Get used to purgatory, Missouri

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany followed his protocol, placing a call to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe on Friday morning to notify him that they would be accepting Nebraska's application into the Big Ten.

Beebe had no further comments on Nebraska's departure, calling it "disappointing."

But Delany didn't mention another team looking for inclusion to the Big Ten, Missouri.

"My understanding is there aren't any other conference members considered by the Big Ten," Beebe said.

That's a big uh-oh in Columbia for a school that's turned the Forgotten Four into the Forlorn Five over the course of the past week. Missouri may end up getting a Big Ten invite when the conference makes its next move toward expansion, something Delany said could happen in the future. But Delany, altering his previously stated timeline, shows just how badly he wanted the Huskers in his league.

"We were ready to move more quickly when this opportunity arose,” he said.

But it also shows that Missouri won't be placed on the fast track for membership. And if five Big 12 South teams split for the Pac-10 next week, Missouri's position in the league will only become more awkward. With the Big Ten still in play, don't expect Missouri to fully commit to the other four teams whose best bet include a partnership with the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, or obliterating the Big 12 for a move to the Big East.

"When 'the dust settles,' Mizzou will be in a strong position nationally," athletic director Mike Alden said in a statement. "We don't know the timeline of all of these activities, so your patience and commitment is appreciated."

Alden has a lot of faith, and he should. As the head of the athletic department, he has to. He didn't place any qualifiers on that statement. But the second half is more telling: Missouri may still have to abide by the Big Ten's original timeline.

In short, Missouri's future could be in limbo through 2010 and into next year. How far -- and if it ends -- is up to Delany.

Delany apologized on Friday for leaving schools unsure of their future. Clearly, Missouri falls under that umbrella.

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman pointed to comments from Missouri "not fully supportive of the Big 12" as a reason for leaving, and it was a good one. That's not going to change until an opportunity to join the Big Ten is completely off the table.

Missouri deserves a good amount of blame in a Big 12 breakup, too, but unlike Kansas and Kansas State, they can't fully commit to a cleanup -- however that ends up looking.

If Missouri spends the next six to 12 months riding the fence between committing to the remaining members of the Big 12 and positioning itself for an invitation to the Big Ten, its relationship with schools like Kansas and Kansas State will only splinter further. And unless that invitation to apply arrives in the end, Missouri better get used to a whole lot of awkwardness.