Standing room only for enthusiastic fans welcoming Mizzou to SEC

Story by Sherman Fabes
Photos by Karen Mitchell
Video by Jason Brynsvold

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, left, and Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton celebrate the announcement of Missouri's entrance into the SEC.

Through the speakers inside the MU Student Center, music was heard. One of the first songs people noticed was Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”

The music was the perfect introduction to the announcement that was about to come. The craziness of the past year and a half put Mizzou in the national spotlight.

Seventeen months ago, in the summer of 2010, Mizzou seemed to try to cozy-up to the Big 10 Conference. This all occurred as MU Chancellor Brady Deaton called his university a “proud member of the Big 12.” On Sunday, Nov. 6, Deaton announced that as of July 1, 2012, Mizzou will be a “fully-functioning” member of the Southeastern Conference.

“It’s an exciting and historic time,” Deaton said. He added that the school, “isn’t abandoning tradition.”

As Deaton and MU Director of Athletics, Mike Alden, stood in front of the crowd, their smiles could barely stay on their faces. The smiles stretched from ear-to-ear, to the point where dimples were visible.

But neither of their remarks got the first loud cheer from the crowd; rather it was another member of the athletic department, who is unknown to the general public. That first cheer came as Daryle Bascom, director of Facilities and Events for MU, got up on a ladder and duct-taped the signs around the dais that read in bright yellow letters “SEC.”

And even with two announcements from the voice of the Missouri Tigers, Mike Kelly, that the proclamation of Mizzou to the SEC would be delayed, the crowd continued to chant “M-I-Z…S-E-C.”

Soon, Deaton and Alden were sharing their remarks with the crowd. Then Kelly introduced two of the most powerful people in the SEC to the crowd, Commissioner Mike Slive and University of Florida President Bernie Machen.

Machen, a Missouri native, made sure to tell the crowd that he would be a firm supporter of Mizzou anytime, except when they were playing his Florida Gators.

As the first part of the two-part media conference was coming to a close, confetti blasted onto the dais, and Marching Mizzou played the fight song “Every True Son.”

The crowd began to clear out and Deaton, Machen, Alden and Slive took their seats at the top of the platform to answer questions from the media.

MU is only the fourth school in the 78-year history of the SEC to be admitted into the conference. The unanimous decision by conference presidents and chancellors gave entrance to the school that would give them its fourth Association of American Universities member. The schools it would join are University of Florida, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.

Slive announced that Mizzou would enter into the SEC Eastern Division even though geographically it does not make the most sense, because Mizzou will be one of the schools furthest west in the SEC.

Mizzou will join Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia in the east for an average distance of 685 miles between each school and Columbia. But even with further travel, Mizzou will still stand to make more money than if it stayed in the Big 12.

Alden acknowledged that in order for Mizzou to be competitive, the school would have to “kick it up a notch,” when it comes to improving facilities and expanding its budget for things like recruiting. As it stands now, Mizzou would have one of the smallest football stadiums and recruiting budgets in the SEC. The margins between Mizzou and the top school in each of those categories are considerably large.

The bottom line is that this is what Mizzou wanted. As Slive said, Mizzou reached out to the SEC, not the other way around. The SEC was content where it was before Mizzou knocked on its door, but for Mizzou fans to think of this as a successful move in the future, it has to be more than just about money. It has to be about a commitment to winning and providing the best opportunities for its student athletes.

The stability of the SEC was much greater than the Big 12, Deaton said. One way to show that Mizzou is ready for the SEC is by the football team beating the only team in the Big 12 Gary Pinkel has not beaten, the Texas Longhorns at Faurot Field on Nov. 12, 2011.

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At long last a decision has been made and many of the fans who turned out for Sunday’s official announcement seemed relieved. Now the question is: How well can Missouri perform in the SEC? (Length: 2:27)

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