SEC Expansion: Mike Slive wins Missouri, but is he winning the conference expansion war?

The Birmingham News reported that Missouri would likely become the fourteenth member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The report comes after intense speculation about who would follow Texas A&M into an expanded SEC.

According to the News, “Because both of those schools (Texas A&M and Missouri) are located to the western side of the SEC’s basic footprint, that prompted discussions of moving a current West Division school to the East Division. Auburn is the easternmost school in the West Division. A third person familiar with the discussions confirmed that Auburn would move to the East if Missouri joins the league.”

The University of Missouri Board of Curators will hold a meeting Thursday morning, according to a report from the Columbia Tribune.

Football fans will watch that meeting.

Missouri is a superior choice to other options mentioned during the latest round of expansion. It is a prestigious university, and it fields strong teams in many sports. The school also sits in a good location because of its television markets.

If Missouri winds up in the SEC, it is a victory for Commissioner Mike Slive.

Slive has remained quiet during the conference expansion drama of 2011. So has the entire SEC. There have been few public statements from SEC presidents or athletic directors since Texas A&M sought admission into the conference.

The SEC has looked lethargic when compared to the energetic leadership of the Pac-12. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is working on a blockbuster deal to land the Texas and Oklahoma in his growing conference. The deal may or may not come to fruition, but Scott is doing something.

In contrast, the SEC has wanted to appear above the fray.

In the game of conference realignment, nobody wants to be turned down—everybody worries about his image. A good example is what happened to Missouri during the last round of conference expansion drama.

Previously, Missouri sought admission into the Big Ten.

That didn’t go very well. Some say Missouri was embarrassed by what happened last year.

According to Joe Walljasper of the Columbiatribune.com this change back in August. He wrote, “The cynics say this newfound interest in conference unity means Missouri officials learned their lesson from last year’s embarrassment and are hiding their true intentions. They will remind you that a certain basketball coach publicly stated he would retire at Missouri and was introduced at a press conference in Arkansas two weeks later. This is how it works in high-profile negotiations: Deny until the ink’s dry.”

Secretive is a good way to describe the SEC. Deliberate is another good description.

Since Slive landed Missouri for the SEC, the strategy worked.

Slive won Missouri.

Is he winning the war?

That remains to be determined. At this moment, Slive has apparently landed the two best available universities in Texas A&M and Missouri. However, if Larry Scott lands Texas and Oklahoma, the Pac-12 wins.

If that happens, fans will wonder why Oklahoma was allowed to head west without any effort to attract the Sooners to the SEC. Such is the price of Slive’s expansion policy—if he courted Oklahoma then who would know?

In any case, Slive has brought two new members into the SEC that improve the footprint and should enrich the membership.

That is winning.

At least for now.