While a crowd gathered in the student center Sunday afternoon waiting for MU to formally announce its move to the Southeastern Conference, student leaders had the opportunity to meet the visiting conference official’s minutes before the start of the press conference.
Some of the first students to have a chance to meet with the SEC officials were select members of the Missouri Students Association and the Graduate Professional Council, serving as representatives of MU’s student body.
Before the start of the press conference, MSA President Eric Woods and GPC President Kristofferson Culmer were introduced to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and University of Florida President Bernie Machen.
“I think it was very important for student leaders to greet the officials,” Woods said. “Without the students you wouldn’t have a university. I think it’s very important to have those representatives there and I think the (SEC officials) really enjoyed meeting with us.”
Woods was introduced by Athletics Director Mike Alden to the visiting SEC members and said the introduction was a brief but warm welcome from the conference leaders.
“We met the commissioner and his wife, and they were very nice and very welcoming,” Woods said.
Culmer said Alden approached Woods and him because of the message it would send to the SEC contingent that the first students to greet them would be both undergraduate and graduate MU student leaders, representing the student support for the move.
“It was an exciting experience,” Culmer said. “It gave me a good feeling about the arrangement.”
Following the press event in the student center, student leaders joined MU and SEC officials in a reception where Woods said he and other leaders had a better chance to get to know their fellow conference members.
Culmer said during the meeting he spoke with Machen about the cultural similarities between MU and Florida and how the conference change will benefit each school in the SEC.
“We talked about school mostly,” Culmer said. “He was really adamant about there not being too much difference between the universities and talked about collaborating in the future. He seemed to be very excited about Mizzou.”
By joining the SEC, MU becomes the 14th member of the conference. According to a news release from the SEC, MU will become an official member July 1, 2012.
“It was really just a great event,” Woods said. “I’m glad we had the opportunity to meet with them and welcome them to Mizzou.”
During the press conference, Slive said the SEC is proud to be able to include a school of MU’s academic stature into the conference.
“I think in the short term you won’t see much of a difference other than in athletics,” Culmer said. “But hopefully in the long term we should be able to build stronger academic, research and other collaborative relationships with schools in the South East.”
Woods said it is unknown how the conference change will impact academics at MU.
“I can see it in the near future perhaps helping us in terms of recruitment,” Woods said. “I don’t know how the academics will be changed. The SEC has a lot of really academically powerful universities.”
Even as the reception ended and the SEC officials returned home, the impact the conference change will have on MU remained clear to student leaders.
“Everyone was very nice and very excited to be there,” Woods said. “They treated us like family. It was a good SEC welcome in my opinion.”