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A&M To The SEC Just A Matter Of Time

While the Pac-10 unveiled a new logo and grabbed national attention by taking its media day events on the road from New York to Los Angeles, Dan Beebe and the Big 12 quietly played second fiddle.

One league — which failed in its expansion plans — is being hailed as a forward-thinking conference of the future.  The other appears to be hooked to a life-support system… that has a frayed cord… with plenty of people gathered around ready to yank said cord at a moment’s notice.

The Big 12 says that it will be alright.  Having 10 teams beats having 12.  Losing Nebraska and Colorado was a good thing. 

Yeah, right.

Beebe said this week that his league would simply move a few “key” games to the end of the season to make up for the loss of its conference championship game.  Uh-huh.  Oklahoma-Oklahoma State will surely grab national attention like an SEC or Big Ten title game.

Just a few weeks ago, Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville compared his new league to his old one and made it pretty clear that he doesn’t see the Big 12 lasting long term.  Schools in the SEC get along.  Schools in the Big 12 are ready to get going. 

Tuberville was slapped on the wrist for his comment, but he was right.  We wrote the very same thing on the day that the Big 12 announced its survival.

Well now it’s Texas A&M that is putting a little pressure on the conference and its commissioner.  A&M president R. Bowen Loftin let it be known this week that he’s eager to see if/when the Big 12 makes good on the promises it made to keep everyone together back in June.

“A key part of Texas A&M’s decision to remain in the Big 12 earlier this summer was the commissioner’s commitment that Texas A&M would receive a minimum of $20 million annually in future conference distributions.  We remain committed to the conference and fully anticipate that the Big 12 will honor its commitment to Texas A&M.”

Yeesh.  That sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?  It’s reminiscent of the Mel Brooks line from “A History of The World” in which his king is shooting clay “pigeons”… which happen to be human.  “I love my people.  Pull!”

A Houston Chronicle writer claims that one “high-ranking A&M official” told him that “every legal avenue would be explored” if the Big 12 didn’t fork over the $20 million each year to the Aggies.  And if the money still can’t be collected, the school might yet bolt for the SEC, which many Aggie officials and fans wanted to do this summer.

Interestingly, Beebe claims that Texas and Oklahoma have declined offers from the other Big 12 schools that would forward those schools’ shares of Nebraska’s and Colorado’s exit fees to UT, OU and A&M.  The gesture was considered to be a “Thanks for not forcing us to join Conference USA” message to the three A-1 programs who decided to stick around.  Unlike Texas and Oklahoma, the Aggies have not turned down the offer.

This tells us two things:

1.  A&M is cash-strapped.  That’s true.  And we already knew it to be true.

2.  Several A&M power brokers would have preferred to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.  Taking a ransom from its fellow schools sends a clear message to the rest of the league: “We’re staying, but you better make good or we’re outta here.”

The tension between schools in that conference is laughable.  All are out for themselves.  I would be shocked if the Big 12 is still around in 10 years, maybe five.

Meanwhile, for more than two decades, A&M and the SEC have had flirtations with one another.  The SEC wants to get into Texas’ recruiting grounds, wants to be a big draw in the Dallas and Houston television markets, and wants to find a rival for Arkansas.  A&M fits the bill perfectly.  And this past summer it became clear that the Aggies and their fans are warming to the idea of heading East.

It might be another 20 years before it happens, but at some point, Texas A&M WILL be a part of the Southeastern Conference. 

When the band-aids holding the limbs of the Big 12 together fall off, the SEC will get their long lusted-after presence in the Lone Star State.  A&M and the SEC will eventually marry.  Mark it down.

 


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