It’s been rumored since last week that Tuesday/Wednesday could be the day Texas A&M and the SEC finally and officially consummate their months-long flirtation.
Tuesday came and went without an announcement. Wednesday, however, appears to be a different story.
The first step after announcing in late August that it was “in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference” was to apply for membership into the SEC. That’s already happened. The next big step for A&M was a full vote of the SEC’s presidents/chancellors; that reportedly happened at some point Tuesday evening in Atlanta, with some outlets calling it a unanimous vote in favor of A&M’s inclusion while another had the tally at 10-2 in favor; yet another had the vote at 11-0 in favor, with Vanderbilt, long believed to be an opponent of further expansion, abstaining.
Suffice to say, the SEC has neither confirmed nor denied that a vote was taken on the A&M membership issue, let alone that they have approved.
The Big 12 is planning a public response for today to A&M’s imminent departure, CFT has confirmed.
Public pronouncements, or lack thereof, notwithstanding, the SEC has indeed formally approved A&M as the 13 member — nine “yea” votes from the 12 current school members was needed — although that thumbs-up may have come with a proviso. Chip Brown of OrangeBloods.com wrote Tuesday night that A&M’s membership has been approved pending “each individual member of the Big 12 waiv[ing] its right to litigation against the SEC.”
That could at least put a temporary fly in the realignment ointment as Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News posted on Twitter very early this morning that Baylor, which yesterday launched a “Don’t Mess With Texas Football” campaign, “is still suggesting “tortious interference” claim as a possibility against both the SEC and Mike Slive personally.” The fear on Baylor’s end is that, if A&M bolts from the Big 12 to the SEC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech would do the same for the Pac-12, leaving BU with a conference in utter shambles and on the brink of extinction.
Despite BU’s scrambling and last-ditch Hail Mary to save the conference, all signs point to an official announcement from A&M sooner rather than later, likely as early as today. MR.SEC.com among others reported that a press conference has been tentatively scheduled for College Station, with a significant chunk of the Zone Club at Kyle Field blocked off for the ceremonies. The San Antonio Express-News also reports that the Zone Club has also been reserved for Thursday, presumably on the off-chance that last-minute legal wrangling delays the inevitable.
With the Aggies’ bags packed and the car warming up in the driveway, it appears the SEC’s attention will now turn to a 14th member to even out its conference roll. Indications are conference commissioner Mike Slive has been authorized to commence discussions with West Virginia and Missouri — another current Big 12 member — as that 14th team. Speculation connecting those two schools to the SEC have been bubbling just below the surface for weeks, although the Big Ten may have something to say in regards to Mizzou if a significant shift in the conference landscape is in the offing.
And what of the Big 12? By all appearances, Oklahoma will have the fate of that conference in its hands. If A&M leaves… if Missouri does the same… the Sooners, and by extension their in-state brethren Oklahoma State, may have no choice but to pull the trigger on a move west, a move they’ve heavily intimated is a real possibility in recent days. If all of that were to come to fruition, Texas and Texas Tech would seem very likely to do the state’s patented two-step out the Big 12’s door and hitch a ride with the Oklahoma schools to the Pac-12.
Of course, A&M is the first domino. Until that one tips, everything else remains very much fluid. By all accounts, however, there could be a whole helluva lot of tipping going on, perhaps as early as today.
UPDATED 8:34 a.m. ET: Hold off on blowing up the party balloons. Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has posted a couple of notes on his Twitter account that the legal wrangling spoke of earlier — mainly on the part of Baylor — has at least temporarily tapped the brakes on A&M’s announcement they will be moving to the SEC.
“Source: A&M announcement on SEC bid on hold because of litigation threats from Baylor. SEC bid contingent on B12 schools not suing.”
“Big 12/A&M had indicated mutual waivers of legal action in prior correspondence. But BU now considering suit against SEC, Mike Slive.”
Incidentally, Ken Starr — yes, that Ken Starr — is Baylor’s president. Feel free to insert your own jokes at your leisure.