Friday, August 12, 2011

WTF is going on with Texas A&M?

I thought we were done with the whole conference realignment thing for a while, but Texas A&M seems really dedicated to seeing this through (or just really desperate to get out of the Big 12):
HOUSTON -- The Texas A&M System board of regents has called a special meeting Monday that includes an agenda item about conference alignment. The session comes amid speculation that Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.

The item, part of the executive session agenda, is called: "Authorization for the President to Take All Actions Relating to Texas A&M University's Athletic Conference Alignment, The Texas A&M University System."

The news of the meeting comes on the heels of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education calling a Tuesday hearing, to which Big 12, SEC and Texas A&M officials have been invited, to discuss possible realignment of college conferences in the state.

Texas Rep. Dan Branch said the Tuesday meeting has been scheduled in part "because we are hearing Texas A&M and the SEC are talking more seriously and we are hearing about a possible vote (for invitation) by SEC presidents." Branch said he's heard the SEC vote could be as early as Saturday.
This isn't quite the same as "I heard Notre Dame and Texas and Rutgers are going to the Big Ten to make a superconference!" There's definitely something going on here, with Texas A&M moving its Board of Regents meeting up to Monday in order to make a decision before the Texas House can talk about the situation.

If you're thinking "Why would Texas A&M wanna leave the Big 12," you haven't been paying attention. Texas is going to financially dominate the rest of the conference for the foreseeable future, and with the jealousy that situation's sure to create among the schools that could do better by jumping ship (like Oklahoma and Texas A&M), the Big 12 is and will continue to be teetering on the brink of implosion. If you can get out and find a safe home -- or a better one, in this case -- you should do it.

Remember two days ago (you might not if your memory is as pathetic as mine)? I wrote this about the Longhorn Network and Texas' soon-to-be-massive pile of money:
If you think it's bad for the long-term viability of the Big 12 that one school can market its own rights and make three times what everybody else does, you're right (I don't think it would take much of a sales pitch from the SEC to get Oklahoma and A&M to jump ship and completely obliterate the conference).
Yeah ... that was somewhat prophetic.

Anyway, between the aforementioned financial situation and Texas A&M's "little brother" inferiority complex, being able to play the SEC card and be a different fish in a different pond rather than a smaller fish in Burnt Orange Pond has to be pretty tempting. And given the way this thing has progressed over the past few days, it's starting to sound more and more like an inevitability. This is a tweet from Kirk Bohls, a pretty well-respected and connected columnist at the Austin American-Statesman:
Texas AD DeLoss Dodds tells me "it looks to me like they're leaving."
That's pretty straightforward.

Assuming this thing goes through and isn't headed off in the legislature or wherever, the million-dollar question: What happens next? There's no way the SEC just wants to bring in one team and stop at 13 overall (seven in one division and six in the other), so maybe there's more to the Florida State situation than we know:

Florida State is another school that has been mentioned as a potential new addition to the SEC. But university President Eric Barron said he hasn't had any talks about his school leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference for the SEC. Still, he didn't say it would never happen.

Barron said Friday that while he finds speculation fascinating, he has not had any talks about Florida State moving from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The only schools that jump out as obvious candidates are Oklahoma (for the reasons mentioned above) and Florida State, which could greatly enhance its financial situation and not really lose anything -- it'd be easy to flip the Labor Day matchup with Miami to a nonconference game (like it was for years when Miami was in the Big East) and make Florida-Florida State a huge SEC game rather than the strangely meaningless end-of-season rivalry game that it is currently.

If it's Oklahoma, the Big 12 is probably done. The rest of the schools (everyone except Texas) might be desperate enough to stick together that they'd be willing to bring in Tulsa and/or Houston and/or whoever else they can add to get to 10 teams, but would Texas really have any desire to beat up on the WAC South each year? Keep in mind that Texas views itself as the biggest and best in every sport, not just football, so relegating the school's other athletic programs to essentially mid-major status wouldn't be a real desirable option. Texas would become an independent (and find a new home for its other sports), the Big 12 would be extinct and there'd be a whole bunch of schools between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains trying to figure out what to do next. It'd be pretty crazy ... and everybody thought it'd be the Big Ten that would blow up the conference structure as we know it.

Anyway, I won't go too far with the doomsday scenarios until something actually, like, happens. But if the SEC issues an invitation Saturday (as was mentioned above as a possibility), we should know A&M's fate pretty soon.


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