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A&M, Slive Trend On Twitter

Not surprisingly considering the number of media in attendance and the amount of fan passion in the SEC, but just about everyone who steps onto the main stage in Hoover winds up trending on Twitter — first Mike Slive and then Kevin Sumlin.

As one Texas A&M fan after another has posted on Twitter… the Aggies are running in a whole new conference these days.  All that talk of R. Bowen Loftin and the A&M board of regents wanting more national exposure for their university?  Well, they’re getting it.

In July.

For what’s basically a 30-minute Q&A session.

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Missouri And Texas A&M Raise Flags, Celebrate Arrival In SEC

Officially, Missouri and Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference at midnight on Sunday morning.  Ceremonially, they joined the league yesterday.

Both Missouri and Texas A&M held flag-raising ceremonies yesterday to celebrate their entry into a brave, new world.  At A&M, some 500 fans showed up to watch flags of all 14 SEC schools go up on campus.  At Mizzou, the school raised an SEC flag on its campus in front of a group of athletic department staff and campus administrators.

Tiger AD Mike Alden said as the flag went up:

 

“I can guarantee you this — based upon what I’ve seen on that chain, that flag ain’t going anywhere.  It looks like it’s pretty secure…

It will be different for us to go to Columbia, South Carolina or Knoxville, Tennessee instead of Ames, Iowa or Manhattan, Kansas.  But… that difference, while something that you think about, is also pretty exciting. There are new venues, new opportunities and we’re going to challenge ourselves at the highest level…

It’s going to take us several years to really feel like we’ve oriented ourselves to the SEC. 

(But) as an institution, as an athletic program, what it means is that we’ve now stepped into a league that is regarded as the strongest in the country.  We’re going to have our plate full every day…and certainly, there are a lot of challenges ahead. But it’s going to be pretty exciting.”

 

In College Station, A&M associate athletic director John Thornton said:

 

“It’s the conference of champions.  We’re entering a new conference but also joining an incredible family built on respect, tradition, spirit and competition at the highest levels.”

 

And Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin added:

 

“It’s a great fit for conference stability.  The SEC has been around a long time, and it will be around for a long time. We are ready here at Texas A&M to take our place.”

 

Everyone’s said the right things.  The flags have been raised.

Now let’s play some football.

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A&M’s Byrne: “The One Thing I Wish We Would’ve Done Is Win More In Football”

Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne made his retirement official today at a press conference in College Station.  Calling his 10-year run “an incredible journey,” Byrne said he will take on a the role of special advisor to the A&M president R. Bowen Loftin as of today.

One wonders just how much advice Loftin will actually seek from a man he’s pushing out the door.  As we suggested this morning, Byrne announced that he will indeed retire in full at the end of August, gone by football season as expected.  He will then receive a settlement “equal to the present value of the last year of his contract” which runs through the end of August in 2013.

Associate AD John Thornton will take over as the Aggies’ interim AD until Lofton can land a replacement.  A&M’s president called the divorce amicable, adding: “It’s no secret Bill and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye on various issues.”

The main issue being Texas A&M’s jump from the Big 12 to the SEC.  Byrne said he had no role whatsoever in that decision (or in the hiring of football coach Kevin Sumlin, for that matter).  ”Those are decisions made above my pay grade,” he said.  ”You’re taught to salute and carry on and that’s what we’ll do.”

Loftin said of the SEC decision: “His input was sought.  It was never ignored… The decision was ultimately mine.”

In the end, Byrne oversaw dozens of Big 12 titles and 17 national crowns during his tenure.  None of those came in football, however.  If they had, he might not have been forced into retirement.  ”The one thing I wish we would’ve done is win more in football,” he said.

Aggies everywhere no doubt nodded in agreement.

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Byrne Out At Texas A&M

First, yes, the pun in the headline was intended.

Second, yes, Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne will be stepping down today at a press conference in College Station.  Yesterday, he gave no details to the press that caught up with him after he met with Aggie coaches, assistants, and other athletic department personnel who’d worked under him.

“I have nothing to say at this time,” he told reporters.  ”I’ll see you guys, tomorrow.  Thanks for coming out.”

It’s been well-documented that Byrne was a pro-Big 12 man.  In addition, one of his underlings was caught posting insulting comments about A&M president R. Bowen Loftin on an Aggie messageboard last year.  This departure has been coming for a while.

Last month, Loftin announced that Byrne would transition into a new role to serve out the remaining year on his contract, but we called phooey on that at the time.  Now, indeed, Byrne is being bought out and he will most likely head quickly for the nearest exit.  An A&M source told MrSEC.com this morning that he would be “shocked” if Byrne’s still around come football season.

The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports on yesterday’s meeting between Byrne and many of his longtime employees:

 

“According to sources inside the meeting, Byrne spoke for a little over a minute, held his emotions in check and was straight and to the point.  Multiple coaches did get emotional during the meeting. Byrne’s son, Greg, was also in attendance.  He is the athletic director at the University of Arizona.  There were no representatives from the president’s office at the meeting.”

 

SEC fans remember Greg Byrne from his successful tenure as Mississippi State’s athletic director.

Today’s presser is scheduled for 1:30pm ET.  The next step — obviously — is for A&M’s president to find the right person to lead Aggie athletics into the Southeastern Conference.  The best bet?  Grabbing an existing SEC athletic director or assistant athletic director who also has some ties back to A&M.  In this case, the Aggies’ new AD will need to know two cultures and it’s best if he only has to learn one… or neither, in the case that Loftin can find someone with both A&M and SEC ties.

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Byrne’s Still The AD At Texas A&M… For Now

If you happened to spy some of the Texas A&M messageboards on Tuesday, you know that rumors spread that Aggie AD Bill Byrne was being or had already been shown the door in College Station.  According to Sean Lester of The Dallas Morning News, there were even rumors that Jackie Sherrill — a man very familiar with the SEC — was set to replace him as the school’s athletic director.

Turns out, those rumors were just that — rumors.  David Harris of The Bryan-College Station Eagle tracked down an A&M spokesperson and got this terse response:

 

“Bill Byrne is the athletic director at Texas A&M.  It is our longstanding practice not to address rumors and speculation.”

 

Byrne has not been viewed as part of A&M’s pro-SEC majority.  At least that’s been the speculation for two summers now.  Worse still, one of Byrne’s subordinates was caught posting ugly comments about Aggie president – and Byrne’s boss — R. Bowen Loftin on a messageboard late last year.  Some thought Byrne would be ix-nayed at that point.

According to The Morning News, it’s now expected that Byrne and the university will simply part ways when his current contract expires after the 2013 season.  Either way, he remains in power for now.  At least according to that short statement released by the school.

Byrne has served in College Station since 2002.  His son Greg Byrne was once the AD at Mississippi State before moving on to Arizona, where he currently remains.

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Texas A&M Fires Sherman; Will Enter SEC With A New Coach

When you’ve got oil money behind you, it appears you can pay a $9 million buyout pretty easily.  (UPDATE — Sherman’s buyout is only about $5.8M as opposed to the $9M that was reported earlier in The Houston Chronicle.)

Texas A&M has fired head coach Mike Sherman just a week after president R. Bowen Loftin gave him a vote of confidence.  Of course, a heartbreaking loss to hated Texas played out between then and now and that defeat clearly served as the straw that broke Reveille’s back.   The Aggies finished 6-6 despite preseason predictions for a Top 10 season.

Ole Miss fans are fearful that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart might be on A&M’s wish list — because the Rebels are looking him over, too — but we hear the Aggies might actually stay close to home to find their next coach.  Houston’s Kevin Sumlin wouldn’t have far to move.

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A&M’s Prez Speaks As Baylor’s Prez Uses Any Means Necessary

Just a quick catch-up on what’s happening on the Texas A&M/Baylor/SEC front today:

This morning, AggieYell.com — the Rivals site covering Texas A&M — reported that a source had told the website that Baylor was “going to move on” without taking legal action against the SEC.

Cheers went up in College Station.

But then Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News tweeted the following:

“Big 12 school source said reports today that Baylor has agreed not to sue SEC are inaccurate.  ‘Completely false,’ the source said.”

And with that, groans could be heard in College Station.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin has since released the following statement:

“We are certainly pleased with the action taken last night by the presidents and chancellors of the Southeastern Conference to unanimously accept Texas A&M as the league’s 13th member.  However, this acceptance is conditional, and we are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in Big 12 Conference.  These actions go against the commitment that was made by this university and the Big 12 on Sept. 2.  We are working diligently to resolve any and all issues as outlined by the SEC.”

Remember how we’ve been saying for weeks that things won’t be final until they are final?  That anything could happen?  That all those reports of a “done deal” won’t mean anything until the deal is — ya know — actually done?  Wel this is exactly the kind of nonsense we’ve been expecting.

And should it really come as a shock that Baylor president Kenneth Starr — unable to proactively draw any interest from other leagues in his university — has decided to take a “by any means necessary” approach?  After all, when he was unable to find any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Bill Clinton in the Whitewater mess, he instead trotted out a semen-stained dress.  Like Clinton or dislike Clinton, Starr showed 15 years ago that he would go to any lengths to achieve his goal.  So a lawsuit coming from this guy — in an attempt to impede an entire system on the verge of evolving — shouldn’t surprise a soul.

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Report: Texas Lawmakers About To Get Involved In SEC Expansion

According to Orangebloods.com — the Rivals site covering the University of Texas — lawmakers in the Long Star State are on the verge of involving themselves in Expansionpalooza 2011.  If they do, that could potentially be bad news for the SEC.

Until late last week, Texas politicians had given Texas A&M a free-pass to exit and head east to the Southeastern Conference.  But now legislators are worried that Texas and Texas Tech could bolt from the Big 12 and race west to the Pac-12.  Some/many/most politicos in Texas don’t want to see that happen.  So…

According to Orangebloods:

 

“Sources said the reason lawmakers are hot is that they received assurances from the Big 12, including (UT president Bill) Powers, that the Big 12 would survive without Texas A&M.

And because of those assurances, lawmakers did not take an aggressive stand against Texas A&M withdrawing from the Big 12.  But that may be changing.

Sources said members of the Legislature are or will be reaching out to Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin to tell him the Aggies may no longer have the blessing of lawmakers to leave the Big 12, especially if it looks like the Big 12 will collapse.”

 

In addition the site claims that Big 12 sources have said there is “an increasing likelihood of litigation” against the SEC.

Good luck to the Big 12 on that front.

The Big Ten began the expansion craze last summer.  The Pac-10 then began flirting with Texas and others in an effort to swipe four- to six-teams from the Big 12, which would have extinguished the conference in one push.  The Pac-1o was conducting an all-out raid last summer.  By comparison, the SEC simply answered a phone call this July.

When the smoke cleared in 2010, Nebraska had left for the Big Ten and Colorado had departed for the Pac-12 (as it’s now called).

Unless the judge overseeing such a silly case attended Baylor, the Big 12 would have a hard time convincing any sane person that it was actually the third school out the door that destabilized the league.  Especially when Oklahoma president David Boren has been making comments like this to the press:

 

“The Big 12 is not the same Big 12.  I was extremely disappointed when Nebraska departed.  Disappointed when Colorado departed.”

 

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel also stated last week:

 

“Obviously we have some issues in our league… When Nebraska leaves one year, Colorado leaves and then also now Texas A&M.  So it’s three real good football teams (that) are leaving.”

 

Do a Google search and you’ll find countless other Big 12 figures who’ve been publicly stating the obvious — that Nebraska and Colorado exited and hurt the league a full year before A&M started looking for an escape hatch.

But while a tortious interference case would likely be hard to prove, that doesn’t mean such a lawsuit still couldn’t gum up the works for Mike Slive and the Aggies.  The mere threat of a lawsuit could cause SEC presidents to slow down out of fear that the person hearing such a case really would be a Baylor grad… angry that his Bears are in danger of being left for dead in this round of realignment.  (Nevermind the fact that the Bears left TCU, SMU, Houston and Rice for dead when Baylor jumped to the Big 12 without remorse in the mid-90s.)

Back in 2003, several Big East schools filed suit against the ACC for a raid that netted the Southern league Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech.  In 2005, the ACC settled that suit for a grand total of $5 million.  Pocket change.

But television contracts have jumped to another level since 2005 and the Big 12 — whoever’s left of the Big 12 — would likely ask for a cool billion of SEC cash.  Well, even if there were just a 1% chance of losing that kind of cash, the SEC would need to do some serious risk/reward analyses.  Perhaps the league would decide to stand pat and not offer A&M a landing spot.  If that were to happen, would the Big 12 then be forced to re-admit a suddenly homeless Texas A&M?  Now that would be a happy, long-lasting marriage, to be sure.

Bottom line?  This thing isn’t over, folks.  In some ways, it may just be getting started.

Oh, boy.  Great.  ’Cause who wants to talk about football?

 

UPDATE — Pete Thamel of The New York Times reports that Judith Zaffirini — the chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee in Texas — claims the state senate has no intention of getting involved in conference expansion and realignment.

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A&M Officially Withdraws From Big 12

How’s that for timing?  We just finishing posting some links to stories speculating about when Texas A&M might pull out from the Big 12 and now they’ve already gone and done it.

A&M president R. Bowen Loftin sent a letter to commissioner Dan Beebe today stating:

“After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University’s athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference.

We appreciate the Big 12′s willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement.  We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members.”

If the Big 12 accepts A&M’s withdrawal and if the two parties can agree on proper settlements, the Aggies will officially leave the league on June 30th of next year.

For SEC fans, that means that unless Mike Slive announces the surprise addition of a 14th school (or 15th or 16th), their league will likely feature 13 teams next football season.

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A&M Get Exit Explainer From Big 12; One Step Closer To Leaving

Last week, Texas A&M asked the Big 12 for a breakdown of the league’s exit procedures.  Today, A&M officials received such a letter.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the letter outlined “procedures according to the financial provisions of Big 12 bylaws and mutual waivers of legal claims.”

The fact that both parties are waiving legal claims could speed things up — as expected — to the point that Texas A&M might unite with the SEC by week’s end.  (That, at least would be the school’s goal… as usual, the SEC office is remarkably leak-free.)

At this stage, A&M still needs to work out its exit fee, officially withdraw from the Big 12, officially apply for membership in the SEC, and then hope that nine of the league’s 12 presidents and chancellors give a thumbs-up vote to an Aggie invite.

As for the money, it has been estimated that the Big 12 wants $28 to $30 million in exit fees and forfeited money from the Aggies.  A&M, reportedly, would like to work that number closer to the $9 million fee Nebraska paid to escape the Big 12 last year.  Some reports have suggested the final number may wind up somewhere in the $10-20 million range.

A&M president R. Bowen Loftin (that’s him at left) released a statement this afternoon saying that it is not his school’s “intent to prolong our conference exploration for an extended period of time.”

In related news, Notre Dame has already made it clear to The Austin American-Statesman that Texas AD DeLoss Dodd’s dream of adding the Irish to the Big 12 is just that — a dream.  “Our priority — and our clear priority — is maintaining our football independence and continuing to build our relationship with the Big East with our other sports,” said Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick.

So perhaps now the Big 12 can begin chasing its #2 candidate — Arkansas — and get on with the business of receiving yet another “thanks, but no thanks.”

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