On his first Monday morning of business as an athletics director in the Southeastern Conference, Mike Alden was wearing a bright yellow Mizzou Golf polo and his usual thin-rimmed glasses, and a flag was being raised behind him.
“I want you to think back to 1839, when the University of Missouri was founded,” he said before a contingency of media members and fans on the Walsworth Plaza outside the North entrance of Mizzou Arena. “You think over the course of well over 100 years, student athletes and coaches, and staff, and chancellors, and faculty members, and staff members, wherever they might be, all worked together to be able to see Mizzou move forward. Today gives us another opportunity to recognize another moment in time in history to be able to move forward.”
It was important to signify MU’s adoption into the SEC, Alden said. Though that adoption was official on Sunday, he said it might have been difficult to rally people on church day.
At the stroke of midnight July 1, the online countdowns expired and Missouri was ushered into the SEC with wide celebration throughout Columbia and among the team's fans.
All the while, Alden — having officially completed the long process of league conversion from the Big 12 Conference — was at his home with family, watching a rerun of "Saturday Night Live" hosted by Emma Stone with a musical appearance by Coldplay, who performed “Paradise.”
Alden was asked to describe all it took for the day to finally come.
“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It’s been a daily effort, no matter if it’s having to change the sign at the Hearnes Center to taking a look at our recruiting budget … It’s just been a myriad of things we’ve been working on.”
He was sure to express final gratitude to the Big 12, formerly the Big Eight, the home of Alden and Missouri for the past 16 years and all 14 years of his tenure.
“We would not have the opportunity to do the things we’re able to do today — we would not have been as well-prepared had it not been for our association with the Big 12 Conference,” he said before the SEC flag was hoisted.
Throughout the year, Alden answered questions concerning matters such as the program’s ability to compete in the SEC, regarded as, what he called, “the strongest athletic conference top to bottom in the United States of America.” He heard fans’ worries of league rival Kansas ending the century-old Border Showdown, disintegrated as of now.
“These types of decisions, they don't just stay in your head,” Alden said. “They’re in your heart, too.”
He said that the real work was just beginning, that Missouri’s real acclimation to the SEC would be made over the span of several years.
“It’s not like you just move to a new neighborhood and everything’s going to be peaches and cream right away,” he said. “Everything’s going to be new.”
Gary Anders and Kathy Ungles, members of the athletics department, rolled down the pole’s chain and people watched quietly as the flag was clipped on. Alden remarked that the chain would hold the flag firmly. The cheering started once it reached the top.