Missouri curators give chancellor power to determine conference affiliation

By The Associated Press Published: October 4, 2011
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ST. LOUIS — It wasn't too long ago that Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of “working every day to hold the Big 12 together.” Now he's been tasked with helping decide whether the Tigers are the latest program to leave a troubled conference fighting for its future.

University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board's members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system's St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school's) interest.”

And Deaton, the conference's public face through its recent turmoil, is resigning as chairman of the Big 12's board of directors to avoid the obvious conflict of interest.

Just one day earlier, the conference announced that presidents and chancellors of the remaining nine members — including Deaton — had agreed to equal revenue sharing and to seek approval from each university to hand over the most lucrative television rights to the conference for six years.

Now it looks as if the Big 12 might be losing two members for the second straight year.

“The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a statement released soon after Missouri announced its intentions.

One year ago, Nebraska defected from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, with Colorado also leaving for what is now the Pac-12.

“What brings us here tonight is that the Big 12 Conference is now requesting that its members make binding, long-term irrevocable commitments to the conference,” said Steve Owens, interim president of the four-campus University of Missouri system. “We don't fault the Big 12 Conference. It is something it should be doing in order to promote stability.”

Speculation has centered on a possible Missouri move to the Southeastern Conference, which recently agreed to accept Texas A&M from the Big 12 starting next year

Deaton declined to specifically answer a reporter's question about interest in the SEC on either the school's part or the other conference.

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