After the tumultuous 2015 campaign that saw Mizzou put up another 5-7 record, some folks seem to have forgotten that Mizzou can and has found success in the powerful but often megalomaniacal SEC. The St. Louis Post Dispatch's Jeff Gordon recently penned an opinion piece pining for the days before major conference realignments. Gordon claims that many Mizzou fans are feeling nostalgic for the old Big 12 days. He also paints a picture where Mizzou settled for a spot in the SEC as its third and least desirable option during realignment. Well, I'm in Columbia every day and every Mizzou fan I meet still seems pretty damned happy to be in the SEC.
As frustrating as it is to hear all of the "does Mizzou belong in the SEC" talk from Southern football old timers, it's extremely annoying to read it in our own local papers. Though I consider the debate to be long since settled, let's reopen this can of worms and discuss why ol' Gordo is full of shit. Below are a list of factually inaccurate assumptions about Mizzou in the SEC that many wrong-headed old-guard SEC partisans hold dear (such as creationism) and that Gordo rehashes.
2. Missouri's high water mark came in the Big 12: Gordo points out that the best Missouri teams were Big 12 teams, specifically the magical 2007 squad. This is his main argument that Tiger fans long for the heady days where 11 schools did Texas' bidding. It's hard to argue that 2007 wasn't an absolutely fantastic time to be a Tiger fan. But let's break down those accomplishments to see if they're reproducible? Mizzou racked up a 12-2 record, they won a division title, flirted with a bid to the national championship game, and won the Cotton Bowl. Pretty exciting stuff. But... if that sounds familiar to anyone, it's probably because Mizzou racked up a 12-2 record, won a division title, flirted with a bid to the national championship game, and won the Cotton Bowl in 2013 too... as a member of the SEC. It almost seems like they accomplished the exact same feats in both conferences, doesn't it? Weeeeirrrd.
3. The SEC was the least desirable place to be: Gordo ranked Missouri's conference options from most desirable to least as such...
1) Keep the Big 12 together and stay in it.
2) Go to the Big Ten.
3) See if you can find a seat at the SEC table, I guess.
Nuts to all that! First off, staying in the Big 12 was absolutely NOT an option. Texas had (has) too much power in the conference, and the whole organization was a world class shit show. Missouri was absolutely right to shop around. That said, it's no secret that Mizzou was courting the Big Ten Big Time. When that didn't work out, we went to the SEC. Whether by accident or by design, Missouri could not have chosen a better time to join up with the Southeastern Conference. They were laying the groundwork of putting together a powerhouse national television network which is currently flooding each school with money, and the reputation of the conference was at an all-time high. Missouri was like the late-90s computer nerd who bought Google stock back when everybody was conducting their internet searches on "AltaVista". Of course that nerd probably voted for Ralph Nader too, and to continue the analogy... our Ralph Nader was named Frank Haith.
Given all of this, it boggles my mind that Gordo longs for the Big 12 days rather than tuning his time machine to just a couple of years ago when things were smooth as silk. The SEC isn't the problem. An up-and-down program that culminated into a goose-down soft offensive line is. I see no reason to believe that the football team's recent lulls would not have been just as present had we never changed conferences. In order to see improvement, the coaching staff must do a better job of addressing player turnover and achieve greater consistency. That's a recruiting issue, not a conference one.
So the questions I have for Gordo are... will Missouri face all of these questions of whether they belong in the SEC every time they have a bad season? How many good years do we have to rack up to dismiss this garbage? When a Georgia or Florida have a bad year, should we question their place in the conference too? Why not? Well? Well? Gordo, we're waiting.