Breathe!

Okay, folks, relax. Texas and Oklahoma and Texas A&M say it’s okay with them if Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State can play Big 12 games against them. The Big 12 conference has been saved. Missouri Tiger fans who have spent the last week worrying that the end of the world is near can breathe again. Sports writers and sports talk show hosts and office analysts can quit coming up with conspiracy theories and scenarios and start focusing on real sports issues such as the World Cup.

We were watching things here in the Missourinet newsroom with a little more interest because our parent company, Learfield Communications (which was founded as Missouri Network, Inc. by the way) is one of the country’s big players in collegiate sports broadcasting and marketing. Managing Editor Brent Martin and Sports Director Bill Pollack took care of the detailed discussions of conspiracies and scenarios. But now they can focus on the important things. Clearly the Royals have needed more attention than Bill has given them. Today, the Governor is holding a little get together to talk news with the Capitol press corps (see last week’s “Travelin’ Man Jay” blog) and Brent is fulfilling our promise to provide doughnuts (see TMJ blog again).

But getting back to the story line…

If you go to the basement of the Learfield Mother Ship at 505 Hobbs Road in Jefferson City you will see specially-designed cubicles with lots and lots of football helmets indicating our company fully understands the big bucks nature of today’s intercollegiate athletics. On game days and nights that part of our building hums and buzzes with activity. That’s where we produce the broadcasts our company does for more than fifty major universities coast to coast. Until this week, Learfield produced the broadcasts for eight of the Big 12 schools, two of the Pac 10 schools, and six of the Big 10 (which was actually 11) schools. Now, our company produces broadcasts of seven of the ten Bigt 12 schools, three of the Pac 10’s eleven schools, and six of the Big 10s twelve schools.

And that gets us to one of the important stories lost in all of these gymnastics—the non-sports impact of moving to a different conference. Schools are members of conferences, not athletics department. Schools. The emphasis is on the sports programs in these discussions, though, because of the huge monetary issues if for no other reason. But the Big Ten would not have invited the University of Missouri track team to join it.

The Big Ten would have invited the entire university (actually just the Columbia campus; a game between UMSL and The Ohio State University would not be very appealing)–the chemistry department, the English Department, the engineering department on the Columbia campus and perhaps most important of all, the math department.

In the Orwellian world where 12 is 10 and where 10 is 11 or 12, math could be king.

Set it up as an algebra equation: If 12 equals 10 and if ten equals 11 or 12, what does that make the Big 8?

The answer, obviously, is “yesterday.”

We tried last week to set up an interview with some movers and shakers on the Columbia campus to talk about the non-athletic impact of a conference change but they didn’t want to talk about that. However, it’s an important thing to address. What will the thousands of students at Nebraska gain when their school joins the Big Ten Conference? What will the thousands of students at Colorado gain when their school is fully part of the Pacific Ten Conference? What would the thousands of Missouri-Columbia students have gained if the school had moved to the Big Ten or the Southeast or some other conference? We know a few hundred student-athletes will gain some things. But how about the THOUSANDS of non-hyphenated students?

Would the science labs be able to do more cutting-edge research? Would the quality of social work education be improved? Would better-educated teachers be graduated? Would the medical school give us better doctors and nurses? Would agriculture research move to a higher level? Would the history department be more scholarly? And on and on.

Don Faurot, the great Tiger football coach so revered that the University has put up a statue of him, wrote sixty years ago, “The department of athletics is only one part of the show, not the main event.”

Those words are not inscribed on the base of his statue.

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