COLUMBIA — For the second time in less than a month, all conference realignment eyes are on the UM System Board of Curators.
The board is expected to discuss the next step in Missouri's conference alignment process as part of its regularly scheduled meetings Thursday and Friday at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The board is scheduled to go into executive session twice, once at 3:45 p.m. Thursday and again at 10 a.m. Friday. The board will also hold what it's calling a "routine press conference" with its Chairman Warren Erdman and Interim UM System President Steve Owens before Friday's executive session, which concludes the meeting.
While the board has authorized MU Chancellor Brady Deaton the power to explore options regarding Missouri’s conference alignment, the board must approve any final decisions. Deaton is expected to deliver an update on the process at some point during the meeting.
The New York Times reported late Monday that Missouri's move to the SEC is "inevitable and imminent." The report cited unnamed school officials. There has been no official indication from Missouri, the SEC or the Big 12 that that's the case.
During a teleconference on Oct. 11, Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas indicated that he had been in contact with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive during this process.
"I've talked to Mike, yes. It was just very cordial. I've known Mike for years," Neinas said during the teleconference. "We just talked about things in general. I said, basically if you're going to extend an invitation to Missouri, please let me know. … He didn't indicate one way or the other."
If it were to join the SEC, Missouri would have to follow a similar process to that of Texas A&M when it made the same move. The first step would be to officially notify the Big 12 of its withdrawal from the conference — a sort of "two weeks notice" that protects MU from certain legal consequences. Then, the SEC presidents would have to vote to accept Missouri into their conference.
Texas A&M sent its letter of withdrawal to the Big 12 on Aug. 31, and the SEC vote came just six days later on Sept. 6. However, Texas A&M's acceptance into the league was contingent upon all Big 12 schools waiving their rights to sue the SEC. That delayed the official announcement until Sept. 25.
Neinas also said on Oct. 11 that he expects Missouri to play in the Big 12 next season regardless of its decision about the future.
"If Missouri was going to change horses, it wouldn't be for 2012 anyway," Neinas said.
The Big 12 has not given Missouri a hard deadline to make a decision on the six-year grant of rights, which essentially prevents a school from leaving a conference without financially crippling itself, other than the end of the academic year in May.
"We will give Missouri time to evaluate its situation and have an opportunity to look at the Big 12 Conference and perhaps get a better understanding as to where we're going," Neinas said. "Each institution has to go through a procedure or protocol (to grant rights), I think that what I'm saying is that if Missouri needs further time to study the situation, we'll allow them to do so."
Neither Deaton nor Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden have spoken to the media about realignment since the board's meeting on Oct. 4. There has been no indication as to whether Alden will be present at this week's meeting.
The SEC presidents held a regularly scheduled teleconference on Oct. 10, where they "discussed a wide range of issues dealing with the changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics," according to an SEC statement. No action was taken regarding expansion.