MU's Deaton confirms willingness to listen to Big Ten

Separate statements issued less than one hour apart on Tuesday expressed a will by the Big Ten Conference to expand its membership and a way that Missouri would be willing to be considered in that expansion.

Shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday, Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton issued this response to a post on The Star's Campus Corner blog about the school's willingness to listen to an overture to join the Big Ten: “The University of Missouri has not been contacted by the Big Ten. Should there be an official inquiry or invitation, we would evaluate it based upon what would be in the best interest of MU athletically and academically." At 3 p.m., the Big Ten, on its Web site, issued a statement that the Big Ten Conference of Presidents/Chancellors had discussed expansion at the group's winter meetings on Dec. 6 in Park Ridge, Ill., and that: “The COP/C has asked the conference office to obtain, to the extent possible, information necessary to construct preliminary options and recommendations without engaging in formal discussions with leadership of other institutions.

“If and when such discussions become necessary the COP/C has instructed Commissioner James E. Delany to inform the Chair of the COP/C, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, and then to notify the commissioner of the affected conference(s).

“Only after these notices have occurred will the Big Ten engage in formal expansion discussions with other institutions. This process will allow the Big Ten to evaluate options, while respecting peer conferences and their member institutions.”

The Big Ten statement said the presidents/chancellors group expected no action “in the near term." Further, the statement said there would be no interim comments from the Big 10 or its presidents and chancellors.

Missouri officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the Big 12 Conference bowl selection process, a process that has undercut the accomplishments of the MU football team in each of the last three seasons.

On Monday, on the Campus Corner blog, The Star detailed the possibility and possible willingness of Missouri to explore a move to the Big Ten if approached by officials of that conference.

Also on Monday, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee told the Columbus Dispatch that he sees a need to add a twelfth team to the current 11-team Big Ten. "We have to be thoroughly modern and realize the world has moved on, and having a playoff for the Big Ten championship makes sense," Gee said. "I'm not planting a stake in the ground on that issue, but it's something we now need to tackle." Missouri has historically been considered a candidate for moving to the Big Ten, with proponents seeing the school as a good fit academically as well as athletically. For years the contention has been the Big Ten coveted the inclusion of Notre Dame, even while Notre Dame has continued on as a profitable and successful football independent. Other schools mentioned as possible candidates for the Big Ten have been Pitt and Rutgers, and in some circles Nebraska.