The Big 10 is talking about expansion. Missouri borders Iowa and Illinois, has a rivalry with Illinois in two sports, is unhappy with the revenue and bowl situation in their current conference, is an AAU member, and has a strong athletic program. Missouri rightfully thinks the invite will be theirs. The Big 10 looks around, sees that the Nebraska Cornhuskers are right next to Missouri.
Nebraska is a historically great program, among the top 10 in the nation. Their attendance is in the top 5 in the nation. They historically travel not well, but great. Their football team is on the uptick. They have a good academic reputation to boot. Lord knows how much merchandise they sell to their rabid fans because it is literally the only game in town. Finally, Nebraska has a reputation that Missouri lost a long time ago, that they will smash you in the mouth, like it or not, and fans around the country remember Nebraska long before they remember Missouri. The Big 10 smartly chooses Nebraska to round out their conference at 12 teams.
We can talk about TV sets and basketball and the rest all we want. The fact is that Nebraska fit what the Big 10 was looking for, a historically great program with tradition and academics, better than Missouri, and they will be successful.
The sad part was not that Nebraska got chosen. The sad part is that Missouri, embraced by bad luck as usual, did what Missouri always does. They got wide-eyed in the glaring lights. They stuttered. They went on a blathering rant in the form of their governor denigrating two of their fellow conference members. And some of their fans did the same thing. They saw the Big 12 about to fold up, based on what we now know was a carefully orchestrated show put on by Texas and Orangebloods.com. They panicked. Instead of being confident in who we were and what we had become, they retreated to what they knew. They wanted to stick with Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State - even Baylor. They wanted to retreat to the safety of the Mountain West Conference. This is exactly what we all have to change - the way we react to adversity.
Over the last 3 years, our football team has been one of the better teams in college football. Our fans are attending games - Missouri is 28th in attendance. They have a quality stadium and great facilities. Our basketball team, under the right coach, has become a solid top 25 squad and makes deep tournament runs. Our other sports - wrestling, baseball, softball - and more - have shared in that improvement. In this state of 6 million people, Missouri is the only college show in D-1. Although the fan support in Kansas City and St. Louis can be divided, the fact of the matter is that we are a pretty good thing. But when someone found something that was a little bit better, like a girl who used to be fat before joining the gym and getting in shape, our confidence was damaged, and it showed.
If we were about to leave Kansas and the Border War, Kansas State, and Iowa State behind for the Big 10, why couldn't we do it for the SEC? The SEC does not have the academic properties of the Big 10, but it has a lot of other very nice things going for it. It is the national standard bearer in college football. They have a strong baseball program and we could be one of the top teams in basketball. But bring this back to football. These are football shrines we would be showing up in. The Swamp. Between the Hedges. Neyland Stadium. Bryant-Denny. Jordan-Hare. Tiger Stadium at night in Baton Rouge. And if Texas A&M had gone, we'd still be going to Kyle Field and getting on TV sets in Texas.
Even though Missouri sells out 90% of Faurot Field on average, it's not on par with these places, in fan support or in atmosphere. But there was a vocal set of fans who would have rather retreated to play in the Mountain West Conference. Sure, they have a couple good teams - BYU and Boise State. But dominating in a non-BCS conference is not how to get a National Championship. Ask Boise State about that. To win a National Championship you have to look adversity in the face and beat it back. When people heard Missouri talking about sticking with "orphan programs" like K-State and Iowa State - teams that under any 64 team superconference scenario are on the outside looking in - it reinforces what people commonly think about Missouri - that they are not ready for the big time.
A wise man once said, "Adversity introduces a man to himself". Adversity merely confirmed what we already knew... that instead of looking Texas in the eye and saying what everyone else already feels - that the conference is too Texas-centric, that we deserve equal sharing and a different bowl nomination process, that we can survive without you because we aren't getting smoked 77-0 anymore, that we have Heisman Candidates and ten win seasons and fan support, that we will take your deal for now but something better will come along and we can't promise anything - instead Missouri went back to 1986 and folded up. They got in line, they kowtowed to Texas and lock-stepped like a good boy.
If you ever want this team to win this conference, you're going about the wrong way to do it. If our university can't stand up for itself, how the heck are the kids supposed to stand up for themselves when Texas or Oklahoma punches them in the mouth? Instead we're swearing our allegiance until Texas - not us - finds a better deal and leaves us hanging.