COLUMBIA — Years of discussion, weeks of speculation and seemingly endless anticipation all disappeared Sunday.
Finally, Missouri officially had a new home for its athletic program effective July, 1 2012 — the Southeastern Conference.
Missouri’s part in the ongoing conference realignment musical chairs ended in a combination between pep rally and press conference at the MU Student Center, complete with appearances from Marching Mizzou, the Golden Girls and student athletes from nearly every sport.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton called the moment "historic" three times in his opening statement.
"We know the tradition of homecoming is very strong here at Missouri," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "Let me say to the entire Missouri nation, 'Welcome to your new home.'"
After opening statements, Slive and Deaton posed for a photo opportunity as confetti shot from a cannon and showered the two men as well as the crowd, which broke into wild applause.
Despite the pomp of the celebration, questions still surround Missouri’s departure from the Big 12. Those questions weren’t answered in great detail by Deaton or Athletics Director Mike Alden.
There are no guarantees that the Big 12 is going to let Missouri go immediately or cheaply. Deaton declined to discuss any numbers related to exit fees, but even the July 1, 2012, departure date is a question mark at this point.
According to a statement released by Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas, Missouri had yet to submit a letter of withdrawal to the Big 12 as of Sunday afternoon.
"Once we have received a formal notice of withdrawal from Missouri, we will furnish it to our board of directors," the statement read. "The board will review the situation and take appropriate action."
Deaton didn’t have anything specific to say regarding that aspect either.
"Let me say that we’ve had discussions on that issue and been given assurances and discussions and while there’s ongoing work to be done, we’re confident that we will be able to successfully erase any concerns about those issues," he said. "We hope that that can be resolved effectively with other teams and other conference alignments."
One thing that was settled was that Missouri would play in the SEC East division.
"That allows us to maintain our divisional rivalries, and I think serves us very, very well at this point with the least amount of disruption," Slive said.
Disruption and instability are exactly what Missouri was looking to avoid. Three schools — Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M — departed from the league this past year. No school has left the SEC recently.
"We were looking for long-term stability as a university," Deaton said.
That stability will include future facility upgrades, according to Alden.
"Certainly, we understand that there’s a constant commitment toward what we’re trying to do, and we’ve seen that, let’s say, over the course of the last 10 or 15 years," Alden said. "I will tell you that stepping into the SEC, it’s important that we recognize how important that is."
In the SEC East Division, Missouri will be matched up with South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Missouri will have a "cross-division" rival from the SEC West that it plays in football each season, but it is has yet to be determined who that will be, Slive said. Speculation is that it will either be Texas A&M, which is also new to the league, or Arkansas, Missouri’s most natural geographic rival in the SEC.
As far as old rivals go, Alden made it clear that Missouri would like to continue playing its most traditional rival: Kansas.
"We have a tremendous respect for the University of Kansas. It is our hope and our intention that we have an opportunity to play against the University of Kansas for many years to come," Alden said. "I think that to suggest that conference affiliation be a requirement … I don’t know that necessarily holds water."
Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little stayed diplomatic with a statement on KU’s website.
"We're sorry to see a century-old conference rivalry end. Missouri's decision may have implications for fans and for the Kansas City area, but it won't affect the long-term strength of the Big 12," the statement read.
The university’s news bureau, however, wasn’t as tactful on its Twitter feed.
Only time will tell what happens to the rivalry.
What is assured for now is that the waiting for the SEC decision is finally over.