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St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT, Associated Press
University of Missouri Interim President Steve Owens, left, and Chancellor Brady Deaton leave a news conference following a meeting of the Board of Curators, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, in St. Louis. Curators voted Tuesday to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the troubled league for the long term.

ST. LOUIS — A University of Missouri official says the school hopes to join the Southeastern Conference but would have preferred an offer from the Big Ten that never came.

The person, who is familiar with the discussions involving conference affiliation, spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the school has not commented publicly about its intentions.

Missouri hoped to join the Big Ten last year but the league instead chose Nebraska. The university official said the Big Ten remains Missouri's top choice but that conference "has no interest."

"That's what's left," the official said, referring to the SEC.

Missouri's seven voting curators agreed unanimously Tuesday night to give Chancellor Brady Deaton authority to look elsewhere rather than immediately commit to the troubled Big 12 Conference. Just one day earlier, Big 12 leaders — including Deaton — agreed to equally share the wealth from the conference's most lucrative television deals if its members agree to lock those top-tier TV rights into the league for at least six years.

The agreement is subject to approval by university governing boards — a step Missouri curators don't want to take until the school is able to "fully explore options for conference affiliation ... which best serve the interests of the University of Missouri," board chairman Warren Erdman told The Associated Press.

The Big 12 is down to 10 members and will lose Texas A&M to the SEC next year after the departures of Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten.

SEC athletic directors and Commissioner Mike Slive met Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala., to discuss the logistics of Texas A&M's arrival. A conference spokesman said the meeting was called several weeks ago.

Slive has not ruled out further expansion, and Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart has said the SEC will eventually add members.

Besides being a fresh blow to the Big 12, a Missouri departure would threaten its long-standing rivalry with neighboring Kansas, one of the oldest in college sports. Kansas basketball coach Bill Self told the Lawrence Journal-World that the border showdowns may not continue if Missouri bolts.

"I have no ill will toward Missouri at all, but to do something at a time that could be so damaging and hurtful to a group, I can't see us just taking it and forgetting," he told the newspaper.

Kansas athletics director Shannon Zenger was less forceful, appealing instead to the Tigers' sense of loyalty to the league.

"We believe the Midwest deserves a strong conference for student-athletes, fans and alumni, and it is our desire that Missouri will stay committed - as Kansas is - to the Big 12 Conference," he said.

Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier