The University of Missouri will leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference in July in the latest move affecting college sports rivalries, fan travel and student class schedules.
Missouri’s departure will leave the Big 12 with eight teams. Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas has said he’d like 10 or 12 schools, suggesting further expansion.
Universities are changing conferences in search of more television money, to join one of the six large leagues that receive an automatic qualifier to the Bowl Championship Series and to avoid getting left behind if their own conference collapses or loses BCS eligibility.
“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities,” Missouri Chancellor Brady J. Deaton said in a statement on the Southeastern Conference’s website today. The move “will provide our student-athletes with top flight competition.”
Missouri will begin to compete “in all sports” in the 2012-13 academic year, the conference said in its statement.
The New York Times reported on Oct. 17 that acceptance of Missouri’s application was contingent on the Big 12 agreeing not to sue the Southeastern Conference over the Tigers’ switch.
The Southeastern Conference added Texas A&M as its 13th member in September. The addition of Missouri would allow the conference to create two seven-team divisions, making it easier to schedule games.
With an enrollment of 33,800 students, Missouri will be the fourth-largest institution in the league after Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M.
Also in the past two months, Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Texas Christian left the Mountain West for the Big 12. The Big East has said it plans to add six football schools.
Last year, Colorado left the Big 12 and Utah abandoned the Mountain West for the Pacific 12, Nebraska departed the Big 12 for the Big Ten and Boise State exited the Western Athletic Conference for the Mountain West. The Boise, Idaho-based school may join the Big East, which is based in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, Southeastern Conference, ACC and Big 12 all automatically qualify for BCS games and a shot at college football’s national title.