Saturday, August 27, 2011
Report: Texas A&M set to leave Big 12
Big 12 officials expect Texas A&M to announce within the next week that it plans to leave the conference.
A person with knowledge of what was discussed during a conference call of the Big 12 board of directors Saturday told The Associated Press that Texas A&M officials talked about their anticipated departure.
"No major surprises," said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks. "A&M didn't say they were leaving, but certainly gave every indication that's what they plan on doing."
As for the timing of such a move, that person said, "it would not be a surprise that it would happen sometime this week" and likely the only thing that could keep that from happening would be if the 12-team SEC determines it is not ready to add any more teams at this point.
The Aggies have publicly expressed interest in joining the SEC and on Thursday formally informed Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe in a letter from school President R. Bowen Loftin that Texas A&M was exploring all of its options.
Among items discussed during Saturday's call was how much money Texas A&M would forfeit for leaving the conference and likely negotiations of that amount, which could be $20 million or more.
SEC presidents and chancellors met two weeks ago and reaffirmed their "satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment." But they also acknowledged the possibility of future expansion and discussed criteria for that.
If Texas A&M leaves the Big 12, the move could trigger another shakeup across college sport. Texas last year considered offers to join the Big Ten and the Pac-10 before deciding to stay in the Big 12. Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) left the Big 12 in July.
Texas A&M would have to settle its membership with the Big 12 before it could apply for membership into the Southeastern Conference.
"The Big 12 Conference members have been and will continue to conduct meetings related to the situation with Texas A&M and conference membership," Beebe said in a statement Saturday. "There will be public statements as appropriate and necessary if and when action is taken."
It was unclear if Texas A&M would be able to move to the SEC as early as the 2012-13 school year. The Aggies will certainly play their Big 12 schedules in football and other sports for the upcoming season, as Colorado and Nebraska did a year go before their departures from the league.
The person who spoke on condition of anonymity said the other nine Big 12 members again reaffirmed the desire to keep the conference intact.
"Obviously now, I think there is a little more urgency to think about if A&M leaves, who's No. 10, or who's 11 and 12 as well," that person said.
SMU athletic director Steve Orsini said Thursday that he has had informal talks with Big 12 officials for some time to inform them of the school's improvements and growth. He said it has been SMU's goal to join a BCS conference since it wasn't included in the Southwest Conference's merger with the Big 8 that formed the Big 12 in 1996.
Texas A&M opens its season next Sunday at home against SMU.