COLUMBIA — The Missouri wrestling team announced Wednesday it will join the Mid-American Conference as an affiliate member. The Tigers will participate in the MAC conference tournament this season and will become full members in 2013-2014.
“It's a growing conference, and it's proactive,” coach Brian Smith said. “The administrators at the MAC office and some of the administrators I've gotten to know from the different schools in the MAC are just really excited about wrestling, they want wrestling to succeed and they want it to grow. What they're doing is making a statement today: The MAC is going to be one of the better conferences in the U.S.”
The program’s search for an affiliate conference was the result of Missouri’s transition to the Southeastern Conference, which does not include wrestling.
“I'd lie if I didn't say (the move to the SEC) was a little bit frustrating, but the support of the administration, from Mike Alden, even Brady Deaton and the president all the way down … they all wanted to make this work for Missouri wrestling. They're the most supportive administration I think any program could have,” said Smith, who was named Big 12 Coach of the Year last season after the Tigers won the Big 12 Tournament Championship for the first time in school history. Missouri sent 10 wrestlers to the 2012 NCAA Championship, best in the country.
The signed agreement is for five years, and Missouri will be joining the conference along with Old Dominion and Northern Iowa, increasing its size to nine teams. The other teams are: Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Ohio University. Only the Big Ten and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association boast more teams.
“After significant study and discussion by our member institutions’ coaches and administrators, the Mid-American Conference has made a move that will take what is already a very strong wrestling conference and make it one of the elite wrestling conferences in the country,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a press release. “I am pleased to welcome Missouri, Northern Iowa and Old Dominion, their student-athletes, coaches and fans to the MAC in the sport of wrestling.”
Smith believes the new conference will give a big boost to recruiting.
“I can sit in a kids living room in say, Michigan, Iowa, Virginia, Ohio — some great wrestling high school states — and now we're going to be coming to compete,” he said.
Smith said the program had plenty of options when shopping for a new conference.
“I’m just glad to have it done with,” he said. “More because I think I got asked the question every day, 'So what are you gonna do, you don't have a conference?' I think for the team, they got tired of it, and they handled it pretty good, but it's just nice they know where we're gonna be in March for a championship.”
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.