NCF Nation: R. Bowen Loftin

Ever since Texas A&M and Texas concluded (paused?) their rivalry on the field when the Aggies left for the SEC, the two sides have traded barbs with public comments to play the part of rabble-rouser to their rival.

Texas AD DeLoss Dodds has done as much as anyone, stating the SEC had a "sliver of the East side" of a presence in Texas, and back in March, reiterating that Texas will "get to decide" when the two teams play again.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin responded to the "sliver" comment by speaking for the state. "We think Texas in now SEC territory. It's a little bit of an extreme to say we're a sliver in the East there," he said.

At last week's SEC meetings, a reporter asked the Aggies' prominent bowtied leader if he had any one liners to lob the Longhorns' way.

Yes, and no, was apparently the answer.

From the Dallas Morning News:
"I don't have to make it anymore," Loftin said of A&M's former Big 12 rival, as he walked away. "It's not relevant to us anymore, that's the whole point. It's not an important issue."

I'm immensely entertained by the form this rivalry has taken since it moved off the field. The two sides are heating up on the recruiting trail, too, but neither side has come close to crossing any lines while taking swipes at the other, and both sides seem successful in riling up rival fans with incendiary comments.

It's harmless. It's fun. Dodds sat down with reporters at the Big 12 meetings this week, but the Aggies hardly came up and Dodds didn't seem real talkative about the maroon-clad folks about 100 miles east of Austin.

Ultimately, though, it just makes me sad that we can't see these two play on the field and have these comments be a run-up to annual November games. Those would mean perhaps more than ever with the two sides tacking on a little conference pride to one of college football's best in-state rivalries.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: College football is worse off when Texas and Texas A&M don't play. Even if the off-field shenanigans when they don't are entertaining, too.
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne will announce his retirement Tuesday at a news conference in College Station, Texas, a source told The Associated Press.

Byrne, 66, was hired in December of 2002 and was instrumental in bringing Texas A&M to the SEC from the Big 12. Byrne's contract is up on Aug. 31, 2013, but Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said last month that Byrne's future at the school would be discussed between the two of them.

For the most part, Aggies sports flourished while Byrne was the school's AD. During his tenure, Texas A&M sports won 17 national championships and 46 Big 12 championships.

However, Texas A&M's football program hasn't been as successful. It went 58-54, won just one bowl game and finished only one season ranked. Now, it's taking new coach Kevin Sumlin, who came from Houston, to the SEC.

The move to the SEC, effective July 1, brings what Byrne believed would be a much more stable situation for Texas A&M, but it didn't come without controversy. The move has put a once-great rivalry with Texas on hold for the foreseeable future and it appeared to set in motion all the recent expansion movement taking over college football.

There certainly were mixed feelings about Byrne's tenure at Texas A&M, but his departure right before the move to the SEC will no doubt put a lot of pressure on his successor and Loftin.

Check back to the blog later to read more about Byrne's departure and what's next for Texas A&M.

Big 12 commish: Mizzou making a mistake

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
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Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas says Missouri's move to the SEC is the wrong one.

"The decision by the University of Missouri to leave the Big 12 Conference is disappointing," Neinas said in a statement. "Mizzou has been a valuable member, with a Conference connection to schools in the Big 12 that dates back to 1907. I personally believe this decision is a mistake and that Missouri is a better fit in the Big 12. Once we have received a formal notice of withdrawal from Missouri, we will furnish it to our Board of Directors. The Board will review the situation and take appropriate action."

Interesting that Missouri didn't formally withdraw from the conference before announcing the move to the SEC, too.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin released a statement Sunday, too.

"We are pleased that Missouri will be joining Texas A&M in the SEC — the nation's preeminent athletic conference — next season," Loftin said in the statement. "Like Texas A&M, Missouri is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is a great addition to the SEC in terms of academics, geography, a passionate fan base, and a well-rounded athletic program. I have had numerous conversations with Chancellor Deaton over the past several months, and I know he approached this decision deliberately and methodically as he acted in the best long-term interests of his fine institution. We are excited about what the future holds for both the Aggies and the Tigers as members of the SEC."

A&M-SEC presence already evident

October, 1, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas A&M won't be joining the SEC until next year, but the Aggies were welcomed with a brief ceremony at halftime.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long and chancellor Dave Gearhart presented Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin and athletic director Bill Byrne with a football commemorating the Aggies' new conference membership.

The big screen at Cowboys Stadium also showed a promotional video for Texas A&M to the SEC in 2012, which was welcomed by one of the day's loudest "Whoops!" from the Aggies fans.

Big 12 headed for binding TV rights

September, 22, 2011
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Lots to get to on the blog tonight.

First off, you can read our news story on tonight's news conference at Oklahoma. Here's an update of what was decided.

More on the way later tonight.

Big 12 headed for binding TV rights

The Big 12's presidents agreed to grant their television rights to the conference for six years, Oklahoma president David Boren said at a news conference on Thursday. Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said at a news conference also on Thursday night that the agreement was not official, and the league had agreed to pursue such binds.

A source at Missouri confirmed to ESPN.com that they were told "there was no agreement, only an agreement to work toward that as a potential outcome."

The Big 12 signed a 13-year, $1.1 billion deal with Fox Sports last summer for Tier 2 rights and the Tier 1 rights for ESPN/ABC are up for renewal in five years. By signing away the media rights to the conference, any team that left the conference during that period would offer no television revenue to a prospective new league. Any television revenue produced by that team would go to the Big 12.

"We felt that we needed a lot more than an expression of solidarity," Boren said, referencing "unequivocal commitments" that held the Big 12 together in 2010, when the Big 12 last faced near extinction. "It was a very important item to show we mean business about staying together."

Boren added: "That grant of rights really has teeth in it, because when you've granted your rights, it's very unlikely that a member would receive an invitation to another conference."

Texas A&M still headed to the SEC

Tonight's agreement has had no effect on the Texas A&M and its intended departure to the SEC.

Boren said Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin was on the teleconference, but was careful to note that it was "highly likely" that the Aggies would continue to chart their intended course for the SEC. Boren also said the league would not give up on convincing Texas A&M to stay until the Aggies became official members of the SEC.

The league's presidents did not discuss waiving rights to legal action that would allow Texas A&M to continue with its intended move to the SEC after the conference's presidents voted to accept them on the condition that each Big 12 team waive those legal rights.

“Another key to Big 12 stability will be for the league to assist Texas A&M with our departure," Texas A&M spokesman Jason Cook told the San Antonio Express-News.

New interim commissioner officially appointed

Dan Beebe is out, and Chuck Neinas is in. Neinas has dealt with scores of athletic departments around the country, and recommended more than half of the athletic directors in the Big 12 to the administrations in their current schools. Boren lauded Neinas as a figure respected around the country.

Neinas
Neinas
Neinas will take over only as interim commissioner, though. He is not a candidate for the permanent job, which may take a "few months" to fill, Boren said, though he established no concrete timeline for the hire.

"We needed someone to lead us through a healing process," Boren said of Neinas. "There's no one better to do that."

Expansion has been re-opened

While the Big 12 nearly broke apart, the efforts of an expansion committee were obviously halted. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds are on the committee, which has been re-activated.

The league doesn't know if it will expand to 10 or 12 teams, but will do its "due diligence" and is open to both.

I'd expect negotiations with BYU to be re-opened, and for the Big 12 to seriously talk with remaining teams in the Big East like West Virginia and Louisville, but also seriously talk to schools closer to the Big 12 footprint, like TCU or Houston.

Nothing's off the table yet, though. As it should be this early in the process.

Boren refused to name any names or publish any list of prospective members.

"We want anybody we look at for expansion to know they were our first choice," Boren said.

Big 12 committee formed

This is also an important development. Chairman of the board of directors Brady Deaton is putting together a "committee" to handle a variety of tasks facing the Big 12 currently.

For now, no change in revenue sharing has been enacted, but if it's going to happen, it will be explored by this committee.

Deaton is expected to put it together by the end of the day on Friday.

The league agreed not to air grievances with others in the league publicly, which is necessary for the appearance of stability. It also agreed that any disagreements would be settled privately through the multi-purpose committee that Boren called a "special working group."

Concessions by Texas and Oklahoma?

It's clear so far that Texas and Oklahoma have and are willing to give on some issues. Oklahoma got its wish with Beebe's ouster and a commitment with the media rights that would ensure stability, but Texas AD DeLoss Dodds told local media on Wednesday that he did not want to sign over media rights.

Judging by Boren's comments, that stance has softened. Maybe he was leveraged into it, or maybe it was a measure of good faith. Either way, it looked like it happened.

Oklahoma has also made it clear that it would not stand in the way of equal revenue sharing. The Sooners, as one of the Big 12's top earners, would get less money in that agreement.

"Would equal distribution mean a financial contribution for good of the conference? Yes. Would we be willing to do so? Yes," Boren said. "We would hope that wouldn’t occur overnight."

Boren said he hoped such a plan would be fazed in slowly.

As for Texas? Maybe we'll hear from them soon.

Lots more coming on the blog tonight. Stay tuned.
1. Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin didn’t need to wrap himself in the American flag Wednesday. “We're being told that, ‘You must stay here against your will,’” Loftin said, “and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans…and makes us free people.” Loftin might think twice about extolling patriotic attributes when A&M is turning its back on a league it pledged to support a year ago. You want to leave? Fine. But Americans like people who stand by their friends through thick and thin, too.

2. Everyone assumes that 16-team leagues are inevitable. There has been little discussion of the logistical nightmares hidden within. Schedules don’t balance. Teams could go seven seasons without playing each other. That’s a conference? “They aren’t conferences. They are consortiums,” Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson told me. His league was created in 1999 when eight members seceded after playing three years in the 16-team WAC. Super conferences may bring riches. But they’ll bring problems, too.

3. The late Ron Schipper began as Central (Iowa) College head coach in 1961. He retired in 1996 with 287 wins and the 1974 Division III national title. Schipper served as president of the American Football Coaches Association and on the NCAA Football Rules Committee. He has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Central will celebrate the golden anniversary of Schipper’s tenure Saturday with a reunion of his first team and a display of memorabilia from his storied career. It’s a fitting tribute to one of the game’s little-known stalwarts.
In a letter from Sept. 2 made public Wednesday, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said the Big 12 "and its members" were waiving legal action toward Texas A&M and the SEC.

The SEC accepted Texas A&M in a vote on Tuesday night on the condition that the Big 12 schools waived legal action toward Texas A&M and the SEC, but Beebe later said in a statement that his letter "did not and could not bind the individual member institutions’ governing boards to waive institutional rights."

In a Sept. 6 email to Slive, obtained by The Associated Press, Beebe writes: "If you seek waivers by the individual institutions, you must receive them from those institutions directly. I regret any confusion on this issue."

Which led to Wednesday's drama, in which Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas refused to waive legal rights. Reports surfaced that other schools would do the same, but have been unconfirmed.

"I felt that was really a violation of trust right there," A&M president R. Bowen Loftin told the AP in an interview. "We took this letter very seriously. We asked for such a statement. They gave it to us freely. It says here unanimous vote was taken and yet when we look at Beebe's letter last night it says: 'No we didn't really mean that,' and I find that to be rather difficult to digest."

For now, A&M's move to the SEC appears imminent, but the legal action has held it up. The Aggies, as one might guess, are not pleased.

"We are being held hostage right now," Loftin said of being forced to stay in the Big 12. "Essentially, we're being told that you must stay here against your will and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans for example and makes us free people."

A&M president 'disappointed' in threats

September, 7, 2011
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The most famous bow tie in Texas has spoken.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin released a statement Wednesday morning in response to an SEC statement and reports that Baylor had threatened legal action toward Texas A&M if it left for the SEC.
“We are certainly pleased with the action taken last night by the presidents and chancellors of the Southeastern Conference to unanimously accept Texas A&M as the league’s 13th member," Loftin said in the statement. "However, this acceptance is conditional, and we are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in Big 12 Conference. These actions go against the commitment that was made by this university and the Big 12 on Sept. 2. We are working diligently to resolve any and all issues as outlined by the SEC."

The Big 12 said it waived all legal action in a letter to the SEC on Sept. 2, but that reportedly did not include individual schools. Oklahoma president David Boren admitted to reporters on Sept. 2 that Oklahoma was weighing its options regarding conference affiliation.

Will Baylor cede its suit and allow Texas A&M to go on its way? Or will this be decided in a court somewhere?

We may find out soon.

The first sign came at a word.

"Uncertainty."

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 leave, what it would take.

They 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 the 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 $28-30 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.
Texas A&M says it has not sent a letter of withdrawal to the Big 12 Conference.
"Contrary to media reports this morning, Texas A&M did NOT send a withdrawal letter to the Big 12 on Monday," school spokesman Jason Cook tweeted on Tuesday.

The brief statement comes a day after The New York Times said in a story posted on its website Monday night that university president R. Bowen Loftin sent a letter to Missouri chancellor and Big 12 board chairman Brady Deaton to inform the league it was leaving. The report cited two unidentified college officials with direct knowledge of the decision.
The Big 12 has responded to Texas A&M's request that it outline the requirements to exit the Big 12.

Texas A&M spokesman Jason Cook confirmed to the Dallas Morning News that the university had received the letter.

In a statement, university president R. Bowen Loftin implied that movement could come soon.

That movement will likely be accelerated after the Big 12's letter featured "mutual waivers of legal claims," freeing the university from any possible lawsuits stemming from an exit.

Loftin also said that he didn't plan on the university's "conference exploration" being prolonged.

A quick clarification on Texas A&M and "exit fees," which is money withheld from schools, not money paid to the Big 12:

League bylaws would require Texas A&M to forfeit 90 percent of its revenue from the 2010-11 and the 2011-12 school years. That number is estimated at around $28 million, but last year, league bylaws allowed the league to withhold more than $19 million from Nebraska upon its departure to the Big Ten.

The Huskers later settled with the Big 12, which withheld $9.255 million in revenue.

Texas A&M officials expressed optimism previously that a similar settlement may be reached with the league.
Texas A&M announced its intention to explore its options regarding conference affiliation on Thursday.

That was followed by the school's athletic director, Bill Byrne, stating that he'd support the Aggies intention to do so.

Now, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has responded, confirming reports that the Big 12 is set on expansion should the Aggies leave, but reiterating the league's "strong desire" that the Aggies stay.

"The letter received today from Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin will be addressed by the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors," he said. "It remains our strong desire for Texas A&M to continue as a member of the Big 12 and we are working toward that end. However, if it is decided otherwise, the Conference is poised to move aggressively with options."

The league's board of directors is set to meet on Saturday.
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne has released a statement after the university announced it had informed the Big 12 of its intent to explore its options regarding conference affiliation.

Here's more on what that means.

Here's what Byrne had to say:

“I support President Loftin and our governing board’s desire to explore all options regarding the future of Texas A&M University. We all want what is best for the Aggies. I’ve met with all of our head coaches to keep them informed and we all remain excited and optimistic about the future of Texas A&M Athletics.”
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe says a deadline could be coming for Texas A&M to make a decision regarding its future conference affiliation.

“I think the members deserve to know what Texas A&M’s intentions are going forward regarding the conference,” Beebe told Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin remained noncommittal while addressing reporters on Monday, and maintained that the university had not made a decision regarding a move to the SEC.

Reports over the past week, however, have indicated that Texas A&M intends to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

"I would suggest that would be an untenable position," Beebe said of the possibility of the Aggies' flirtation with the SEC being drawn out. "We can’t operate with an institution waiting to decide if it wants to remain in the conference. There has to be a very short time for an institution to commit."

The remaining Big 12 programs made a 10-year pledge last summer, but signed no written agreement. Beebe suggested that a stronger, contractual pledge may be pursued.

Last summer, when Texas committed to the Big 12, I asked president Bill Powers and AD DeLoss Dodds if they had decided to sign anything with the Big 12 binding the league together. They didn't.

I thought it was a glaring mistake on the part of all involved, and the league is paying for it now. A TV contract signed over the summer with Fox Sports could complicate matters, but legal entanglements won't change Texas A&M's displeasure with the league, which may not have reached this point if Aggies' decision-makers knew the SEC was not an option.

The Big 12 also spent $1 million on a re-branding campaign that it debuted at Big 12 Media Days last month.

Because of the recent instability within the league, Beebe says it has been rendered unusable.

"Ultimately, our strong main desire is to keep A&M and address whatever need to be done to keep them as happy, fulfilled members of the conference," Beebe told the paper.

We'll see if that ever occurs, but Beebe seems to have made it clear he'd like the Aggies in or out sooner than later.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Demand has outrun supply.

Twice.

The aptly named Zach Salesman walks into Aggieland Outfitters, just off campus in the shadow of Kyle Field, proudly wearing a maroon shirt bearing the unofficial slogan of the Texas A&M fan base: "SECede."

Because of high demand, it's the only one of its kind you'll find in the store for now.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M
David Ubben/ESPN.com A popular sentiment in College Station these days.
Fans could choose a shirt with a de-horned Texas logo bearing the text from Psalm 75:10 and aimed at their rival: "I will cut off the horns of the wicked."

They could choose a classic No. 12 jersey, a nod to the fans' well-earned nickname of The 12th Man. A&M fans can even buy a Harry Potter shirt with one of the school's catchphrases, BTHO (beat the hell outta), applied to the Potter saga's villain: Voldemort.

They're choosing to SECede.

Salesman works in the store's corporate office, and twice, Texas A&M fans hungry for a move to college football's top conference have snapped up all his supply. A third order from the printer was expected to come in sometime Tuesday.

"We sold so many that we can’t actually keep up with the numbers," Salesman said. "We’re printing them as fast as we can. Basically we have people going to the printers nonstop to pick up shirts."

Such is life in Aggieland, where the Big 12 has gone out of style for bigger and (hopefully) better things.

"There’s a big approval rating, and fans, alumni and students want to go," said James Solano, a sportswriter at the campus newspaper, The Battalion. "We were tempted last summer with the idea. And people like myself were like, 'No! We’re not going to win.' But we’ve had awhile to play around with it, and there’s all these Facebook pages keeping us updated with articles all year 'round.

"Come to find out in late July and August that it’s possible we may go to the SEC, and now we’re as close as we’ve ever been."

And fans, who overwhelmingly support a move to the SEC, are keeping a close eye on the decision process.

"It hasn’t really exploded until this last week, but I’ve got the ESPN app, so anytime anything new comes up, I’m reading," said Lucas Turner, a senior communications major and a member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. "I’m probably looking up what’s going on at least an hour every day."

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M
David Ubben/ESPN.comAggieland Outfitters is not shy about where its allegiances lie.
Turner, a first-generation Aggie, came to Texas A&M for one of the school's richest traditions, the corps. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who first acknowledged last week that conversations were happening between the SEC and Texas A&M, was one of the school's yell leaders and served in the corps.

On Monday, Turner made his way across campus through triple-digit temperatures in the customary corps regalia: khaki pants tucked into his knee-high brown boots, outfitted with spurs on the back that jingle as he treks across the concrete. Above them? A khaki shirt with his corps regalia, and a khaki hat covering his Marine-like high and tight haircut.

On his mind? His favorite team's future, of course.

"It’s really hard to watch a bigger school kind of bully their way around the conference and make the money they want to," Turner said. "So you have to do something, but I think a lot of fans are kind of uneasy about, 'Is this what we really want?'"

Chief among those concerns is breaking a game with in-state rival Texas, which has shared a conference with Texas A&M since 1914.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said Monday that he has every intention of keeping that Thanksgiving Day tradition alive. In short, its end won't come at the hand of the Aggies.

"We want to carve our own niche, and we don’t want to be the little brother, but you almost don’t want to leave big brother," Turner said.

Turner is a member of the Aggies' band, which travels to nearly every away game, sans North foes such as Kansas State and Iowa State.

"My dad and I were thinking the farthest we’ll go is Mississippi. Ole Miss, Mississippi State," Turner said. "Which leaves us with basically four teams we can travel to for road games."

It's doubtful the Aggies band's travel concerns will factor much into the decision, but it could be part of the new world Texas A&M fans find themselves in.

"We’re just trying not to get lost in the shuffle and be able to play our own hand," Turner said of his school. "We understand that the move is not just about football, but football is the driving power."

The tradition with Texas is one of Isaac Chavez's favorite parts of his university, too. Chavez, a 21-year-old sports management major from Decatur, Texas, stayed in College Station over Thanksgiving two years ago to see his Aggies try to derail the Longhorns' undefeated season and national title hopes.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M
David Ubben/ESPN.com A&M faithful seem to be more willing to leave the 'Horns and the Big 12 behind.
Rivalry games have always been Chavez's favorite part of being an Aggie.

"Whether it be beating Baylor or Tech, and of course Thanksgiving," he said. "You just can’t miss the A&M-Texas game."

He was nearly on the other side of the rivalry, but a trip to Austin resulted in his wardrobe now consisting of, by his estimates, 80 percent Aggies-affiliated clothing.

"It just seemed too urban," Chavez said of the Texas campus. "Not cold in weather, but cold in general, its personality."

He came to A&M without visiting the campus and fell in love. Now, he works at Loupot's Bookstore near the A&M campus as a textbook specialist.

The decision to come to A&M was much easier for Solano, who ended up at the school paper.

"I grew up baptized in the maroon Kool-Aid and I wasn’t going to go anywhere else," said Solano, a San Antonio native and the son of an alum from the class of 1980. "I only applied to one school."

The 24-year-old Ag-Com journalism major remembers the day Ricky Williams broke the NCAA career rushing record against Texas A&M and officials stopped the game to recognize the accomplishment.

"As an Aggie, you were like, 'Are you kidding?'" Solano said.

He's spent plenty of time considering his university's move to the SEC.

"My roommates and I, if we’re not at work, we’re in the living room with ESPN on and our laptops out and trying to dig as deep into it as possible," he said.

When the possibility of a move to the SEC first surfaced last summer, he was opposed. This time around, he's changed his tune, despite facing the realities of Texas A&M's 53-72-4 all-time record against its possible new division roommates in the SEC West, including a 41-24 loss to LSU in last season's Cotton Bowl.

"It's tough to weigh the pros and cons, but in the long run, I think it’d be a better fit for the program," he said.

Will Texas A&M get a chance to see whether it measures up? It might find out soon.

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