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The University of Missouri Move to SEC Due in Part to Decreased State Funding
Brady Deaton, Chancellor of the University of Missouri, said diminishing state funding for the University of Missouri attributed to its decision to move from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
The financial opportunities associated with the move to the SEC were a much publicized reason for the move, but the decision was also based in part to the financial insecurity from decreasing state funding, Deaton said earlier this week at the annual Missouri-Kansas Associated Press Publishers and Editors Meeting in Kansas City. The move will take place in July.
In a presentation, Deaton reported that Missouri's higher education funding has not kept up with the rate of inflation, remaining below levels that were funded in 2001. This year, the Missouri Department of Higher Education is budgeted to receive $834 million from state general revenues, much of which goes to colleges and universities. In the 2001 budget, the figure was $960 million.
In addition, Deaton acknowledged that the University of Missouri Board of Curators, which oversees a four-campus system that includes the University of Missouri - Columbia, has pushed for the athletic department to become self-sufficient financially.
Missouri ranks 11th among the 14 current and future SEC schools in overall athletics revenue, bringing in $59 million in the 2010-11 academic year. The University of Alabama topped the list of SEC schools, raking in approximately $124 million during the same period of time. Vanderbilt, Mississippi, and Mississippi State were the only schools that brought in less than Missouri.
In terms of stability and long-term financial advantages, Missouri's move to the SEC comes at a time when the Big 12's strength is in question as three schools had left or announced they would leave the conference already. Andy Staples, a columnist for SportsIllustrated.com, said after Missouri made public its plan to move to the SEC, "In an era of shrinking higher education budgets, they [public colleges and universities] have to pick the league that offers the most money and the most security for the longest time. There will come a day when taxpayers refuse to subsidize college athletics at public universities, and the schools in the conferences that make the most money will remain strong while the others fade away."
In addition, the Big 12 does not equally distribute its revenues to each school, but the SEC does. The average amount distributed to each SEC school last year was about $18.3 million. Missouri received about $10.3 million from the Big 12 in 2009-10 but is expected to receive $15 million-$17 million this year. Missouri also expects to add between $2 million to $4 million and possibly more annually in television revenues, Deaton said during his presentation. Other sources of anticipated revenue include increased ticket sales from SEC visitors. The Big 12 allots 3,850 tickets for visiting fans; meanwhile, the SEC reserves 7,000, an indication of the support from SEC fans.
Even though the university expects financial advantages from the move to the SEC, Missouri still also has to negotiate its exit fees for leaving the Big 12 and may face increased costs. Initial projections show that the school could pay as much as $23.3 million for an early departure from the conference. However, Missouri expects to pay the Big 12 between $10 and $12 million, noting that both Colorado paid $6.86 million and Nebraska paid $9.26 million in early departure penalties when leaving the conference earlier this year. The move may also cause the school and its supporters to spend significantly more money to compete with the other SEC schools' spending, such as Alabama, Florida, and LSU.
Overall, many incentives existed for Missouri to make the move to the SEC. As the state's higher education funding continued to diminish and the Big 12 Conference showed signs of weakening, the University of Missouri made the decision that many of us would if in a comparable situation. Staples makes the move analogous to an individual receiving a job offer from a stable, reputable company in an uncertain market with a job offer, a person "wouldn't think twice before accepting." The University of Missouri could not turn down joining the SEC because it is a long-term investment for the school's athletic and institutional wellbeing, students, Missourians, and Tigers fan everywhere.