In 2011-12, the Big Ten has 12 teams, and the Big 12 has 10 teams. It’s stupid, but at least it’s symmetrical. But Texas A&M’s intention (now apparently realized) to join the SEC as unlucky 13 not only broke that, it leaves everybody unbalanced. Until the SEC lands a 14th team — and the SEC has to find a 14th, because 13-team scheduling is a nightmare — this isn’t over.
The Missouri-Kansas game is the second-most-played Division I-A rivalry in the country and the longest with both teams west of the Mississippi. There are football rivalries, but this is deeper. This goes back to the Civil War and Bleeding Kansas. There is actual hatred involved on a level equaled only by Michigan-Ohio State, which itself is descended from conflict. The “Columbia Tigers” and the Jayhawk name are both descended from Civil War history. Competitive or not, throwing away history like that deserves a second and third take.
The only way this situation could carry more Civil War overtones is if the debate were between the Big Ten and SEC, which it almost was, since Missouri has wanted to go there for many years. (See this Houston Chronicle article from 1993.)
At the risk of turning this into a mini-”How the States Got Their Shapes” episode, Missouri really is the center of it all. It is North and South. It was a slave state that stayed in the Union. The population center of the country has been there since 1980 and almost was in 1970. In 2010, it was in the south-central part of the state.
The argument “for” Missouri in the SEC is that the state borders three states in the SEC: Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. But this is misleading. There are no land connections between Missouri and Kentucky — you have to drive through Cairo, Illinois — and the Tennessee part is against the bootheel, far away from the MU campus. Columbia is 310 miles away from Fayetteville (Arkansas), 430 miles from Nashville (Vanderbilt) and 450 miles from Lexington (Kentucky). All of the old Big Eight cities except Boulder (Colorado) are within 470 miles of Columbia. On the flip side, Columbia is closer to ten SEC cities than it is to College Station (A&M) — which MU would still play if it moved over.
In addition to all of the above, Missouri would be the northernmost SEC school, a cold-weather location in a warm-weather conference. Ask Iowa State how that affects things. (Hint: Recruiting pitches tend not to feature snow.)
But if not Missouri, then West Virginia may be on the table, which jumbles up all the Civil War metaphors, including this piece from the Wall Street Journal (!):
The rest of college football formally surrendered to the Southeastern Conference Sunday, ending a decades-long war that had become hopelessly one-sided. The surrender took place just outside Appomattox, Va. SEC officials declined to explain why this site was chosen. …
Texas A&M is still welcome to join, and Missouri may be considered as well, although both schools have been reminded that they would be forfeiting the right to ever win another conference championship in football, considering they can’t even win an inferior Big 12. [Ed: The truth hurts.] …
The surrender was quickly ratified by 107 of the 108 non-SEC schools, with Boise State abstaining.