Source: Big 12 lined up against A&M
Texas A&M's move to the SEC ultimately would happen if Oklahoma stays put in the Big 12, but until that occurs six of the remaining nine Big 12 schools will not waive their right to pursue litigation against the SEC and A&M, a source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com.
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During Wednesday's conference call of the Big 12's board of directors, the source said it was made clear that the SEC was unwilling to accept the Aggies until the rest of the Big 12 schools waived their right to sue. The confusion arose from a letter that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe sent to SEC commissioner Mike Slive on Sept. 2, in which Beebe stated that the Big 12's board of directors -- not the individual schools -- wouldn't pursue litigation.
"This is the first time to my knowledge that a conference has been requested to waive any legal claims toward another conference for any damages suffered with a membership change," Beebe said in a statement Wednesday. He added that the waiver "did not and could not bind the individual member institutions' governing boards to waive institutional rights."
During Wednesday's call, the source said Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin asked if the schools would waive their right to litigation and only one -- Oklahoma -- agreed to do so. On Thursday, Texas said it has waived its legal rights as requested by the SEC.
"We are not part of the group that is threatening legal action against the SEC," Texas athletic department spokesman Nick Voinis said.
Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State would not waive the right to litigation, the source said. Kansas State spokesman Kenny Lannou declined comment Thursday on whether K- State will retain its legal right to sue.
But Texas Tech said it had, in fact, waived its legal rights to sue the SEC and Texas A&M.
"Texas Tech is not involved in any legal action against Texas A&M, the SEC or any other parties," said Texas Tech spokesman Blayne Beal. "Texas Tech has no intentions whatsoever of being involved in any future lawsuits against Texas A&M, the SEC or SEC commissioner Mike Slive."
There is still hope for the Aggies' SEC membership if Oklahoma were to decide to remain in the Big 12. Oklahoma stated during the call that it was exploring its options and would decide soon whether it will commit to the Big 12 or not; however, a source with knowledge of OU's situation told ESPN.com that there is no timetable for the Sooners to make a decision, even though Big 12 members would like a resolution as soon as possible.
If Oklahoma were to pursue membership in another conference, it could look West toward the Pac-12. A source with knowledge of Oklahoma's situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday that there was not a consensus in OU's administration whether to stay. The source said at least one high-level OU official wasn't in favor of moving to a 16-team conference.
"If the departure of Texas A&M results in significant changes in the Big 12 membership, several institutions may be severely affected after counting on revenue streams from contracts that were approved unanimously by our members, including Texas A&M," Beebe said in his statement. "In some cases, members reasonably relied on such approval to embark on obligations that will cost millions of dollars."
Member presidents of the SEC unanimously voted Tuesday night to accept Texas A&M. Last Friday the SEC received written assurance from the Big 12 that it was free to accept A&M as a member, Florida president/SEC chairman Dr. Bernie Machen said.
"We were notified (Tuesday) afternoon that at least one Big 12 institution had withdrawn its previous consent and was considering legal action," Machen said in a statement Wednesday. "The SEC has stated that to consider an institution for membership, there must be no contractual hindrances to its departure."
According to ESPN's Joe Schad, a source close to Texas A&M characterized Baylor as "the ringleader" in the attempt to keep A&M in the Big 12.
"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."
Texas A&M had planned a celebration and news conference at their College Station campus for Wednesday but that is now on hold.
Meanwhile, if Oklahoma commits to the Big 12 and Texas A&M leaves for the SEC, the Big 12 is going to pursue BYU as a 10th member, according to the source. The source said there was strong interest from the Cougars prior to last week's comments from Oklahoma president David Boren that the Sooners were exploring their options. BYU, formerly of the Mountain West, is an independent in football and its other remaining sports compete in the West Coast Conference.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Joe Schad is a college football reporter for ESPN.
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