SBD/August 11, 2011/Colleges

Beebe Taking Talk Of Texas A&M Move To SEC "Very Seriously"

Texas A&M reportedly upset about plans for Texas' Longhorn Network

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe yesterday said that he is "aware of reports that Texas A&M is in the middle of conversations about joining the Southeastern Conference and is 'taking it very seriously,'" according to Kirk Bohls of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Beebe said he has "confidence that we'll work out whatever the issues are and go forward." A&M in a statement said President R. Bowen Loftin is "committed to doing what is best for Texas A&M not only now, but also in the future." The statement: "We continue to have wide-ranging conversations regarding all aspects of the university, including both academics and athletics." Bohls notes at the "basis of the new unrest of A&M and other Big 12 members appears to be growing, conference-wide acrimony toward Texas' powerful relationship with ESPN and the formation of the hugely profitable Longhorn Network later this month, which may be pushing the Aggies toward joining the SEC." A Big 12 school official said that he "heard that the Big 12, to survive in the event of A&M's departure, would consider inviting Notre Dame and Arkansas to join, but he admitted those schools were unlikely to be interested." The source added that other possibilities "include Houston, Louisville, Brigham Young and Air Force" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 8/11). Sources said that "no other Big 12 team is considering an exit and the league would continue with nine teams if A&M left" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/11).

WHAT'S BEST FOR THEM: In Houston, Brent Zwerneman notes A&M believes that it is going to be a "constant fight to try to keep the LHN in check, and they've been disappointed in what they perceive as a kowtowing by the Big 12 to UT, despite a one-year moratorium placed on high school coverage on the LHN." However, A&M officials privately contend that the "likely move east is based more on what's best overall for the university ... than any impulsive reaction to the Longhorn Network." The school "lacks confidence in Big 12 leadership and the future of the conference, and is skeptical whether the league truly seeks equality among its 10 remaining members." A high-ranking A&M official "described the rest of the league's members as being 'tired of Texas,' and the Longhorns' apparent plans to continue pushing the envelope with the Longhorn Network" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/11).

WEIGHING THEIR OPTIONS: In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch writes the fact that A&M's statement does not include a denial of SEC-related discussions means the "talks have substance." A move to the SEC would "no doubt" raise A&M's profile nationally, and it would also allow the conference to "re-open negotiations on a $2 billion, 15-year television rights agreement" signed with ESPN in '08 (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/11). In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes, "There is little doubt that A&M to the SEC would be good for the SEC. There is much doubt about how good it would be for A&M." The move "wouldn't vault A&M ahead of UT as much as it would open the door for SEC schools to bid for more of the state's top recruits." A&M needs to "drop the hate" for UT and the LHN before they "mess around and get played by the SEC" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/11). In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff writes under the header, "Big 12 Can Survive Even If Texas A&M Departs." Fox, which has "offered up about $1.2 billion for second-tier rights starting next year, would want" the conference to continue, as would ABC/ESPN, which "owns the league's first-tier rights." Kerkhoff: "If the end result is an A&M departure, a valued member is lost. But the Big 12 would have many reasons, billions in fact, to continue" (K.C. STAR, 8/11).

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