Missouri appears to have finally made up its mind to leave the Big 12 and join the SEC, three sources close to the situation told Orangebloods.com.
The process is expected to begin Thursday or Friday, when Missouri's board of curators is scheduled to meet in Kansas City, the sources said.
Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas had indicated last week that Missouri was likely to be a member of the Big 12 in 2012-13 no matter what it decided. But sources said Missouri may try to become a member of the SEC in 2012-13.
The deadline for football scheduling in the 2012-13 school year is fast approaching, so Missouri's application could fit right under that deadline, the sources said.
If Missouri leaves the Big 12, there are differing views about if the Big 12 should proceed as a 10-member or 12-member league. But it appears the leading candidates to replace Missouri are West Virginia, Louisville and possibly BYU, the sources said.
If the league were to expand to 12, it could be all three.
BYU was long considered a top candidate to join the Big 12, but sources said BYU lost interest when the Big 12 appeared to be destabilizing in early September.
Since the Big 12 has talked about granting Tier 1 and 2 TV rights to the conference, BYU has felt better about possibly joining the Big 12, sources said. Although, it's unclear where BYU would be on the list of replacements for Missouri, the sources said.
One source said the top choices to replace Missouri would still be West Virginia or Louisville if the league was to remain at 10 members.
It's been a strange journey for Missouri, whose chancellor, Brady Deaton, was the head of the Big 12 Board of Directors and worked hard to hold the Big 12 together after Oklahoma expressed an interest in exploring its conference options on Sept. 2.
But as Missouri's board of curators and others at MU became more enamored with the idea of joining the SEC, Deaton had to step down from his position as head of the five-member Big 12 expansion committee and as the head of the league's board of directors.
Missouri also played a role in realignment in 2010 as its Gov. Jay Nixon told the Associated Press the Tigers were probably a better fit in the Big Ten than in the Big 12. Those comments prompted a group of six schools in the Big 12 (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado) to become targets of the Pac-12.
Nebraska ultimately got the Big Ten invitation, and Colorado left for the Pac-10.
Missouri would become the 14th member of the SEC, joining Texas A&M as members of the Big 12 to bolt for that league.
The SEC would be picking up its second American Association of Universities (AAU) member in Missouri (Texas A&M is the other). The AAU represents to top research universities in the country. Currently, only Florida and Vanderbilt are AAU members in the SEC.
As long as it appears the Big 12 will survive as a conference, it is unclear what legal threat the SEC may face from schools such as Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas.
But if Missouri was to leave the league, the conference realignment dominoes would begin falling again.