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A&M Fans Shouldn’t Blame The SEC For Being Cautious

Texas A&M fans are getting antsy.  Who wouldn’t considering their school’s situation?  Currently, they’re looking at a 2012 season with no conference to call home and without the massive television revenue such a home would provide.  That ain’t good.

Unfortunately, some hot heads are hitting the messageboards and talk radio stations to rip the SEC for not simply plowing right through the legal threats currently being tossed about by the Aggies’ rivals.  In their view, the SEC’s got nothing to lose.  If they’re not willing to grab A&M then the Aggies should start calling the Big Ten or the Pac-12.

Again, we said these were the hot heads of the A&M fanbase.  Check an Aggie messageboard and you’ll find ‘em.

But in reality, the SEC’s decision to allow Baylor and crew to stall and delay makes sense from a number of angles.  Below are five:

1.  No billion-dollar entity is going to ignore the threat of a possible billion-dollar lawsuit being filed against it.  No matter how silly the lawsuit might seem to non-lawyers — like the guys here at MrSEC.com — in the press.  The SEC is being prudent in asking A&M to get its house in order.

2.  By punting the ball back to A&M and the Big 12, the SEC set the table for the Pac-12 and Oklahoma to possibly start the whole expansion train rolling, thus ending any lawsuits against A&M or the SEC before they could be filed.  But the Pac-12 and OU are adamant that they won’t move until A&M goes.  Hey, the SEC gave it a shot.

3.  The SEC is clearly in no rush.  A&M is in the rush.  In fact, it was A&M that forced Mike Slive’s league into the hurry-up offense in the first place.  From an SEC perspective, if this thing takes a few more days to play out, that’s more time to consider possible options for School #14 and beyond.

4.  It’s likely that the SEC does not want to see the entire college football landscape shift.  Everyone knows it’s coming at some point, but since the success of such a set-up is still a great unknown, no one — including the SEC — wants to rush it.  So if allowing Baylor (and others) to slow the process down helps to eventually keep the Big 12 together, the SEC would likely be just fine with that.  The SEC could simply look east for its School #14… and a rebuilt Big 12 would be less likely to spawn lawsuits against the league and A&M.

5.  It’s possible that the SEC will eventually tire of this mess and plow forward if league lawyers believe the conference is completely buttoned-up from a legal perspective.  If that day comes, the league has now given itself more time to bone up on every clause and sub-clause in the Big 12′s contracts with Texas A&M.

Conference expansion isn’t made for our fast-food/Twitter world.  These things take time.  And the SEC is wisely not rushing matters.

Yet.

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Could The SEC Be Forcing The Pac-12′s Hand?

At this point, it’s assumed by most observers that Oklahoma wants out of the Big 12.  Perhaps they’re not quite as froggy as Texas A&M, but they sure seem to be eyeing a jump to the Pac-12.

Only Oklahoma doesn’t want to move first.  They want A&M to take that leap.  The Pac-12 wants the same.  And A&M and the SEC were perfectly ready to make that leap today before Baylor started a mini-revolt by refusing to agree not to sue Texas A&M and/or the SEC and/or Mike Slive (as the school had initially agreed).

But we all know the following to be true:


* Any Big 12 school will have a hard time proving tortious interference against the SEC.  The Aggies apparently made the first call and the SEC slowed down the process time and again to make sure all i’s were dotted and all t’s were crossed.  Not to mention the fact that Baylor doesn’t have a contract with Texas A&M.  It has a contract with the Big 12.  And the SEC isn’t dealing with the Big 12, it’s dealing with A&M.  A very tough case to prove.

* Multiple Big 12 officials have admitted that Colorado and Nebraska seriously wounded the league by leaving last summer — as if the third team out the door could really be held accountable for collapsing the conference.  Meanwhile, other Big 12 representatives have made reference to the league’s uneven revenue split and Texas’ arrogance as being the sparks that truly lit this powder keg.

* Also, Texas A&M’s departure would not destroy the league.  One Big 12 official after another — including commissioner Dan Beebe — has said that the league’s goal is to expand further (by raiding other conferences for their teams) and to grow stronger. 

* Finally, the last time a lawsuit like this was attempted, the Big East sued the ACC.  After two years of legal gobbledygook, the Big East got a settlement of — wait for it — $5 million.  That might be big cash to you or me, but a BCS league spends that much on a coaches’ luncheon.


Now, as we’ve mentioned, the SEC would have to consider the possibility that a lawsuit filed in Waco might possibly be presided over by a Baylor grad who might just see the law through green-and-gold-shaded lenses.  But the odds against a tortious interference case — even under those circumstance — going against the SEC are still extremely long.

Former attorney Mike Slive knows this.  So why isn’t his league simply marching forward as the Pac-12 and Big Ten have?  With little regard for legal threats or the cries and lamentations of the innocent?


1.  Because Mike Slive does not want to be viewed as Atilla the Hun.  He’ll let other schools come to him, but he’s not going to raid and destroy other conferences.  At least not publicly.  He’ll leave that for Jim Delany and Scott.

2.  Perhaps the league doesn’t want to get bogged down in any type of legal red tape.  The SEC has plenty of money, but attorney fees can get pretty darn expensive.  More to the point, who wants the headaches and all the bad publicity?

3.  Perhaps the SEC is just playing chicken with Oklahoma, Texas and the Pac-12.


By putting the ball back in the Big 12′s court, it’s possible that Slive and company believe Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech are so far down Route 66 headed West that they will be willing to cross the Big 12′s boundary lines before A&M.  (Emphasis on Oklahoma and Texas, not State and Tech.)

If those schools move first, then you can forget about lawsuits being filed against Slive and/or the SEC.  OU, UT and the Pac-12 will have destroyed the Big 12, not A&M and the SEC.

In the end, it’s hard to imagine A&M returning to the Big 12.  Those bridges are burned.  But the rest of the league can recover and survive by adding one school.  If so — again — there would be no need for lawsuits.

Texas A&M is clearly caught in the middle of all this and there’s no telling what the SEC’s next act might be.  But for now, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Slive intentionally punted the ball back to the Pac-12, OU and UT to see how they’ll handle it… knowing that he can eventually race right past any legal obstacles and score should they choose to punt the ball back to him.

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Morning Notes On A&M/SEC Expansion

It’s gameday in the SEC for Kentucky and Mississippi State, but the focus for many fans remains on expansion.  With that in mind, we’ll start with a mornin’ roundup of league and Texas A&M expansion news:


1.  Blogging yesterday, A&M athletic director Bill Byrne lists Texas, ESPN and the Longhorn Network as reasons for his school’s departure from the Big 12.  (That’s a interesting stance since wherever A&M lands — and Byrne mentions the “Bigger Ten, Pac 12, SEC” as possibilities — the Aggies will still wind up partnering with ESPN on some level.)


“We anticipate that ESPN will continue to push the envelope with the Longhorn Network, regardless of Texas A&M’s conference affiliation.”


2.  Here’s what everybody — including several SEC coaches — is saying about A&M’s move.

3.  Here’s a simplified list of 10 things you should know about A&M’s move.

4.  The Rivals site for Texas A&M reports that A&M did a study of the NFL and MLB and determined that leagues are better off when everyone gets a fair share of the pie.  For the Aggies, this move was a business decision.

5.  This writer for FoxSportsHouston says A&M’s move is more about leaving the Big 12 than joining the SEC.

6.  Aggie football commitments don’t seem to care about A&M’s potential move to the SEC one way or the other.

7.  Aggieyell.com says that A&M can compete just fine in the SEC.  (This site agrees wholeheartedly.)

8.  The Rivals site for Texas believes Virginia Tech and the SEC “are starting to get to know each other to see if that could be a good marriage in the SEC East.”

9.  This ESPN writer says Texas now has an opportunity to shape the Big 12 even more in its own image.

10.  While this ESPN scribe says Oklahoma holds a few cards in this game and should they choose to join the Pac-12… the Big 12 could fold.


“OU president David Boren is charmed by the idea of aligning OU’s law school with Stanford and Cal-Berkeley; it’s fine arts school with UCLA and USC.  Academically, the SEC can’t compete with that.”


11.  But this writer for The Oklahoman says OU will have to play the waiting game.  (He, too, believes the Sooners will move west if they move at all.)

12.  Meanwhile Missouri’s chancellor — who is also chairman of the Big 12 board — says the league is committed to staying together.  He’d have to be pretty duplicitous if his school were to up and leave.


“… despite stray conjecture by some that the SEC wants Mizzou or vice versa, there is little to support the connection.  A person familiar with conference expansion talks said MU has hardly been mentioned by the SEC.”


13.  BYU gave a non-denial denial, but The Salt Lake City Tribune reports Cougar brass are already talking with Big 12 officials.

14.  Finally, Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News provides Aggie fans with a school-by-school breakdown of the SEC.

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Five Friday Afternoon SEC Expansion Odds And Ends

Heading into what will hopefully be a quiet weekend of football and football only conversation around the SEC, we thought we’d take one last look at some of the stories that relate directly or indirectly to possible SEC expansion.  Here are five such stories (as well as our take on each):

1.  ESPN and Texas spin, spin, spin the Longhorn Network

This morning we told you of yesterday’s announcement that Texas’ new cable channel would a) air highlights of high school games and b) feature two Big 12 football games this fall.  That’s akin to the Soviet Union putting missiles in Cuba in 1962.  Nikita Khrushchev could spin things however he liked, but placing offensive weapons 90 miles off the Florida coast sent a much louder message than anything the Soviet premier chose to say.

Now as Texas and their partner, ESPN, continue to find ways to shove LHN down fellow Big 12 members’ throats, both entities are most definitely in full spin mode.

Longhorn AD DeLoss Dodds said yesterday that he believed every Big 12 school could launch a network of its own, even singling out Kansas State, which recently announced plans for its own online sports network.  Uh, yeah.  An online network for Kansas State is pretty much in the same ballpark as Texas’ $300 million ESPN television deal.  Sure.

Even more amusing, ESPN executive Burke Mangus had this to say:


“This did not sneak up on anybody… and the opportunity that Texas is taking advantage of with us is something that other institutions in the conference can take advantage of as well.” 

Well, hell!  Good news, Iowa State and Baylor.  ESPN’s ready to cut 20-year, $300 million deals for you, too.  Apparently all you had to do was ask.

2.  So why no OU talk this time around?

The word from Oklahoma is that the Sooners are not as interested in joining the SEC now as they were believed to be a summer ago.  Some 2010 reports even claimed that OU’s board had actually voted — faced with a Pac-16 or SEC scenario — to join the SEC last year, prior to Fox and ESPN saving the Big 12 with the promise of a new cash.

But it’s the opinion of Berry Trammel of The Oklahoman that OU would be more likely to “petition the Big Ten, hat in hand” than join the SEC.  And the league’s presidents’ true goal — in his view — would be to actually join the Pac-12.

Why?  “OU leaders are enticed by the academic reputation of the Pac-12, which the SEC can’t match.”

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this site.  We’ve pointed out often that it will be Pointy Heads who will make these realignment decisions, not Jocks.

It’s an interesting read from Trammel, start to finish.

3.  Frightened Baylor Fights To Save Itself

Last summer, it appeared for a while as though the Big 12 would break apart with six league schools breaking off to join what was then the Pac-10.  Baylor was not among the schools receiving a West Coast invite.  As it turned out, no one could have been happier with the salvation of the Big 12 than Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State… three schools that might have wound up in the Mountain West if massive realignment had occurred.

Having gone though that experience last year, the folks in Waco have a Texas-sized fear that if Texas A&M leaves the Big 12, the Big 12 will indeed split.  And if the Big 12 splits, everyone but Baylor and a couple other cast-offs will split for better leagues.

That’s why BU president Kenneth Starr — yes, that Kenneth Starr — has written an editorial for USA Today.  In it he predicts doom and gloom if schools start changing conference affiliations (nevermind the fact that schools have been moving in and out of leagues for a century).  He also speaks of breaking “signed solemn agreements” and of “commissioner-orchestrated raids.”  Oh, it’s all very over-the-top.

But in reality, if Mike Slive had offered Baylor a slot in his league, Starr wouldn’t have had time to write his editorial.  He’d have been too busy dancing for joy and trying to figure out the shortest routes from Waco to Starkville and from Waco to Auburn.  It would be in Baylor’s best interest to join an all-for-one, one-for-all league like the SEC.  Just as it’s in BU’s best interest now to try and prevent A&M from leaving.

The fact that he’s got a horse in this race renders Starr’s editorial moot, in our view.

Ditto a much-quoted economic study released by Waco-based economists, The Perryman Group.  Their study “revealed” that an A&M departure from the Big 12 would somehow result in the state of Texas losing $217.2 million in gross product output each year as well as 3,050 jobs.

Even a former governor of Texas has used the Perryman Group’s report to show that an A&M departure would hurt the state.  Unfortunately, it turns out Mark White — governor from 1983 through 1987 — also happens to be a Baylor grad.  Whodathunkit?

Well, there are three key problems with this now famous study:

1.  The Perryman Group is also heavily tied to Baylor University.

2.  The Perryman Group doesn’t fully reveal how they arrived at those eye-popping numbers.

3.  The Perryman Group’s report is basically baloney.

The fact that it’s baloney is probably the biggest issue.

Kudos to BusinessOfCollegeSports.com for breaking down some honest-to-goodness hard numbers on this.  According to that site’s math, it looks like a move by A&M to the SEC would actually increase revenue inside the Lone Star State.  It’s a solid read and well worth your time.

4.  The Big Ten says it’s not interested in expanding

Much of the handwringing over an A&M-to-the-SEC move is tied to the fact that such a shift is expected lead to all out realignment madness.  In reality, there’s nothing to suggest that a Texas A&M move would be the catalyst to set off some sort of collegiate Big Bang.

Just last summer, the whole world teetered on the brink for a full month… only to see a handful of schools fill out change-of-address cards.

The Big Ten announced today that its Council of Presidents/Chancellors has decided not to “actively” engage in expansion now “or at any time in the foreseeable future, barring a significant shift in the current intercollegiate landscape.”

Would the addition of Texas A&M and — just as an example — West Virginia be a “significant shift” in the current landscape?  Probably not.  So more than likely, the Big 12 would grab Houston to replace A&M and whatever other conference lost a school to the SEC would set about finding a single replacement as well.

The growth from 12- to 16-team leagues could come over a period of several years, not all at once.  Did we not all learn that lesson a year ago?

Also we have been told by multiple SEC sources that the league has no interest in rushing to field a 16-school league.  Does Slive have a long-term plan just in case everyone else starts rolling toward 16?  Yes.  But is that plan currently in play?  Not from what we’re being told.

It’s more likely — in our view — that we’re looking at a few small shifts like those we experienced last year rather than at a total shake-up of college sports as we know it.

In fact, we find it odd that this potential move is causing such a ruckus in the first place.  Last summer, Larry Scott was hailed as a genius for attempting to raid the Big 12 for half its members.  And no one painted Jim Delany as a fiend when his Big Ten eyeballed schools from the Big 12 to the Big East to the ACC, either.

So why is it so much worse for the SEC and Texas A&M to be talking with one another now?

5.  The Death Penalty for Miami?

NCAA president Mark Emmert said today that he would be willing to use the death penalty on a program if he felt it would deter cheating.

“If, and I say if, we have very unique circumstances where TV bans and death penalties are warranted, then I don’t think they are off the table and I would be OK with putting those in place.”

Miami brass can’t like the sound of that.  Neither can the administrators at eleven other Atlantic Coast Conference schools.  That league brought in Miami for two reasons: top-flight academics and its big brand name in football.  Wipe out football — with either a death penalty, major TV bans or even sweeping recruiting restrictions — and the overall value of the ACC drops in the eyes of television partners.

As we’ve stated previously, the fear of a drop in revenue could spook one or more ACC schools into taking a long, hard look at the big money SEC.  And make no mistake, any good president is busy weighing all possible options right now.

The worse things look for Miami, the worse things look for the ACC.  That kind of destabilization could, in turn, be very good for the SEC.

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Okla. State Mega-Booster Pickens Angling For A&M To Stay Put

Oklahoma State mega-booster and power-broker T. Boone Pickens told the Associated Press last night that he wants Texas A&M to stay in the Big 12… and that he thinks they will.

“That’s a big mistake for Texas A&M,” Pickens said of a move to the SEC.  “They’re moving out of Texas when they do that.  I don’t think that’s a smart deal.”

Pickens also said that he does not want to see the Big 12 split up with some schools heading to the Pac-12.  And he also said that he thinks whatever happens, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will stick together (which could be more wishing than believing):


“The rest of the conference isn’t quite that way. … There’s too much tradition just to wash it out and we scatter.  I think OU and Oklahoma State will stick together if something happens.  We’re kind of a stick-together crowd in this state.

The Aggies ought to stick with Texas.  They have a hard time hugging Texas.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed that.  But I can always hug Sooners if they don’t beat us. …

The Aggies, they’re very spirited guys and all.  I don’t think they’ll move.  I don’t want them to.  Texas doesn’t want them to either.  Nobody wants them to leave.

They’ve got three weeks to come to their senses.  I think they’ll stay with the conference.”


Pickens is one of the most powerful boosters in college athletics, so his words are worth listening to.  However, as an OSU supporter, he’s also laying out a best-case scenario for his school.

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Could Oklahoma’s NCAA Issues Take Sooners Off SEC Radar?

In recent years, the SEC had done much to change its reputation as being a cheaters’ paradise.  Just a couple of years ago the only SEC program in NCAA hot water was Arkansas’ track team and, let’s face it, ESPN doesn’t dedicate a whole lot of airtime to track scandals.

But in the past 12 months all the progress once made has been erased.  The SEC is back to being the World of Outlaws.  So knowing that their league is rightly or wrongly viewed as the dirtiest league in the country, would SEC presidents still eye Oklahoma if expansion push comes to shove in the near future?

Last summer, Mike Slive watched the Big 12 teeter on the verge of extinction and worked to provide a cushy landing spot for Texas A&M and Oklahoma.  If that league were to implode today — and we think it’ll still take a while to cave in on itself — A&M would still be at the top of the SEC’s wish list.

The school would bring massive Texas television markets (which would please the SEC’s TV partners and drive up league revenue).  It would provide an inroad to fertile Texas recruiting ground.  And the Aggies have the facilities, budget and passionate fan support to fit right into the SEC family.

Oklahoma?  Well, they’re a name.  Tulsa and Oklahoma City aren’t big TV markets and Oklahoma isn’t a particularly rich recruiting zone.  The school would not bring the academic clout of, say, a Virginia or Georgia Tech to the East, either.

Their athletics, however, are excellent.  Oklahoma is a national brand.  Bring in Oklahoma and you bring in one of the top programs in the United States.  Except for one thing.

In case you missed it, the Sooners were back in the news yesterday falling on their swords before the NCAA.  In the past few seasons both basketball and football have run afoul of the rulebook, but this time it was once again the hoops program.  As The Tulsa World states:

“Because the latest infractions occurred within a five-year period of the Bomar/Big Red case, OU was subject to NCAA ‘repeat violator’ penalties.  Those include a one- to two-year suspension of the institution’s offending sport, in which games, coaching activities and scholarships are basically frozen.”

Layman’s terms: OU could face the death penalty in basketball.  While not likely to get hit with such a serious penalty, it should make Slive and the SEC presidents wonder just what kind of trouble the Sooners could get into if they break the rules yet again moving forward.

Not only would snarky columnists be able to write “Outlaw League Adds Another OUtlaw program,” but the Sooners could actually be weakened by NCAA sanctions.  If they join the SEC in the next three or four years and break the rules again, they could conceivably be devastated by NCAA penalties.

If the top reason for grabbing Oklahoma is Sooner athletics and Sooner athletics could be damaged…

We’re looking 15 steps down the road, of course, as the Big 12 continues to put on a semi-happy face for the national media.  But if things once again get froggy on the expansion front, one has to wonder if Oklahoma — with all its current baggage — would still be the SEC’s first choice to join Texas A&M on the league’s invitation list.

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Who’ll Try To Keep Up With These Joneses?

Florida has the cash.  What about Alabama?  Maybe LSU?

Eventually some SEC school will try to keep up with the Joneses — or Knights in this case — when it comes to Oregon’s plans for a new, six-level, 130,000-square foot football operations center.

Yeah.  Six floors, 130,000-square feet.

The Ducks’ proposed facility will no doubt be funded in large part by OU booster and Nike founder Phil Knight.  It is expected to include “offices, team video theaters, offensive and defensive strategy rooms, a coaching conference suite, a video editing center, a dining hall and a weight room,” according to The Oregonian.

So again we ask, which SEC program has the money and desire to build a facility that rivals Oregon’s planned football center?

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Video: Kentucky’s presser after win over OU

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Video from Jerry Tipton over in Maui:

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UK basketball notes and stats after three games

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Some notes and stats for 3-0 Kentucky:

  • Kentucky has made 28 of 64 three-point attempts thus far for a percentage of 43.8. Before you are convinced this is a better shooting team than last year, the 2009-10 Cats made 21 of 52 threes in its first three games for a percentage of 40.4.
  • Free throws are a definite problem. Through three games, Kentucky has made just 35 of 65 from the stripe for 53.8 percent.
  • Surprising free throw stat: Jon Hood is just three of seven at the line.
  • Rebounding has not been a problem, or was not against Oklahoma. The Cats got 35.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds. Oklahoma snared 28.2 percent of its available offensive boards.
  • Josh Harrellson grabbed a season-low three rebounds against the Sooners.
  • DeAndre Liggins has played 103 minutes and is still looking for his first offensive rebound.
  • Liggins did have three steals against the Sooners.

  • Terrence Jones has two double-doubles in his first three games. Patrick Patterson also had two double-doubles in his first three games. Patterson had 12 points and 12 rebounds against Gardner-Webb in his second game as a Cat. He scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Liberty in his third game.
  • The Cats were outscored 36-34 in second half of the 76-64 win over Oklahoma. That’s the first half in six so far this year that John Calipari’s team has been outscored.
  • In its first three games, Kentucky has led at the half by 15, 14 and 14.
  • UK shot 54.9 percent vs. Portland and 50.0 vs Oklahoma. UK shot 50 percent or better in back-to-back seven times last season.
  • Oklahoma managed just six assists, the lowest total against UK since South Carolina was credited with just six assists in the Gamecocks’ upset of Kentucky last year in Columbia.
  • After making 13 of 26 shots in his first two games, Brandon Knight was just 4-of-15 vs. Oklahoma.
  • Knight also had five turnovers.
  • Doron Lamb has scored in double figures in all three games, and has hit eight of 12 three-pointers.
  • Neither Jarrod Polson or Stacy Poole played against OU.
  • UK’s offense has been pretty efficient so far, posting a 1.26 points per possession average against East Tennessee, a 1.31 vs. Portland and 1.13 versus Oklahoma. Not bad considering the Cats’ woeful free throw shooting thus far.

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