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SEC official visits MU, encourages St. Louis bid for tourneys

SEC official visits MU, encourages St. Louis bid for tourneys

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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Arkansas is "on the table" to become Mizzou's divisional crossover rival in the Southeastern Conference and the SEC is hopeful that St. Louis and Kansas City will bid for future men's and women's conference basketball tournaments, SEC transition chair Larry Templeton said Monday at Mizzou Arena.

St. Louis Sports Commission President Frank Viverito was intrigued to hear Templeton's words. And then some.

"We would welcome the opportunity to bid on their championships," Viverito said by e-mail Monday evening, adding, "And it goes without saying that we look forward to working with Mizzou any chance we get.

"We also would consider a football bowl game with an SEC tie. This opens a potential new market for St. Louis."

Speaking before a basketball game between impending SEC members Mizzou and Texas A&M as he prepared to meet with MU officials on Tuesday, Templeton noted that the SEC likes to move its basketball tournaments around:

This year's men's tourney is in New Orleans, next year's is in Nashville, and it's also been held in outposts such as Tampa and Memphis.

While he suggested the SEC football championship game isn't likely to ever be moved out of Atlanta, he acknowledged the SEC is having conversations about trying to add bowl affiliations. If MU and A&M had been in the conference this season, he said, it would have needed more games.

"Whether we will do it quickly or not, I'm not sure," he said. "But the other good part is that our TV partner, ESPN, owns some bowls, and they have an open slot in one of those bowls. So we'll have some conversations with them. (And) to be honest, there have been some bowls that have contacted us."

When it comes to bowl pecking order, a source of frustration for Mizzou fans in the Big 12, Templeton painted a rosy picture of how it works in the SEC.

"We do it strictly by we let the bowl say which team they want and we let the school say which bowl they want. And if we have a conflict there, we'll sit down and work it out," he said. "And I've been in this league 21 years, and we've never had a conflict.

"The one thing that this conference has always been able to do is have a sense of doing what's best for the conference. It's always come together."

Templeton reiterated that the 2012 SEC football schedule is a one-time model that was done "strictly to make it work" after A&M and MU joined in the fall and that the conference will start over in terms of putting together a long-term format.

About the only certainty going forward is that the number of conference games will be fixed at eight.

"We're not going to nine," he said. "The competitiveness in our league week-to-week is just too strong. It would be an easier scheduling format, but I don't think it would be fair to our players or our coaches."

A key question is whether the SEC will proceed with a permanent cross-divisional rival. For next year, anyway, that rival for Mizzou of the SEC East will be Texas A&M of the West.

But with six division games, having a cross-divisional rival means schools from different divisions might not see each other for more than a decade in football.

"That is a huge question that has not been answered ... It will be an interesting debate," said Templeton, adding, "I think anything else is on the table for discussion. We're going to have to make some tough decisions. Are we going to stay with the permanent opponent, and then (if so) how are we going to rotate that one other game?"

For that matter, even the "permanent" opponent could change: Templeton said Mizzou and Arkansas is "on the table" as a crossover game. It's also conceivable, albeit improbable, that divisional alignments could change.

"I don't look for the divisional makeup to change real quickly: That was the decision that the presidents made, and I think we would have to have some sound reasoning as to why we would want to change that," Templeton said, adding, "That's not (the) athletic directors' decision. That's a bylaw that would have to be voted on by the presidents of the league."

As for the basketball setup, Templeton said the SEC will stay at 16 conference games next year but move to 18 in 2013-2014. That format remains uncertain.

Asked what MU's transitional challenges are, he assumed the question was aimed at football and said, "We've seen 'em. They're going to be OK. Now, the thing that's going to be, I think, a little shocking is the fan support of the institutions and how serious that our fan bases in the SEC take Saturday afternoon or Saturday evenings, but I think they've got the pieces in place."

He added: "It's going to be tough week in and week out when you start playing five in a row of our guys."

As for the more broad view, Templeton said 10-12 members of MU's transition team will meet with the SEC in Birmingham next week to talk about everything from SEC compliance to how its digital media rights work to student seating and crowd control matters.

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