Missouri officials prepared to talk expansion with Big Ten

Published 2:12 am Wednesday, June 9, 2010

COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of Missouri curators appear poised to discuss the school’s possible interest in joining an expanded Big Ten Conference. But any inquiring reporters need not bother asking about a move that could trigger a seismic shift in college sports.

The 10-member Board of Curators meets Thursday and Friday in Columbia amid reports of a Friday deadline imposed by the Big 12 for Missouri and Nebraska to affirm their commitment to their current conference. The two schools are among the leading candidates should the Big Ten broaden its membership.

An agenda released Tuesday afternoon says the curators and system president Gary Forsee won’t comment on “Big Ten or Big 12 athletics matters” at the sessions.

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But the agenda also shows curators will take the unusual step of meeting in a closed session as soon as they arrive on Thursday morning. And they will meet again behind closed doors after Friday’s public session, as is customary.

None of the nine curators contacted Tuesday by The Associated Press responded to a request for comment. And a university spokeswoman responded to questions about the meeting as well as whether the school has hired its own consultant to study conference realignment with a three-sentence statement that was previously issued and emphasizes its current conference affiliation.

The Big Ten announced late last year it is considering adding at least one school, and possibly more, to add a league championship game in football and broaden the reach of its cable television network. Its decision has created a ripple throughout the power conferences, causing the Pac-10 to mull its own expansion and threatening the survival of the Big 12, which in addition to Missouri and Nebraska could also lose as many as six schools to a 16-team Pac-10.

Big 12 school presidents and athletic directors concluded a four-day meeting in Kansas City last week with no clear sense — at least publicly — that the 14-year-old league will survive.

Assistant commissioner Bob Burda said Tuesday that the Big 12 is done talking about expansion and conference realignment, for now anyway.

“There will be no further comment from the conference,” he told the AP. “We’re in a quiet period right now.”