Kansas City, Mo. Missouri has taken another step toward leaving the Big 12 Conference and there is interest in the SEC in taking the Tigers.
The governing curators at Missouri unanimously gave Chancellor Brady Deaton the authority Friday to move the school out of the Big 12 if he decides that is in the school’s best interest. Deaton, who had earlier been given the OK to explore options, gave no timeline for a decision but indicated that a move, if it happens, would not take much longer.
“We’re not looking at a long time frame,” Deaton said, adding that any move would anticipate playing in another conference beginning next season — not in 2013 or farther out.
“We’ve provided information to the SEC,” Deaton said at a news conference following a two-day curators’ meeting, accompanied by athletic director Mike Alden and other school officials.
“Missouri has not applied, nor has an invitation been extended,” SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said.
However, SEC school presidents have informally discussed Missouri, and there’s “certainly talk and interest” in adding the school, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Missouri also directed Deaton to try to set up a holiday basketball tournament and annual football game in Kansas City with an unidentified rival — Kansas would fit the bill — moves designed to answer critics who say departing the Big 12 will gut storied traditions that date back decades. Missouri and Kansas have played each other in football for 119 years.
The move also is designed to blunt concerns that the Big 12 won’t have a reason to continue holding its basketball championship tournament in Kansas City or schedule a Kansas-Missouri football game there if Missouri bolts the Big 12.
Ed McKechnie, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, which governs Kansas University and Kansas State, said Missouri’s departure from the Big 12 would be “a massive blow” to the area.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger didn’t commit to any sort of plan for the future.
“The University of Kansas is a great Midwestern school, loyal to our Midwestern conference and to our Midwestern roots,” Zenger said. “The KU-Missouri rivalry belongs in the Big 12 Conference. Should Missouri decide to leave the Big 12, we would wish them well.”