It’s a new season in the Southeastern Conference.
The league officially welcomed two new members — Missouri and Texas A&M — last Sunday, expanding the conference from 12 to 14 teams. It marks the first time the league has added two new members since Arkansas and South Carolina joined the conference in 1992.
Big 12 into a steady league that features traditional football powerhouses Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia and South¿Carolina. Missouri brings a solid football pedigree to the table and isn’t bad in men’s basketball, either. The Tigers will join Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Vanderbilt and South¿Carolina in the Eastern division. Almost immediately, Missouri figures to contend for the Eastern conference title in football and will give the league a boost in men’s basketball. In football, Missouri went 8-5 overall and posted a 5-1 mark at home. The Tigers didn’t fare as well on the road, going 1-4 in games played away from home. The team’s success at home could be bad news for Kentucky, which takes on Missouri in the first conference encounter between the two teams on Oct. 27 in Columbia.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has guided the Tigers to seven consecutive bowl games and has played in eight postseason contests during his tenure as coach.
The men’s basketball team posted a 30-5 record last season and also was successful in games played at home. The Tigers compiled an impressive 16-1 record in Columbia and went 14-4 against Big 12 foes. Current¿Arkansas coach Mike Anderson elevated the Missouri men’s basketball program to a new level and Frank Haith reaped the rewards in his first season last year.
Like the Tigers, the Aggies, who will join Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Auburn and LSU in the SEC¿West, has always been a traditionally power in football and went 7-6 last season. Texas A&M defeated Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas and welcomes a new coach — Kevin Sumlin — to help usher in its entrance into the league.
The men’s basketball team struggled to a 15-18 mark in Billy Kennedy’s initial season and went 4-14 in the Big 12. The Aggies compiled a 12-7 record at home, compared to a 1-8 mark on the road.
Kentucky coach John¿Calipari said the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, once led by Calipari’s predecessor Billy Gillespie, will give the league a boost. The Kentucky coach said the competitive spirit in the SEC¿helped prepare the Wildcats to win their eighth national championship last season.
"Think about what happens now,”said Calipari, who has led the Wildcats to three consecutive SEC¿Tournament titles in his first three seasons as coach of the Wildcats. “Now we start moving up a notch in where everybody is. I think, again, seven teams in our league, half of our league is going to be in the NCAA tournament. That's what I believe. And I think that will be from here on in.”
In an era of mergers and combining resources, adding the Tigers and Aggies makes sense and will only make the league stronger and better. The expansion is a win-win for both schools and the SEC.