounds, and then tell you why they don’t hold water.

1. “We can renew those old rivalries we lost in the Big 12!”

With who? Baylor? Texas Tech? Who cares?! It may seem that today’s Big 12 still features all the opponents with which Mizzou held longtime rivalries. And while kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State may fit that bill, the vast majority of the conference doesn’t. It’s been a lot more intriguing to watch Mizzou face the likes of Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, etc. than I imagine it would be facing Cincinnati, TCU and UCF. And for those who are complaining about long trips to Gainesville, FL every so often, I hope you’ll enjoy even longer trips to Orlando, FL and Provo, UT.

The reality is Mizzou has already found ways to keep those rivalries going despite leaving the Big 12. Mizzou’s back to playing the Jayhawks in basketball and is set to do so again in football in the coming years. They’ve already rekindled the matchup with Kansas State in football. Oklahoma State could always be willing to follow suit, if folks are really missing that. Even if some of the potential matchups in the Big 12 seem “fun” at first, they wouldn’t be more beneficial to Mizzou’s program than the matchups they currently have. It’s a shiny object that Mizzou doesn’t need to chase.

2. “It would be easier to win games in the Big 12!”

Again, you sure about that? Mizzou’s conference football record since joining the SEC in 2012 is a combined 41-49, a .456 winning percentage. That’s not far from their combined record in 16 Big 12 seasons, which was 61-66, a .480 winning percentage. The Tigers had a chance at a conference championship and a national championship in 2007 *and* 2013, as a member of both conferences. Yes, the last eight seasons in football have been rough since the SEC honeymoon period of 2013-14. But comparing those seasons to the Big 12 years, when the majority of them were coached by the program’s winningest coach in history, seems a little unfair. And Gary Pinkel had very similar records during his early years at Mizzou as the Tigers have had recently.

Ultimately, it’s going to become easier for Mizzou to compete with the best of the best if they stay right where they are. And that’s a good thing. They probably won’t win an SEC football title in any of our lifetimes, especially with Oklahoma and Texas coming and the divisions going away. But the larger goal should be the national championship, and with the expanded College Football Playoff soon coming, Mizzou can have more access to a national title without winning the SEC. If Mizzou is a two-loss, or even a three-loss team in the SEC, they’re getting a lot more consideration for that bracket if they have a similar record in the Big 12. Playing the best of the best can be a blessing and a curse. You may not win consistently, but when you do, you reap the rewards.

It certainly won’t be easier for men’s basketball to win more games. As hard as it is to admit, the Jayhawks have continued to dominate the conference in the regular season, Kansas State and Baylor are still ultra-competitive and the conference is welcoming in another powerhouse program in Houston. The possibilities for a conference championship still exist in the SEC, considering the Tigers got as close as they’ve ever been to the feat in Dennis Gates’ first year. And as far as other sports like baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, etc., sure, it might be easier for some of those programs to win in the Big 12. But fair or not, these conference moves are made to accommodate one sport: football.

So for now, keep enjoying Mizzou wrestling competing (and dominating) in the Big 12 instead of everyone else. It’s enough for me.

3. “Mizzou just doesn’t fit in the SEC!”

You must be an Arkansas fan…

Frankly, it doesn’t really matter where Mizzou “fits.” West Virginia “fits” more in the ACC. USC and UCLA “fit” more in the Pac-12. BYU “fits” more in the Mountain West. Each of those schools hopped conferences because they saw ways that they could expand their reach and brand, compared to their existing situation. It’s maybe not how you remember college sports, but it’s the reality.

Mizzou made the same move when it needed to. It was clear that the Big 12’s situation was not helpful to Mizzou’s future growth. They needed to jump to the SEC to keep out of the “hunted” category in conference realignment. And for the last decade, they’ve been able to call themselves part of the conference that is driving every future change in the landscape of college athletics for the foreseeable future. While the Big 12 has done admirably to avoid being decimated by the recent round of exits, it does not mean that they present a better situation going forward for Mizzou. The TV dollars, recruiting benefits and branding possibilities are still heavier on the SEC side.

So no, Mizzou should not give up what they’ve got and jump back to the Big 12.

At least not right now.

Because again, things change quickly in this new era of college sports. Ten years ago, we thought Texas and Oklahoma were sure-fire candidates to join the Pac-12, and they were looked upon as a budding super-conference. What’s true today won’t necessarily be true in 2033, 2043 and beyond.

Today’s reality, however, features the SEC as the premier group of all collegiate athletics. Mizzou should be happy and proud to be a part of it.