COLUMBIA — It's been a crazy week in college athletics. With Colorado defecting to the Pac-10 and Nebraska to the Big Ten, the Big 12 is down to 10 schools.
And it appears the craziness isn't over. The UM System Board of Curators, after completing two days of meetings dominated by talks — and questions — about its future conference alignment, announced Friday evening that it would hold a special closed meeting at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, Texas is reportedly on the Pac-10's radar, and they could take Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech with them. The Texas Board of Regents has scheduled a special meeting on conference realignment Tuesday. That meeting could lead to an announcement that Texas is leaving the Big 12, but Texas Men's Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds recently said in a news release that "our goals and hopes all along have been to keep the Big 12 Conference intact."
As of Friday afternoon, the Pac-10 had extended no more invitations, but Commissioner Larry Scott has been authorized by the presidents of his conference to invite any school he wants. In a media teleconference, Scott said he will wait to see what happens nationally over the next few weeks before deciding the Pac-10's next move.
On Friday, Missouri Athletics Director Mike Alden met with the curators for nearly three hours. Alden and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton characterized the meeting as informative. Alden and Deaton later held a news conference at which Alden shed little new light on the issue of conference realignment.
Alden said an Austin American-Statesman report that MU had been given a deadline to announce whether it would remain in the Big 12 was unfounded.
"There are no firm deadlines that we are aware of," Alden said. "There has been nothing that has been presented to us in any fashion of ultimatums. "
Ultimatum or not, Alden pledged allegiance to the Big 12 on Friday.
"We aren't looking at any other conference," he said.
Alden said that there also has been no self-imposed deadline in regard to conference realignment and that he does not know when speculation about MU will be put to rest.
Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman said Friday that it was MU's conduct since the Big Ten's December announcement about expansion that forced Nebraska to court, and eventually apply to join, the Big Ten.
The Big Ten informally invites schools to apply. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney said in May that no school would be asked to apply if it would not certainly be admitted to the conference by the member institutions' presidents. Nebraska announced Friday that it would apply to the Big Ten.
"Nebraska did not start this discussion. After the Big Ten announced it planned to consider expansion, we saw reports that Missouri would want to go to the Big Ten, including a statement by their governor, a member of board of curators and chancellor — comments that weren't clearly supportive of the Big 12," Perlman said.
MU officials are pleading innocence.
"What's that song, 'We didn't start this fire?'" UM President Gary Forsee said Thursday.
"That is ridiculous, that is silly," Alden said Friday. "And when folks out there try to suggest that Mizzou was a focal point to be able to start discussions, that is ridiculous, that is silly."
Alden said that he remains confident that the Big 12 will endure but that he and others are working hard to ensure MU remains in strong position should the conference continue to lose members. Leagues with eight or fewer schools are problematic and hard to keep together, he said.
"We are not operating with our heads in the sandbox," Alden said.
"The goal is certainly to always make sure that you are protecting the best interests of the University of Missouri as an institution and athletics program and to make sure to position ourselves in the national spotlight," Alden said.