In the two or so since the SEC announced that, with one big stipulation, Texas A&M would become the conference’s 13th member, the Aggies have made it clear that they have no interest in remaining in the Big 12 beyond the 2011-2012 academic year, regardless of how much “stability” their current league is duct-taping together.
As late as Wednesday, the day after it looked like the Big 12 had been “saved” by the Pac-12’s non-action on expansion, the chief communications officer for A&M, Jason Cook, took to Twitter to repeat a message he’s sent out on multiple occasions: “TAMU has made our intentions perfectly clear. We do not intend to be a member of the Big 12 past this season.”
While every single sign points to A&M being in the SEC starting next season, the Big 12, or at least the newest member of the Big 12’s office, hasn’t given up hope of keeping the Aggies as a conference member.
Speaking during his “introductory” teleconference, interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told reporters that, while it’s admittedly a longshot, it’s worth an attempt to keep the Aggies in the conference fold.
“I’ve known (A&M athletic director) Bill Byrne for many, many years. I plan to go to College Station and talk to him. Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” said Neinas. “I would say the odds are against it, but sometimes a 100-to-1 shot comes home.”
Neinas, who’s consulting firm aided in A&M’s hiring of Byrne, will personally appeal to A&M in the coming days, with the tack seemingly being to play on the school’s emotions and sense of history.
“They belong in the Big 12 that’s where they belong,” Neinas said. “I’m a history major. I think their history belongs in the Big 12. They’re from the Southwest Conference, they are from the state of Texas. That’s where they were born and bred. That’s where they should stay.”
Unfortunately for Neinas, even he realizes he’s likely urinating into a stiff breeze, saying earlier in the teleconference that “[t]he Aggies are probably going to go.”
In addition to the A&M situation and myriad other issues facing him during his time in his temporary position, Neinas touched on the expansion issue that the conference must address at some point in the very near future. With A&M’s all-but-guaranteed departure, the Big 12 will be left at nine schools and will need to get to at least 10 before their new television deal kicks in next year. While Neinas wouldn’t talk specific names of schools that may or may not be candidates, he did come off as someone who’s not only a history major but a geography one as well.
“I’m old-fashioned,” he said. “Look at how conferences were originally formed. In the Big Eight, the Big 12, there was a connection with the natural resources and agriculture. In the Big Ten, the SEC, the ACC, there was a flow of commerce between the states.
“Now conferences are reshaping related to scheduling opportunities, TV and revenue. Conferences had a culture of their own. Now it’s amalgamated. Bottom line: I don’t know which direction we’ll go.”
Based on Neinas’ words, and if he has any sway at all — when he was commissioner of the Big Eight, for example, he hired DeLoss Dodds as an assistant and they remain close — the rumors connecting TCU to the Big 12 could have some legs and some healthy support inside the league office. Could the same be said for schools such as Houston and an openly lusting SMU, which both reside inside the conference’s current footprint? That remains to be seen, and highly unlikely, but Neinas is a consensus builder and, based on his relationships with most of the schools left in the Big 12, they’ll at least hear him out as to which direction he thinks the conference should go on expansion.