Texas A&M University has been invited to join the Southeastern Conference by a unanimous vote of conference presidents – although it appears the legal problems the SEC had hoped to avoid when it rejected the Aggies last month remain unresolved.
Specifically, it appears as though the Big XII conference – Texas A&M’s home since 1996 – prematurely granted the SEC written permission to extend an invitation to the school. According to Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, an unnamed Big XII institution – widely-known to be Baylor University – is blocking the move.
“We are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in Big 12 Conference,” Loftin said on Wednesday.
That’s pretty tough talk – especially considering that Texas A&M just concluded a new agreement with the conference last summer as its members were being poached by the Big Ten and Pac-10.
“Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future,” Loftin said last June. “As Athletics Director Bill Byrne and I have stated on numerous occasions, our hope and desire was for the Big 12 to continue. We are committed to the Big 12 and its success today and into the future.”
Yeah … not so much.
Can Baylor compel Texas A&M to remain in the Big XII with legal threats? It’s unclear … although a planned celebration at College Station has been abruptly cancelled, and SEC leaders have been compelled to cool their heels.
“We were notified yesterday afternoon that at least one Big 12 institution had withdrawn its previous consent and was considering legal action,” University of Florida president and SEC chairman Dr. Bernie Machen said in a statement. “The SEC has stated that to consider an institution for membership, there must be no contractual hindrances to its departure.”
Also yet to be resolved is the issue of additional SEC expansion. Accepting Texas A&M as its 13th school would throw the SEC’s current divisional structure out of whack. But will the SEC add one new member? Or will it undertake a broader expansion?
Speculation has focused on Clemson, Florida State and Missouri as possible new members – but all three of those schools have poured cold water on the rumors.
The University of South Carolina has been surprisingly open to the various realignment rumblings. In fact, contrary to views expressed by other SEC schools, USC head coach Steve Spurrier said he wouldn’t mind playing the Gamecocks’ arch-rivals in a conference game.
“I think it would be great if Clemson joined the SEC,” Spurrier said last month. “We would play them in a conference game. They’d be in our division. It would make for a bigger game.”
Meanwhile, USC president Harris Pastides said that while he preferred the status quo – he was supportive of the decision to extend an invitation to Texas A&M.
“I am very pleased with the current 12-university configuration of the Southeast Conference. But, if we are going to expand, a university of Texas A&M’s quality is a great choice,” USC president Harris Pastides said in a statement. “The conference has been very careful in its deliberations. As a league, we know that this is not something that will happen until all of the Big 12 universities are in agreement about Texas A&M’s withdrawal. It is prudent to wait to ensure that everyone is aligned. At the point that happens, I will join my colleagues in welcoming A&M.”
Texas A&M has a 675–443–48 (.600) all-time record, including a 9-4 mark a year ago. The Aggies – currently ranked No. 7 in the nation – trounced Southern Methodist University in their season-opener on Sunday.