SEC purists must make room for Missouri, Texas A&M

After months of might-be, could-be … it’s finally official and officially final – Missouri is in the Southeastern Conference.

The move solidifies the SEC’s westward expansion from 12 schools to 14, with Texas A&M already admitted to our country club.

The operative word is country, as in truck-drivin’, grits-eatin country. For a bunch of rednecks, the SEC is pretty elite company, and I’m not so sure Texas A&M and Missouri belong.

Let’s give Mizzou and the Aggies the Southern sniff test. Do they fit into our collection of 11 good ‘ol boy schools plus Vanderbilt? Do they tailgate with wine and cheese or beer and barbecue? Is spring football their No. 1 sport behind fall football?

Of course, I had the same reservations when South Carolina and Arkansas joined 20 years ago, but they have proven to be great additions. Both, considered basketball schools back in early 1990s, have improved their football programs to look like SEC schools. Besides, can you get more country than Gamecocks and Razorbacks?

With a name like the Aggies, Texas A&M certainly fits our MO(O!) as a bunch of dirt farmers, but Tigers? Really? We already have two of them – one in defending BCS champion Auburn and another in this year’s BCS champion LSU – and three is a crowd. Of course, it probably beats the “Show-Mes” or whatever state motto they choose.

There’s also debate about whether Texas and Missouri are actually in the South. Forget about the Mason-Dixon Line, which also says those funny-talkin’ folks from Maryland are Southern. I’m talking about the real South; we know it when we see it.

Culturally, if not geographically, there are strong arguments for both states that make them Southern. Texas was part of the 11-state Confederacy, and the 12th and 13th stars on the battle flag represented Missouri and Kentucky, which didn’t join but certainly were strong supporters. We forgave Kentucky years ago.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit both states and schools, and trust me, Texas is Southern. It’s a place where football and barbecue are religions and pick-up trucks have bumper stickers that say “My other vehicle is a pick-up truck.”

Much of Missouri also is country as corn. If you think of it as America’s mini-me, then St. Louis is New York City, Kansas City is L.A., and everything in the middle is Middle America, pig farms and all. In fact, even though the “Beverly Hillbillies” were from Arkansas, Granny’s folks were from Mizzou.

But the real test comes in their sports priorities, and both seem to have them straight. Texas A&M is much improved in football this season and Missouri has been a Big 12 contender for years. Yes, they still care about hoops, but the SEC could use a little basketball boost, you know, just to keep up with other conferences. We have Kentucky for that.

The oddest part is that Missouri is going to compete in the SEC East despite being the SEC’s westernmost school. That forces them to travel to Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt as opposed to the closer SEC West schools. Maybe they should be the Missouri Travelers.

But for all the geographical and cultural concerns, I can honestly say that Texas A&M and Missouri will make excellent additions to the league in the long run. And if the SEC decides to expand to 16, say, with East Carolina and South Florida, we can balance the East/West divisions along geographical lines.

So SEC purists can get over the snobbery and let the Aggies and Tigers in the clubhouse. There’s always room for more in this error of super-conference expansion, and Texas A&M and Mizzou are at the very least our country cousins.

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