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Slive Channeling Nixon On SEC Expansion?

In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon was dealing with a world consisting of three rival superpowers: the US, the Soviet Union and China.  He and his adviser Henry Kissinger had a plan for how to get the best deals for the US — play the other two powers against one another.

“There’s me, there’s you and there’s the other guy.” 

The practice is now known as triangular diplomacy and it seems that SEC commissioner Mike Slive might know a little something about it.

Here’s why:

* The SEC has amazingly pushed, pleaded, baited and cajoled Texas A&M into — apparently — leaving its longtime brother Texas and heading east on its own.

* Now the SEC and A&M are working the phones to nab Oklahoma, too.  The Sooners have been open and upfront about their happiness with being Longhorn tag-alongs.  But most folks close to the situation believe OU would prefer to jump to the SEC… if it could move on its own.

* If Slive is smart — and he is — he’s telling OU and A&M officials right now that they can join the SEC and still keep Texas on their schedules IF they play their cards right.

* Texas has made no bones about the fact that it’s not interested in the SEC.  It’s fans (if you read the Longhorn messageboards) aren’t interested in playing Florida and Alabama and LSU and Georgia every year.  It’s administration isn’t interested in joining a league that is not research-oriented and has lower admission standards for its athletes.

Slive, therefore, is telling A&M and OU that there’s us (the SEC), there’s you (A&M and OU), and there’s the other guy (Texas).

If A&M and the SEC can convince Oklahoma to join the SEC, that might be enough to force Texas’ hand.  Even if Texas doesn’t believe it would be a good cultural fit in the Southeastern Conference.

* Texas politicians are already barking about two things — the breakup of Texas schools and the possibility that some of those Texas schools will set up camp in a conference based in the Pacific Time Zone.  If A&M and OU both head east, you might see the Texas Legislature jump into the fray and push the Longhorns toward the SEC.  It’s more likely they will push for some type of Big 12 reboot to save Baylor and Texas Tech, but if push comes to shove, keeping UT and A&M together in the SEC would be viewed as a better option than having them split up with one heading to the Pac-10.  Therefore, if Slive can grab A&M and OU he might turn the Texas Legislature into SEC allies.

* If you’re Texas, would you want to set out for the Pac-10 with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State?  Or would you rather hold your nose and move to the SEC with Oklahoma and Texas A&M?  Oh, they might be bitter about it, but UT officials would definitely see OU and A&M as a bigger draw than OSU and Tech, trust me.  Also, it’s hard to sell the academic merits of a Pac-10 move if the two schools joining the Longhorns on their westward trek are both SEC-caliber in academic reputation.

With A&M and Oklahoma in his pocket, a smart Slive — and he is smart — willl approach Texas and say, “We have A&M and Oklahoma, we have millions of real dollars rather than hypothetical dollars and we’ll let you start your own Texas Network.  Join us and take your frustration out on OU and A&M ever year.”

This might all be moot, of course.  Texas and Oklahoma and eventually A&M, too, might all land in a huge Pac-16. 

But in terms of negotiations, Slive appears to be playing this one wisely.  If he can push the right buttons, he can still land Texas against its will.  Now that might not be good for the long-term harmony of the SEC, but it would certainly benefit the SEC, A&M, Oklahoma and Texas financially in the short-term.  And maybe Texas would grow to love the SEC.

Triangular diplomacy.  Good stuff.

I wonder if the commissioner is taping his conversations?




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