Believe it, Big 12 sticking around as 10
Texas A&M made itself the wild-card in conference realignment maneuverings, flirting with the SEC and threatening to set aside more than 100 years of rivalry with Texas to chart a new future.
But, the mega-TV dollars shoveled at the remaining Big 12 schools to avoid triggering an avalanche of mega-conference formation convinced the Aggies to walk away from the most powerful college football conference in the land.
"Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future," A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement. "As athletic director Bill Byrne and I have stated on numerous occasions, our hope and desire was for the Big 12 to continue. We are committed to the Big 12 and its success today and into the future."
Judging by activity on some Aggie fan sites, there is a contingent of disappointed and angry A&M fans who preferred a move to the SEC rather than compete in the 10-team Big 12.
A spokesperson for Texas Tech said the school's board of regents still plans to meet on Tuesday even though the Red Raiders will continue in the Big 12 conference. Tech was prepared to leave the Big 12 with Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State for the Pac-10 until the 11th hour television rights deal was hammered out. It promises to practically double Tech and the other nine members' annual revenue.
Tech officials will comment on the decision to stay on Tuesday.
In a joint statement, Oklahoma president David Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione said: "The decision to stay in the Big 12 represents a consensus position which resulted from a collaborative effort with our colleagues in the conference. We value the strong working relationship that has been reaffirmed during this process among the conference members. We intend to work very hard to make the conference as lasting and dynamic as possible."
Texas president Bill Powers Jr., and athletic director DeLoss Dodds will also address the media on Tuesday, likely after the calm night of sleep in more than a week. Texas will reportedly reap up to $25 million between the new TV deal and its own network in the planning stages. Texas, A&M and Oklahoma will reap about $20 million annually in the deal, about $3 million to $6 million more than the other seven schools.
Baylor officials will likely also sleep well tonight. Baylor faced the unsettling proposition of being left out of a major conference if Texas and the others left for the Pac-10.
"Baylor athletics has a bright future and we look forward to continued success with our historic partners in the Big 12 Conference for many years to come," said Baylor Director of Athletics Ian McCaw in a statement. "We have been blessed with extraordinary efforts and leadership from the Board of Regents, President [Ken] Starr, key alumni and friends. We are both humbled and grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from the Baylor family in recent days."
Contingency plans were under way among the five schools that would have been left out -- Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State. Those schools' athletic directors were to gather Monday night in Kansas City, a city that is also at ease because it had just been awarded the lucrative Big 12 basketball tournament through 2014.
One plan on the table was for the remaining five Big 12 schools to absorb some or all of the 10 Mountain West Conference schools and retain the Big 12 name and the automatic BCS bid that would come with it. Now, Kansas and Baylor can rest easy, but the MWC might have other issues to tackle.
With Kansas locked into the Big 12, the Pac-10 will reportedly target Utah as its 12th team. It added Colorado last week. If Utah accepted a potential invite it would reduce the MWC to nine teams just days after it added Boise State to get to 10. The MWC, which has been home to TCU since 2005, is hopeful it will gain BCS standing in two more years once a four-year evaluation period ends.
It's unclear at the moment how the possible loss of Utah would affect the MWC's chances.
What is clear is the Big 12 conference lives on -- at least for 10 teams who might decide to start fresh with a new name.
It appears the only loser -- other than disappointed Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott -- might be Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Cowboys Stadium was just awarded the Big 12 football championship game through 2013. But, with 10 teams, the Big 12 likely will not play a title game.
Of course, the Big 12 remain with 12 teams, as contentious as that might be, for at least another year or two. Nebraska is hoping to begin play in the Big Ten in 2011. Next up on the Big 12 agenda is the league's football media days in July in DFW.
That should be just chummy.
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