The New York Times is reporting Missouri's decision to officially apply for membership in the Southeastern Conference is "inevitable and imminent."
The newspaper, citing an official familiar with school decisions involving conference affiliation, reported Monday night that Mizzou officials expect to get enough votes among SEC presidents to become a member, although the school would still need to be formally invited to join the conference.
Missouri curators, who must approve any change in conference alignment, are scheduled to next meet at the University of Missouri, Kansas City on Oct. 20-21.
While interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said last week he expects Mizzou to stay in the league and SEC commissioner Mike Slive has said the conference has no immediate expansion plans, The Times reported the Tigers could join the SEC as early as next year.
SEC presidents voted to accept Texas A&M as the league's 13th member in September and several SEC athletic directors have suggested that adding a 14th team to balance league schedules is inevitable.
Mizzou curators agreed unanimously earlier this month to give Chancellor Brady Deaton the authority to look elsewhere rather than immediately commit to the Big 12. A 45-page document presented to curators suggests the school would hope to get as much as $12 million more each year in additional revenue with a move to the SEC if TV deals are renegotiated.
The document, which was obtained by The Associated Press, states Missouri would not suffer a dramatic loss in academic prestige with an SEC move. The SEC has three other members of the prestigious Association of American Universities: Florida, soon-to-arrive Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, the same number as the Big 12 now has, excluding Missouri.
TCU accepted an invitation last week to join the Big 12. The Horned Frogs will replace the Aggies, keeping the league at 10 members when the Aggies leave for the SEC next July.
While TCU will be the first new member since the Big 12 started play in 1996, Texas A&M will be the third school to leave. Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) left this year.
A source with direct knowledge of the Big 12's expansion panel's plans told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that if Missouri departs, the Big 12 still must decide if it wants to go to 10 or 12 members. The source said Louisville and West Virginia are two of the top candidates to replace Missouri if it leaves.
While Missouri is a charter member of the Big 12, founded in
1996 when the Big Eight schools added four members of the defunct
Southwest Conference, dissatisfaction with the conference has
grown. In the early '90s, with the Big Eight on the verge of
collapse, Missouri pushed to join the Big Ten and a group of state
business leaders even formed a lobbying group.
Asked at a news conference last week about the potential costs of a league departure -- hours before curators discussed the financial document -- Deaton demurred.
"We're really just beginning the exploration of our options, and those figures will become very clear during that process," he said. "At this time we've made no decision (to leave). That's a bit of a hypothetical."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz was used in this report.