I’ve got to be quick as I’m prepping to do CSS’ “SportsNite,” but here’s the takeaway from Texas A&M’s decision today to give school president R. Bowen Loftin the power to negotiate conference affiliation issues:
1. Loftin made it clear that he’s only talked to the SEC. For that reason, anyone talking about the Pac-12 or Big Ten as possibilities for A&M is blowing smoke. This is an SEC-A&M tango, period.
2. Loftin said he has no timeline and that his explorations and negotiations will end when they end. In other words, once A&M gets past a state legislature hearing — one that’s now sure to be rescheduled — the Aggies can ask the SEC for admittance.
3. Loftin made it clear that he wants what’s best for A&M and the Big 12 (yeah, right). This is part of the getting-the-ducks-in-a-row process. He was trying to make it clear that he’s looking for a new home and that he called the SEC, not the other way around. That should take the SEC off the hook from a legal perspective. (But we’ll wait and see how bitter the rest of the Big 12 schools are before we rule out litigation.)
4. Loftin said A&M could choose to stay in the Big 12. (It won’t for long.) He also said that plenty of schools would love to move right in and fill the Aggies’ slot. Again, this is designed to cool any hot-headed congressmen who might want to claim that A&M’s departure will destroy the Big 12, the state of Texas, and all plant and animal life west of the Mississippi.
5. Loftin said the SEC has been a stable league while the Big 12 almost blew up last summer. That’s a legit argument.
6. The fact that A&M took this step suggests to us that the SEC is getting favorable response from some potential 14th school out there. And, as we’ve said before, we think A&M to the SEC gets wrapped up when a 14th school is locked in and ready to move. (Thus Loftin’s open-ended time frame.) Finding another school could take a week, a month, six months or a year, but when the SEC finds #14, we think A&M will be welcomed into the league. That could happen before, but it’s our opinion that the SEC will not mess with the possibility of a 13-team football season in 2012 unless absolutely necessary.