JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The University of Missouri should consider leaving the Big 12 and joining the Big Ten Conference if it gets an offer to do so, Gov. Jay Nixon said Friday.
The Big Ten said this week that it will be exploring over the next 12-18 months whether to expand its membership. It did not mention which schools it might add, if it decided to do so.
Missouri currently is part of the Big 12 Conference, which was formed in the mid-1990s when the Big 8 added four Texas universities.
Nixon said his alma mater should be open to the possibility of switching, primarily because he says the Big Ten has some excellent academic programs.
"I'm not going to say anything bad about the Big 12, but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern, when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you begin looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at," Nixon said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"If a significant conference with a long history of academic and athletic excellence talks about you joining them, you shouldn't just say, `We're from the old Big 8 and I remember when ...
"If they want to talk, we should talk, and we should listen," Nixon added.
Missouri currently has a reciprocal tuition agreement with Kansas for several degree programs.
Those deals allow Missouri residents to study architecture at in-state tuition rates at the University of Kansas or Kansas State University. In exchange, Kansas residents can study dentistry or optometry at in-state tuition rates in the University of Missouri system.
Nixon suggested Missouri could develop similar academic arrangements with Big Ten universities.
He acknowledged that sports -- and the revenues they generate -- also would be a factor in any conference switch. But Nixon noted Missouri already regularly plays Illinois in sports and added that Missouri could continue to play archrival Kansas each year, even if it changed conferences.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)