Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Aggies take the biggest leap on road to SEC
By David Ubben
The first sign came at a word.
When it came to Texas A&M's relationship with the Big 12, Texas and its Longhorn Network had created it.
Texas A&M's regents met on July 20 before Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin told waiting media of the uncertainty, and a day later, Loftin dialed up his good friend, SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who Loftin says he'd last spoken to at the Cotton Bowl months earlier.
The league's board of directors met, and everyone appeared to be on the plane, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry let slip that the Aggies and SEC were engaging in "conversations."
But those conversations couldn't get far unless Loftin had the power to turn them into movement toward the SEC. So, on Aug. 15, the university's board of regents gave it to him.
And with that power, he decided to go for a leisurely "conference exploration."
Call it a nature hike, I suppose, full of wild boars, some new breeds of Tigers, a wild Game or two and some Gators way east.
He asked the Big 12 to let him know, if, by some chance, he wanted his university to leave, what it would take.
The Big 12 responded, and most importantly, agreed to mutual waivers of legal claims. There won't be any drawn out litigation between Texas A&M and the Big 12, regardless of who is the plaintiff and who is the defendant.
But now, with Wednesday's news that Texas A&M plans to withdraw from the Big 12 if its application to a new conference is accepted, the Aggies have taken by far the biggest leap on their road to the SEC.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe released a statement shortly after.
"The presidents and chancellors of the nine remaining member institutions are steadfast in their commitment to the Big 12. As previously stated, the conference will move forward aggressively exploring its membership options," he said.
So for now, nobody's hiding intentions and keeping a foot in both camps.
Texas A&M is ready to leave.
The Big 12 is ready to move on.
Texas A&M presumably has gotten some assurance that the necessary nine of 12 votes are accounted for to be accepted into the SEC and officially leave the Big 12.
And now, there's the issue of "exit fees," which is incoming conference revenue withheld from the university as part of the Big 12 bylaws.
Texas A&M has given less than one year's notice of withdrawal and more than six months, which means the league's bylaws state it will be subject to forfeit 90 percent of its revenue from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.
That number is somewhere in the ballpark of $28 million to $30 million.
But there's a precedent that it may be less.
Nebraska was due to lose 80 percent of its revenue when it left the league last summer, but settled on 48 percent for a total of $9.255 million.
Could Texas A&M do the same? It's hard to see why it couldn't, but those negotiations may heat up very soon.
Or not. Nebraska announced it was leaving in June 2010. The league and school settled in September 2010.
The Aggies won't be in limbo that long, but the school says there won't be a news conference to announce a move today. A spokesman also said the focus is on game week.
Which means, for now, this could be all the public hears.
But next week?
Texas A&M is off following its Sunday night opener against SMU.
Look for an announcement during the bye week, before a Sept. 17 date with Idaho.
Until then? The wait may be painful. It might get a bit awkward.
But for Texas A&M, life is good out on the limb.