Mike Slive looked, but he couldn’t find the white Southeastern Conference helmet.
Slive, then the SEC’s commissioner, meant to give the helmet to then-MU chancellor Brady Deaton as a ceremonial token to welcome the Tigers to the SEC.
Unable to locate it, Slive asked the crowd to pretend that he was holding it. Then he completed the phantom exchange in front of cameras as white confetti fluttered from the ceiling and MU’s band played the school’s fight song.
Slive’s helmet was imaginary, but the welcome was real. Missouri had officially joined the SEC.
It was an opportunity created in part by the Big 12’s dysfunction and the most dramatic period of conference realignment in the NCAA’s history. The SEC was a conference that Deaton said in the statement announcing the move would provide student-athletes with top-flight competition and unparalleled visibility. And the benefits would not stop there. MU’s new conference affiliation held ramifications for students, fans and the Columbia economy as a whole.
“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri,” Deaton said.
More than seven years later, a team of Missourian reporters explore the benefits — and drawbacks — of Missouri’s move to the Southeastern Conference, and examines whether one of the biggest decisions in the university’s history has been as much of a boon as it was advertised to be.