Photo via Bill Carter.
It is officially the University of Missouri's final day in the Big 12. Tomorrow, Mizzou and Texas A&M join the SEC, TCU and West Virginia join the Big 12, and everything that became mostly official months ago, becomes completely official.
All I can say is, not once in the past six months have I had any regrets about this. Even as the Big 12 has begun to gain (and then lose, and then gain again) strong long-term traction, there has not been a single second thought. Everything Mizzou fans said they sought in a new conference -- long-term stability, the feeling of equal treatment, et cetera -- was offered to them last fall, and they accepted it. It has been an incredibly freeing experience. As the EXPANSIONAPALOOZA™ rumors continue, I sit back as an impartial observer, not nervous or hopeful or terrified about the impact of any given move on Missouri's long-term health. Mizzou has played its hand, cashed in its chips, and gone to the casino pool. The level of competition Mizzou is about to face on the field (or court, or diamond, or mat, or whatever) could be about to change (for certain sports, it absolutely is), but ... the Big 12 is a great athletic conference.
For me, it was never about money either. At least, it stopped being about money when Dan Beebe pulled the TV contract rabbit out of his hat in 2010. Before then, in the days where Mizzou was making half the TV revenue as Indiana, it was definitely about money. But while the money in the SEC will be better, especially when the SEC Network falls into place, Mizzou would have still earned a competitive wage in the Big 12, so to speak. To me, the most important part of this entire move came down to the feeling that you were leaving a neighborhood (with some friends, some like-minded individuals, and some a**holes) and joining a family. You aren't escaping the a**holes, but you are escaping battles over property lines, threats to leave and damage property values (even ones coming from yourself), and general pissing matches. It's a wonderful feeling.
That said, it's not like the Big 12 was really that bad to Missouri. From the time the Big 8 joined forces with half of the SWC, Missouri has experienced two different football renaissances (one that quickly puttered out in 1999 and another that keeps chugging on), a No. 1 BCS ranking, two Elite Eights in basketball, three Women's College World Series, a baseball Super Regional, conference titles in wrestling and soccer, conference tournament titles in basketball and baseball, an Elite Eight volleyball appearance, and the hiring of a spectacular group of classy coaches who have represented the school (mostly) well. Missouri has built a program that is strong both on the field and in the classroom, and they did so in the Big 12. It's worth remembering that.
It's also remembering that Mizzou fans have enjoyed some absolutely wonderful moments in the last 16 years. Here are my five favorites. (And yes, the list would probably change every day.)
1. Mizzou sacks Todd Reesing, clinches No. 1 ranking in 2007.
2. Making snow angels at the 50 yard line with ZouDave when MU beats Nebraska in 2003.
3. Mizzou 36, Oklahoma 27, 2010. From Gameday, to Gahn McGaffie, to trying not to cry thinking about my buddy Jeffrey late.
4. Mizzou whips Memphis to advance to the Elite Eight in 2009, and the group e-hug that followed on Rock M Nation.
5. Zaire Taylor versus Kansas.
It really has been a good 16 years for Missouri, which is an amazing thing to say considering where the athletic program was around the mid-point of the last decade.
Anyway, on the verge of The Big Move, what are your favorite Mizzou moments from the Big 12 era? What are some underrated moments we tend to forget amid the good feelings of Sod Reesing, Gahn McGaffie and Zaire Taylor?