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Notes from R. Bowen Loftin's media session

8/15/2011

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin was given the power to negotiate on the behalf of the university with regards to a possible change in conference affiliation by a unanimous vote of the Texas A&M Board of Regents.

Loftin, outfitted with his signature maroon and white bowtie, met with reporters for 14 minutes after the vote was taken, but not before greeting the media with a "Howdy!" His media sitdown was his first since telling reporters that there was "uncertainty" regarding Texas A&M's future in the Big 12 back on July 20.

The following day, July 21, Loftin contacted SEC commissioner Mike Slive, and the two have been in communication since, Loftin said.

He stressed that no decision had been made yet, but the regents' decision on Monday allows the possibility of one occurring in the future. There is no timeline for a decision, and there is no set end for Loftin's possession of negotiating and decision-making power.

"It's not so much what's wrong with the Big 12, it's what's right for Texas A&M," he said of the decision.

Loftin said there are too many variables that must be settled before he could say whether or not he would accept a bid to the SEC, but said there has never been a bid to the SEC issued to Texas A&M.

He also added that the SEC's decision to make no action toward Texas A&M on Sunday was expected.

As for the detail surrounding timing, Loftin cited Nebraska's letter to the Big 12 last summer, which stated that if given the opportunity to join the Big Ten, it would leave the Big 12. Nebraska announced its decision to leave the Big 12 in June of 2010 and officially joined the Big Ten on July 1, 2011.

Loftin declined to say that the end goal with being given decision-making power was to reach the SEC, and said that Big 12 membership was still an option for Texas A&M.

Loftin met with Texas A&M coaches over the weekend and encouraged them to ask questions. Athletic director Bill Byrne is overseas with the basketball team until Sunday, and Loftin felt he owed the university's coaches a chance to catch up with the happenings inside the university.

Texas A&M also hopes to keep its football game with Texas, should the Aggies leave the Big 12.

"If we were to negotiate with any conference, SEC or anybody else, a primary criterion would be our ability to continue a nonconference contest each year," Loftin said. He also said that he had not contacted any other conferences. "Hopefully on Thanksgiving Day or thereabouts with our friends at UT-Austin. That's a historic rivalry. We see no reason why it could not continue under a different conference arrangement."

Loftin also stressed that he did not want the Big 12 to go away, but called the conference's bylaws "confusing" and that there was "a lot of room" to discuss how much it would ultimately cost A&M to leave. He said the university had not begun the process of finding that out, however.

Also on Monday, the Texas House postponed a state congressional hearing related to Texas A&M's possible departure. The hearing was originally set for Tuesday.

Texas Rep. Dan Branch, the chairman of the Higher Education committee that was to have hosted the hearing, had said it was in the best interest of the students of the state of Texas, including at Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor, to address the matter in a public forum.

"While events may continue to evolve in the coming weeks, at this time, there is no immediate need to evaluate the merits of an athletic conference reconfiguration involving Texas A&M University and, potentially, other Texas public universities," Branch said in a statement released Monday afternoon. "If the current situation changes, our committee is prepared to convene."