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If A&M bolts, Big 12 should be able to keep TV deals with 10 members

law

For as much talk as there’s been about Texas A&M going to the SEC — and there has been a lot — there’s been no action so far. The SEC’s meeting to delay a possible expansion has splashed cold water on the notion that A&M’s supposed announcement to move to another conference could happen at some point this week, although it very well could.

But the legal ramifications of such a move are heavy. A&M would likely be asked to relinquish 90 percent or more of their annual conference revenue if the Aggies decide to join the SEC by 2012. Likewise, the SEC could find themselves on the wrong end of the check-writing process if A&M doesn’t take the proper steps toward conference flipping.

A&M would have to leave the Big 12 first — effectively breaching their contract — before a formal invite from the SEC could be given.

Otherwise, you could see the term “tortious interference” throw around. In this instance, tortious interference essentially means the SEC could be liable for any or all damages to the Big 12 proximately caused by A&M’s departure if it’s proven the SEC acted intently toward A&M prior to breach of contract.

Such damages as, say, losing the recently-inked second-tier television rights between the Big 12 and FOX. Or, the first-tier rights between the Big 12 and ESPN. Or both.

(Note: outkickthecoverage.com does a decent job of explaining the pickle ESPN finds itself in with contracts with both the Big 12 and the SEC. It’s humorous, really)

But the Big 12 may be able to keep its television agreements if they can find a “suitable” 10th member. Who that member would be, provided A&M leaves, is still up for debate.

Houston, BYU, Louisville and Air Force have all been mentioned by name.

When asked if discussions have begun to find a replacement, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said, “not in an official manner, but it’s going to start.

“I think 10 seems to be the number our folks are real excited about maintaining, and we feel we have an attractive group of institutions that might be attractive to others to consider.”

It’s unclear at this point if any other members besides A&M would reach out to the SEC —  or any other conference — for potential membership. Missouri has denied any contact with the SEC and the word on the Big 12 street is that all nine members not named A&M are committed to the future of the conference.

Whether they actually are, and whether FOX and ESPN are equally so, is still to be seen.

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9 Responses to “If A&M bolts, Big 12 should be able to keep TV deals with 10 members”
  1. southernpatriots says: Aug 15, 2011 7:04 AM

    Ben: Thank you for providing us with some of the legalities that are involved. The SEC must act the way they have to slow down the process unless they could be seen as interfering “tortious interference” and be liable for all damages into the millions or tens of millions. Good thing the SEC has adept lawyers.

    A & M needs to breach their contract with the Big 12 which does not have an unlimited penalty but a prescribed return of funds, which A & M is glad to do, then there would be no interference by the SEC (no invitation yet, no encouragement to join yet, etc.). When A & M is in breach (with no assistance, encouragement, or involvement from the SEC) then matters can begin and progress for A & M to join the SEC.

    One would readily conclude that this same type of process would need to occur with any other suitors who will join the SEC (FL State; GA Tech; etc.) Knowing the legal process which must occur to hold the SEC harmless (since all contacts have been from A & M to the SEC), and that we must all wait until A & M (or others) satisfy their contractual obligations before beginning the admittance process to the SEC, we can know this will done and is in the process at this time, and we will hear about it along the way.

    Ben, thanks again! We can relax now and wait.

  2. pricecube says: Aug 15, 2011 7:40 AM

    It seems rather silly that they would invite BYU to join the Big 12. BYU is looking for independence and their own channel much like Texas. There are 5.5 million(and growing) Mormons in the United States. Houston might work but if A&M leaves for the SEC this probably spells the end of the Big 12.

  3. centexhorn says: Aug 15, 2011 8:14 AM

    Why would a BYU network be a problem if a UT network isn’t? I think the Big 12 specifically wants members who have networks and a more independent (not dependent) mindset. Why would they want to bring in another team who has a problem with the LHN? I think school networks are ENCOURAGED at this point.

  4. teke184 says: Aug 15, 2011 8:29 AM

    I’d think that the liability for A&M and the SEC would be minimized by the dumb statement that Beebe made the other day.

    Telling A&M that the league would survive without them and that they could be replaced sure seems to imply that the damages caused by them leaving would be minimal at best.

  5. pricecube says: Aug 15, 2011 8:48 AM

    @centexhorn
    But why would BYU want to join the Big 12? As an independent they can keep all their own revenue.

  6. florida727 says: Aug 15, 2011 10:04 AM

    Couple thoughts:
    1) The SEC is just posturing, appropriately so, to avoid any legal exposure via ‘tampering’ rules, but there’s interest in A&M for the obvious reason… the Texas market.

    2) BYU would want to join the Big 12 for the simple reason that their own revenue generated, which they could keep in its entirety, would pale in comparison to the split they’d get from ALL the Big 12 schools going to bowl GAMES (not just the ONE they might get to); envision a ‘down year’ (or more) when they’d otherwise get nothing, instead they’ll benefit; plus, Notre Dame notwithstanding, how easy do you think it’d be for them to get an invite to a BCS game (title or otherwise) as an independent?; also, high school kids don’t typically identify with being an “independent”, they like to brag about being an ACC basketball player, or an SEC football player, or whatever… it’s an ‘association’ thing.

  7. pricecube says: Aug 15, 2011 10:31 AM

    I guess we will find out if/when an offer is made but I think BYU wants to stay independent.

  8. deucez2 says: Aug 15, 2011 12:04 PM

    K state just launched their own network too. Kansas to the big 10, let the rumors begin!

  9. rayrsatx says: Aug 15, 2011 4:24 PM

    So in other words, southern-patriot “no harm, no foul” on Texas A&M’s part! Some people say so much less, when they talk so much! Lol

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