I don't have much time this morning and there are so many moving parts to this story that I'm going to have to temporarily ignore yesterdays scrimmage until tomorrow morning. I don't feel like I can link to everything, but I'll give it my best. I'll try to start chronologically, starting from when I posted yesterday morning. When we last left this situation there really wasn't any news to speak of, but that there were statements out there that the remaining nine Big 12 members were committed to each other and that Texas A&M was expected to vote on Monday to determine if they were going to make the move to the SEC, while the Texas Board of Higher Education had called a special meeting for Tuesday.
Yesterday morning, NY Times Pete Thamel confirmed that the SEC Presidents would be meeting today, Sunday, August 14th, to discuss the admission of Texas A&M. The Big 12 and Dan Beebe, along with the Big 12 presidents were to be on a conference call at 3:00 p.m. yesterday and sometime yesterday evening, the Big 12 released the following statement:
The Board strongly conveyed to Texas A&M its unanimous desire that it remain a Big 12 member, and acknowledged its value to the Conference. The Board noted that Texas A&M expressed concerns about institutional networks and that the athletics directors worked together and took actions, which the Board has approved, to adequately address those concerns.
The other nine members reaffirmed their long term, unconditional and unequivocal commitments made to each other and the Conference last summer. Although the Board hopes Texas A&M remains in the Conference, the Board is prepared to aggressively move forward to explore expansion opportunities. In doing so, the Board recognizes the strength of the Big 12 Conference national brand and the opportunity to capitalize on it.
I haven't had the time to search for the reaction of every Big 12 member, but per the AAS's Kirk Bohls, Suzanne Halliburton and Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, Texas Athletic Director said this after the conference call:
"I think everybody wants them to stay," Dodds, who is viewed as the most powerful athletic director in the Big 12 Conference, told the American-Statesman."We've played them for what, more than 100 years? It's hard."
LAJ's Don Williams and George Watson talked with Texas Tech President Guy Bailey:
"If A&M does decide to move on," Bailey told the Avalanche-Journal, "the board is prepared to aggressively move forward to explore expansion opportunities. I should emphasize ‘aggressive,’ too.
"We all think the Big 12 has a very strong brand, a national brand, and we’ll take advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on that. Depending on what A&M does, we’ll move forward very aggressively and very quickly."
Asked if he thought a Big 12 without A&M would be viable, Bailey said, "I do. I do. And I think the other eight schools feel exactly the same way. We have other schools that could leave if they wanted to. It’s clear to me they don’t want to, that they believe the Big 12 is viable over the long haul."
Big 12 member Missouri has been mentioned as another possible SEC target. Bailey said that subject came up Saturday.
"We frankly discuss those issues," Bailey said, "and the Missouri chancellor assured us that there was no contact. Their AD had told me the same thing. We’re confident that Missouri’s firmly committed."
A couple of things to take away from yesterday's news. What is said in public will have little relevance if things completely come apart in the Big 12. And although Missouri is stating that they are committed to the Big 12 publicly, I would expect that Missouri is doing their due diligence about their options. If Missouri bolts for the SEC as well, then I think you see the implosion of the Big 12 and it will be a mad scramble for teams lobbying to be in an automatic qualifier conference (ACQ). If Missouri stays then I do believe that the Big 12 will move forward and add an additional conference member. The former is what I think is the best option for Texas Tech and that Texas will want to keep at least two rivalries, their rivalry with Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The latter is my least favorite scenario as the Big 12 would likely add a conference member (Notre Dame and BYU are being discussed, but I don't think they blink at an offer) and will most likely be university like TCU (if they can get out of their newly signed contract with the Big East), Houston, SMU, etc.
I don't think that Texas Tech has an open invitation to the Pac-12 and it is wholly dependent on what Texas wants to do. If they do decide to convert the Longhorn Network into a regional network, which would have Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. under its umbrella, then I think Texas Tech has an excellent shot to be included. I am worried if Texas decides to become an independent and I think then that the Pac-12 may not be as attracted to Texas Tech. The one thing that I think keeps Texas from going independent is that they would have to find a conference partner for all of the other sports (i.e. Notre Dame is independent, but part of the Big East for basketball) and I think that's a daunting task.
No matter what anyone says, this is a moving target and we really won't know until the dust settles. Just keep in mind that public posturing is not indicative of what's happening behind the scenes.
For those that are asking why the Aggies would leave, and I hate to speak for Aggies, I think its about stability. Sure, there will be more money, and some people question about whether or not the Aggies will be able to compete athletically in the SEC and I think those are all secondary considerations. I think that ultimately, what Texas A&M wants is to be part of a stable conference that isn't ruled or dominated by one member, Texas. They'll be treated just like the other 12 members in the SEC and I think that this is ultimately what any university should want in a conference.
We go around the blogosphere after the jump.
Also, note how Texas is now casting itself as the protector of the other conference schools. One year ago, Texas was perfectly willing to bolt without any of them, but now we have to stop and consider poor Baylor. Texas bullies these other programs and essentially takes a larger share of the revenue as some sort of bizarre protection money payout, telling them all to stay in line because without Texas, they would all shrivel and die.
Texas keeps the rest of the conference in line by fear. If you don't let us do what we want, we'll go to the Pac-10 or go independent, and then where will you be? We found out last year there isn't much demand for anybody in this conference other than Texas, Oklahoma, and A&M. So Texas throws their weight around, knowing that no other school is going to raise a peep because a small portion of something is better than a large portion of nothing. If the Big XII fails, K-State, Iowa St, and Baylor are in huge trouble. Tech, Okie St., and even Kansas would probably find a safe haven, but it's no guarantee.
This is the first in a series of posts in the coming days — assuming that A&M continues to enforce the moratorium on reason that’s necessary to facilitate a Mack Brown for Nick Saban trade — in which we’ll explore the opportunities of the post-Aggie world, as revealed through a better understanding of the events that propelled Texas to its present position. This includes a thorough analysis of the ESPN/UT contract, which we have reviewed in its entirety. More than any other source of information, the ESPN contract is a window that reveals the extent to which Texas is considering options beyond the Big XII. Moreover, UT is now arguably not only prepared to exploit other opportunities that may present themselves, but now has the power to create them.
But there's a final reason for the SEC presidents to vote yes on Sunday, or whenever the vote is held. They should approve an invitation to Texas A&M because it's the right thing to do. Conference presidents have given Mike Slive enough room to make this deal -- it hardly seems fair to jerk the rug out from under him and Texas A&M at the 11th hour. Slive did not go off and make this deal just because he felt like it; while he might not have actively consulted with all the presidents, I'm also sure that all of them have his cell phone number. If there were a large number of presidents with concerns about how the negotiations were proceeding, the time to voice them has already passed.