The day has arrived. July first marks Mzzou's switch from the Big 12 to the SEC. It is a historic day as far as the Big 12 and Mizzou is concerned. Not sure it is as historic of a day for the SEC.
Mizzou is leaving a conference it has been a member of for over one hundred years. They are leaving traditions and rivalries that they will never find an equal to as members of the SEC. As members of the Big 6, Big 8 and the Big 12 they have been consistently in the upper half of the conference in most athletic programs. They enter the SEC with only one national championship to their programs, the 1954 NCAA Baseball championship. The programs at Mizzou have always been good, never great.
In football, they always seemed to play second fiddle to Nebraska and Oklahoma. Over the years, if anyone was going to upset Those two football powerhouses, it was going to Mizzou. When they start playing SEC football, there are going to be a lot more than just two consistently great football programs. They are bound to take some lumps in football, but I think they will still be a factor as a spoiler in the SEC just as they were in the different conferences that grew into the Big 12. They have played some SEC teams in football over the years, the last one being a Cotton Bowl victory over Arkansas. They have been both been blown out by and beaten Alabama over the years. Hopefully they will be able to hold their own in football and continue the string of bowl games that they have.
The other major sport is basketball. Again, they have always been good but never great. They consistently found themselves playing second fiddle to Kansas. It has been a bitter pill to swallow over the years but it is a fact. There were spurts of greatness that would show up here and there, but never enough to make it to the final four. They were the last team in the conference to go undefeated in conference play. That was in the Big 8 days and they came within two inches of losing the last conference game that year to Nebraska. They won four consecutive titles in Big 8 play but have not won a title since the conference became the Big 12. The SEC is tough in basketball but not out of Mizzou's capabilities. Mizzou should make a consistent showing in basketball in their new conference. This is the one area where the SEC should not make the mistake of overlooking Mizzou.
Softball has been great for Mizzou. they have been in the WCWS three of the last five years and have made seven appearances in the tournament. It was an SEC LSU team that knocked them out of the super regionals in Columbia Missouri and a SEC team from Tuscaloosa that won the WCWS this past season. It will be tougher than the Big 12 but they can, again, make their presence known.
The SEC is going to kill the Mizzou baseball program. Mizzou has been good in Baseball, but the SEC has been GREAT in baseball, year in and year out. More than football, Mizzou is going to feel the strength of the SEC in baseball. It is going to be hard watching Mizzou play someof those SEC teams in baseball when we are used to making a decent showing and going to the baseball tournament more or less consistently.
What Mizzou does bring to the SEC is another AAU qualified school. With Texas A&M, the two Big 12 schools double the AAU membership of the SEC. That is academics. Mizzou was the first university west of the Mississippi to have a journalism school, so there will be a school who knows how to read and write in the SEC.
They bring a certain kind of common sense that I find mysteriously missing in the SEC. For example, they will be the third "Tigers" in the conference. There is the LSU Tigers, whose colors are purple and gold? There are the Auburn Tigers with colors of orange and blue? guess what Mizzou tigers colors are. Black and Gold. Now, what color is an actual tiger? Black and Gold. See this is where the AAU stuff comes in handy. To top that off, the Auburn Tigers war cry is a hefty "WAR EAGLE" and they have this bird fly around the stadium before each game. Where did the Tiger go? I don't get it. Another thing I don't get is the Alabama Crimson Tide. Sounds like it is one of the plagues from the Bible. And what does Alabama use to represent this idea of a "crimson tide"? An elephant. REALLY? I understand the the strange tiger colors better than I understand this elephant thing. I can see where possibly Auburn and LSU both had color blind athletic directors or something, but an elephant represent the idea of a crimson tide? With all the oil spills in the gulf, they would better off to call themselves the black tide.
On the other hand, they are leaving a conference that has Kansas represented by a fictitious red and blue cartoon bird that has feet but no legs and they call it a Jayhawk. The Iowa State "Cyclones" which is another word for a tornado is represented by a goofy looking Cardinal.
I know where the idea of a Jayhawk came from. It derives from before the Civil War as Kansas Jayhawkers would make raids into Missouri to terrorize slave owners and release slaves being held in Missouri. Missouri Civil War militias were known as Tigers, hence the Mizzou Tigers. Somehow I don't think that those brave Jayhawkers back in the 1800's would appreciate being characterized as freakishly looking cartoon bird. But that is not Mizzou's problem to figure out anymore. During the Civil War, militias from Missouri burned Lawrence, Kansas to the ground trying to save them the embarrassment they put upon themselves with that cartoon of a mascot today.
Still, the Tigers will never have another rivalry like they had with Kansas. That is probably the saddest part of Mizzou moving to the SEC. The whole year focused around the Kansas/Missouri games year after year. That is gone now and it is a big loss for both universities and both states. I am sure that as the years go by, Mizzou will pick up a rivalry with somebody, probably Texas A&M or Arkansas but it will NEVER match the intensity of Mizzou meeting Kansas on any stage.
Mizzou will be seen as a stepchild to most of the SEC. We realize that and are prepared for it. It will take some time but eventually Mizzou will be accepted by the old horses of the conference and they may even earn some respect from those schools that have been raised as part of southern culture.
It is historic. It will be different. But Mizzou will be there. They will not be a pushover in football or Basketball. They may have to make changes in their their style of play and they will. It is a new era for the University of Missouri and it will effect how things play out in the SEC.
It is exciting and sad at the same time. I can guarantee that Mizzou will do everything they can to make the SEC proud to have them as a member of their elite conference.
SO ... let the games begin, and may each school in each athletic program do their best and earn the right to be called a member of the SEC. That is a very special title that we, in Missouri, do not take lightly. If we did not have respect for the SEC, we would still be in the Big 12, otherwise known as the BEVO 12 because Texas runs everything. At least in the SEC we will have the chance to be among equals or aspire to be among equals.
From now on it will be said in Columbia, Missouri, "MIZZOU - PROUD MEMBER OF THE SEC" I hope that the SEC will eventually be able to say "SEC - PROUD HOME OF THE MIZZOU TIGERS"
Good luck to all as we begin down this road together.