COLUMBIA — While Missouri seems to be moving away from the Big 12 Conference, reports surfaced Tuesday about the league’s contingency plan should the Tigers depart for the SEC. The New York Times, and later The Associated Press, reported that the league is set to add West Virginia as a 10th member to replace Missouri.
The report cited an anonymous source and said the move to accept West Virginia was approved unanimously by the Big 12 board of directors.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said during a radio interview on KFRU with David Lile on Tuesday morning that he had removed himself from the meeting under the advice of legal counsel when the board was discussing decisions that related to the future of the league.
Reports have also suggested that the Big 12 could have a press conference as soon as Wednesday to announce the addition of the Mountaineers. If that is the case, it stands to reason that Missouri would announce its departure before that, either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, though at this juncture, there is no official word.
During the KFRU interview, Deaton said it would be "days" or "a week or two" before MU officially announced its decision.
"There's uncertainties involved here that we're investigating as rapidly as possible, as expeditiously as possible, as systematically as possible," Deaton said to a group of reporters after the interview.
The addition of West Virginia could also lower the exit penalty for Missouri. With a highly regarded replacement, the Big 12 might feel more comfortable letting MU off the hook more easily, even for the 2012-2013 athletic year.
Deaton declined to comment on the issue of exit fees when asked after the KFRU interview.
During his conversation with Lile, which lasted about 30 minutes, Deaton pointed out that the decision to leave the Big 12 would be about stability rather than money.
"These issues in terms of stability take on a very, very important long term meaning. We're trying to look ahead at where the Big 12 is going, where the SEC is going and where the world of sports entertainment is going for that matter," Deaton told Lile. "A lot of people point to the fact that this is just about money. That simply is not the case."
He also hinted perhaps that the decision to leave had already been made, speaking of a "coalescence" in the decision-making process at this point.
"Over the last three weeks, or it's been more than that, I'd have to look back, we've reached a firmness in where we're headed, where we want to analyze and focus our attention," Deaton said. "I would say we have to conclude the process the board of curators has granted me right now, and we're working as expeditiously as possible to finalize that."