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Missouri Football: Why Moving to the Big East Could Really Work

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Jarrell Harrison #11 (C) of the Missouri Tigers runs onto the field with teammates before the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Tom DohertyCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2011

The Big 12 conference is crumbling, with Texas A&M bolting this past week and Oklahoma and Texas halfway out the door to the Pac-12.

Where does this leave Missouri's rising football program? The Big Ten isn't calling anytime soon and talks of joining the SEC haven't escalated past pure speculation.

The New York Post reports today that the Big East could potentially add Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri to its conference in a move that's definitely from left field. 

Now, I will admit that the knee-jerk reaction of Tiger fans in light of this news won't be good. The Big East, as far as football is concerned, is an inferior league. Connecticut advanced to the Fiesta Bowl with a laughable 7-5 record in 2010.

But looking deeper into this proposed scenario, this could work out pretty well for Missouri.

Let's face the reality of the conference realignment saga. Obviously, Mizzou's first choice would be an invitation to the Big Ten. It make senses regionally, academically, and athletically.

However, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney had a chance to offer Missouri a spot in the conference last summer and chose not to. Whether it's the school's so-so television market or perceived lacking in academics, it appears that Delaney has no interest in adding Mizzou to the Big Ten.

The second rumored option involves the SEC, the NCAA football powerhouse. ESPN's Doug Gottlieb reported a few weeks ago that they wanted to add Florida State, Clemson, and Missouri to its ranks along with Texas A&M. 

Missouri is a potential fit in the SEC. A border rivalry with Arkansas could quickly brew and Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel would greatly benefit in recruiting behind the SEC brand.

That being said, there's a lot of mudslinging and scandal marred in the SEC. In order to compete consistently, selling out the program's dignity is often the price to pay for victories and recruits.

Missouri historically shies away from such controversy and that would hinder the success of future teams.

Then there's this new development with the Big East. 

Currently, the Big East has eight football programs and sixteen basketball programs. That's not including TCU, who will join the conference at the helm of the 2012-13 school year.

So theoretically, the addition of Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri would expand the Big East to twelve football teams and a staggering twenty basketball teams. That completely changes the Big East as a BCS-football commodity.

A 12-team Big East opens the door for the dream scenario of a conference championship game. It's a cash cow for an athletic conference and adds enormous intrigue to the end of the college football season.

This would give the league the opportunity to split the teams into two divisions. Here's one way they could align the new divisions:

Division 1: Cincinnati, Louisville, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, TCU

Division 2: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia

If the Big East looks like this in 2012, they won't be the butt of college football jokes any longer.

With each team hailing from the Midwestern region of the country, Division 1 boasts high-octane offenses and gritty competition. Division 2 has the traditional Big East schools that trail along the East coast of the country.

Not to mention what this does for Big East basketball. A 16-team conference that already has powerhouses like Pitt, Louisville, UConn, and Georgetown adding Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri to the mix? That's downright scary.

The Big East brand does not have the prestige of the Big Ten, or the sheer strength of the SEC. But in the rapidly changing landscape of college football, Missouri can't afford to stand put and be left out in the cold.

A move to the Big East would give Missouri a chance to expand their athletic program to new heights. They would be at the forefront of this new conference, a leadership role that will never happen in the Big Ten or SEC. It would open the door to recruiting on a side of they country they don't usually venture.

The new-look Big East would no longer be a laughingstock, but a prominent figure in college sports.

It's a place where Missouri could flourish, along with others, and cement themselves as an elite football program.

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