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Mizzou bolts Big 12 for SEC

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
Mizzou athletic director Mike Alden after announcing that the school has been invited to join the SEC as its 14th member on July 1, 2012.

Updated with quotes from press conference. Reporting from KBIA's Ryan Faumuliner, Kaveh Kaghazi and Chris McDaniel was used in this story.

After months of speculation, it's official - the University of Missouri is bolting the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.

The Southeastern Conference made the announcement on its website this morning. Mizzou will become the conference's 14th member on July 1, 2012 and begin competing in the 2012-2013 season.

"I am pleased to officially welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC family on behalf of our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, students and fans,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive in a statement.  "Missouri is an outstanding academic institution with a strong athletic program.  We look forward to having the Tigers compete in our league starting in 2012."

Mizzou chancellor Brady Deaton, who stepped down as chairman of the Big 12 board in October, released this statement:

“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri. In joining the SEC, MU partners with universities distinguished for their academic programs and their emphasis on student success. The SEC will provide our student-athletes with top flight competition and unparalleled visibility. We came to this decision after careful consideration of the long term best interests of our university.  We believe the Southeastern Conference is an outstanding home for the Mizzou Tigers, and we take great pride in our association with this distinguished league." 

Slive, the SEC president, said Mizzou would join as a full-fledged member, including the financial benefits. As of now, Mizzou will play in the SEC East along with the universities of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.

Mizzou has been a part of what eventually became the Big 12 conference since 1907. Athletic director Mike Alden said the move to the SEC provides the opportunity for better long-term exposure to the school. He says he hopes to maintain a rivalry with Kansas, which remains - for now - in the Big 12.

“I think to suggest that to have a conference affiliation be a requirement by which one would have to continue to participate against a another institution—I don’t know if that necessarily holds water," he said.

The university has other ties with the Big 12, including academic grants and joint research with other institutions.  Deaton said he hoped to be able to continue those relationships.

"As you're well aware, we're not making changes in our alliance," he said. "Our faculty work around the world. Clearly the quality of the institutions in the Southeastern Conference simply point to another set of collaborative institutions. We hope that this will simply expand out footprint."

Mizzou becomes the second Big 12 school to bolt to the SEC. Texas A&M was accepted in  September, a move that spawned threats of a lawsuit.  Nebraska and Colorado joined new conferences this season, with Nebraska bolting for the Big 10 and Colorado leaving for the Pac-12. The Big 12, invited  Texas Christian University and West Virginia to remain at 10 members. West Virgina's move, however, is tangled in a lawsuit with the Big East conference, which lead Chancellor Deaton to waver on whether the Big 12 would push back.

"We have been very thoughtful in assessing the possibilities here and trying to be fair to both conferences, and that led us to the date of July 1, 2012," Deaton said. "We hope that can be resolved efficiently with the scheduled of other  teams and other conference alignments. So we're hopefully we're past that."

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