Texas A&M dealt a blow to the Big 12 Conference Wednesday, saying it plans to leave by July 2012 if it is accepted by the SEC or another league.
The move, which had been expected, may set off another round of conference realignments in college sports. The Aggies have made it clear they want to join the 12-member Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 said again after the announcement that it will move swiftly to find at least one replacement for the Aggies.
University president R. Bowen Loftin notified the Big 12 in a letter and said departing the league "is in the best interest of Texas A&M." He said he hopes the move can be amicable and presumably hopes to negotiate a reasonable exit fee.
Texas A&M, which has been in the Big 12 since the conference's founding in 1996, said it will submit an application to join another, unspecified conference. If it is accepted, Texas A&M will leave the Big 12, effective June 30, 2012.My guess -- and that's all it is -- is that the Southeastern Conference leadership told Texas A&M officials that the Aggies will be granted membership in the SEC once it dealt with the various issues associated with leaving the Big 12. You'll recall earlier this month that Texas A&M appeared to force the issue of joining the SEC by asking to join the league. At the time, the SEC said "no," but it also made clear that it would leave (wide) open the question of expansion.
Is Texas A&M's departure a sure thing? Probably, presuming an agreeable exit fee is established, and the Houston Chronicle reports that the SEC sees advantages to the Aggies in the conference.
The SEC is expected to announce A&M’s entry as its 13th member in the coming days, putting the wraps on a whirlwind month in Aggieland. A&M will end a 16-year run in the Big 12 next summer, and intends to play football, volleyball and soccer in the SEC starting in the summer of 2012.
“We are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs,” Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement. “This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically. Texas A&M is an extraordinary institution, and we look forward to what the future may hold for Aggies worldwide.”Recognizing that the SEC wants Texas A&M, this blogger also is guessing that the conference has identified a couple schools that could become member No. 14. The even number makes scheduling and a host of issues more manageable. If I'm correct -- and I have no evidence to support that I am -- then it should not be long before the additional schools begin to appear in media stories.
Let's also leave out whether the Aggies' decision is the right one; we know in the college athletics universe that exists today that programs are searching for the biggest pot o' gold they can find, and in doing so issues such as tradition are tossed to the side of the road.