Dick Harmon: Missouri takes another step towards Big 12 departure

Published: Friday, Oct. 21 2011 7:00 p.m. MDT

The Big 12 may be on its way to another defection.

When the University of Missouri Board of Curators met Friday and gave Chancellor Brady Deaton permission to explore and decide whether to change conference affiliations, the panel also granted him permission to negotiate contracts for Missouri in regards to TV deals or any other needed agreements.

So, what does that mean?

It means the chancellor doesn't have to go back and ask permission of Missouri's governing body to switch conferences. If he decides, after talking to lawyers, that it is in Missouri's best interest to go to the SEC, which already took Texas A&M, he can do it at the drop of a hat.

And if Missouri bolts the Big 12, how does that affect the stability-seeking Big 12?

Well, the interesting thing Deaton said on Friday, is if Missouri did leave, it would not be part of the Big 12 in 2012.

Ding, ding, ding.

A Missouri departure would mean instant instability with Big 12 TV contracts because of reduced territory.

That statement by Deaton directly countered a quote made by Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas just nine days earlier that if Missouri left, the Big 12 wouldn't need to replace the Tigers before 2013.

Neinas also said, at the time, the Big 12 would likely stay at 10 teams for the present.

The number of teams the Big 12 could move upon if Missouri defects could change quicker than Neinas and the Big 12 presidents once believed two weeks ago.

The Big 12's board of directors scheduled a meeting for Monday.

The Big 12 will definitely have expansion talks on the agenda when the president's council (CEO's of the Big 12) meet. Said Neinas on Friday, "Obviously, conference membership will be thoroughly discussed at that time."

And what does that mean for a potential replacement for Missouri, if the Tigers leave?

Well, there are four very anxious conferences commissioners waiting for the dominoes to fall. The Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, the Big East and the SEC all have a stake in this move.

The MWC and C-USA recently announced a 22-team football association. The Big East announced it would raid that association for some replacement teams.

It would mean the fourth Big 12 defection in 16 months (Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M).

If Missouri stays, it means the SEC would need a 14th school to partner up with A&M. It would mean Big East football could crumble if it doesn't scramble for Army, Navy, Air Force and Boise State now that once Big East-bound TCU agreed to join the Big 12 last month as the 10th team.

The state of college sports today has never been as unsettled as it is today.

And how does this impact BYU?

The independent Cougars have been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Big 12 as a possible Missouri replacement or as a No. 11 or 12th candidate if the league expands. Other names mentioned are Big East schools Louisville and West Virginia. People disagree on the pecking order, which school is chosen first or second, if the Big 12 decides to expand back to 12.

What specifically does all this talk mean for BYU?

In reality, things look very good for BYU if the Big 12 needs an immediate replacement. As an independent, BYU can become instantly available in 2012 with a few tweaks in scheduling and bowl ties.

I believe BYU entered independence a year ago with certain clauses in contracts to address scheduling and associations in case a BCS conference invite came its way in 2011 or beyond.

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