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Missouri on the move?

Still no stability for the Big XII.

It wasn’t too long ago that Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of “working every day to hold the Big 12 together.” Now he’s been tasked with helping decide whether the Tigers are the latest program to leave a troubled conference fighting for its future.

University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board’s members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system’s St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school’s) interest.”

And Deaton, the conference’s public face through its recent turmoil, is resigning as chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors to avoid the obvious conflict of interest.

Just one day earlier, the conference announced that presidents and chancellors of the remaining nine members — including Deaton — had agreed to equal revenue sharing and to seek approval from each university to hand over the most lucrative television rights to the conference for six years.

Now it looks as if the Big 12 might be losing two members for the second straight year.

“The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a statement released soon after Missouri announced its intentions.

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Speculation has centered on a possible Missouri move to the Southeastern Conference, which recently agreed to accept Texas A&M from the Big 12 starting next year

Deaton declined to specifically answer a reporter’s question about interest in the SEC on either the school’s part or the other conference. He said there is no timetable for the decision, whether by a self-imposed deadline or a Big 12 loyalty demand.

“We’re going to be exploring options generally and will be making no comments about specific areas where we have begun to look at,” he said.

Conceivably, Missouri could remain in the Big 12, Deaton said, but the Tigers are officially on the market now. And the SEC could use a 14th member to balance a league that now has an odd number of teams.

“We certainly are not ruling out continuing in the Big 12,” he said. “But we want to be sure to do what is best for our university.”

That boat sure has a lot of leaks, doesn’t it? It’s unclear at this point if or when an invitation for Missouri to join the SEC might come; they are wrestling with how to preserve rivalries in the event of another western school joining. Who knows how long that might take? In the interim, the Big XII is now seeking to expand as well.

Leaders of the Big 12 Conference cleared the way Thursday to add TCU, a move that would bring in a rising program and potentially shore up a league that seemed ready to fall apart just a few weeks ago.

The Big 12’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to authorize negotiations with the Horned Frogs, who play in Fort Worth, Texas, and boast the defending Rose Bowl champion.

TCU was planning to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next year, though the Big East is reeling from the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC.

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. suggested a move to the Big 12 might be a better decision for his school, a former member of the old Southwest Conference that once included current Big 12 members Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. It also included Texas A&M, which is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next year.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” Boschini said. “It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for years. As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

More here and here. The Big XII, assuming it continues to exist as a viable entity, is surely a better option for TCU, which is to conference affiliation what Liz Taylor was to marriage. Never mind the Big East’s own issues with volatility, the Frogs’ travel budget will be much more manageable in the Big XII. One wonders if the Big XII will look for another school to invite in the event Mizzou bolts. And one wonders how embarrassing it would be in the event TCU says “thanks, but no thanks” to the Big XII. Has that ever happened to a BCS conference before now? Anyway, the ongoing drama of As The Conferences Turn seems unlikely to end any time soon.

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