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Mizzou vs. Vandy

Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli shoots over Missouri's Laurence Bowers in a game last December at Mizzou Arena. If the Big 12 Conference disintegrates, Mizzou could find itself playing Vanderbilt on a regular basis as a member of the Southeastern Conference. (Getty Images)

As speculation escalates about where various schools, including Mizzou, will land on the conference realignment carousel, Charles Bloom of the SEC said in a phone interview on Tuesday that the conference has made no recent offers for others to join it.

“The SEC has not extended an invitation to any school beyond Texas A&M since it extended invitations to Arkansas and South Carolina,” said Bloom, associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference.

Bloom declined to comment further about rampant conjecture as a monstrous domino in the game looms: Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech continue to mull options to leave the Big 12, most apparently to the Pac-12 if it opts to expand.

If all four or even two of those schools leave, the Big 12 likely could only survive with radical repopulating, possibly in some form of merger with a Big East that learned over the weekend it will lose Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC.

Mizzou, though, yet could be a plausible SEC candidate. Its Board of Curators has called a public meeting for Thursday but the agenda did not include a specific mention of conference realignment as the Oklahoma and Texas meetings earlier this week did. Instead, the Mizzou meeting mentioned executive session for “consideration of certain lease, contract, personnel items and confidential or privileged communications with university counsel, all as authorized by law and upon approval by resolution of the board of curators.”

As the Post-Dispatch reported Monday and Tuesday, an end of the Big 12 as it currently exists could be a key to evolving SEC thinking on MU.

Despite its provisional acceptance of Texas A&M, philosophically the SEC has not wanted to be perceived as responsible for the demise of the Big 12, a stance reinforced by the Baylor-led threats of litigation.

Between that and at least an initial desire to look east for geographical balance and questions about whether MU’s brand and accompanying markets would add enough value to justify dividing the pie further, Mizzou hadn’t figured strongly in SEC discussions.

But if the Big 12 folds, the SEC surely will look more closely at MU.

And the state’s two top 30 TV markets, Mizzou’s academic reputation, recent football success and men’s basketball tradition and the fact it’s contiguous to three SEC states becomes more noteworthy.

Especially when the SEC appears to be holding tight to its “gentleman’s agreement” not to add schools from states already within its footprint: Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville, for instance.

In the event of Oklahoma, Texas and Co. leaving, what’s not known is whether the SEC would feel obligated to lay off the remaining Big 12 schools if they are entered in serious discussions with the Big East to salvage a league.

At a glance, that would appear to be an entry point that would be less than predatory. But that’s in the eye of the beholder, and Baylor chancellor Ken Starr could be a litigious wild card waiting to be played.