SBD/September 7, 2011/CollegesPrint All
SEC presidents and chancellors "unanimously voted to accept Texas A&M Tuesday night as the league's 13th member, but the Aggies' official acceptance has been delayed by the potential threat of legal action," according to Joe Schad of ESPN.com. SEC member schools "want assurances that no individual Big 12 school will sue for contractual interference over Texas A&M's departure," and sources indicated that Baylor "has not given that assurance to this point." Univ. of Florida President and SEC Chair Bernie Machen today said in a statement, "We were notified yesterday afternoon that at least one Big 12 institution had withdrawn its previous consent and was considering legal action. The SEC has stated that to consider an institution for membership, there must be no contractual hindrances to its departure." Schad notes A&M "had planned a celebration and news conference at the College Station campus for Wednesday but that is now on hold" (ESPN.com, 9/7). The SEC released the letter that Machen was referring to, sent from Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive last Friday. Beebe wrote, "We both agreed it is in the best interests of each of our conferences and our member institutions of higher education to waive any and all legal actions by either conference and its members resulting from admission of Texas A&M into the SEC, as long as such admission is confirmed publicly by September 8, 2011" (SI.com, 9/7). ORANGEBLOODS.com's Chip Brown cites sources as saying that Big 12 schools are "expected to discuss the matter" today, and if "even one of the Big 12 schools refuse to waive their right to sue the SEC over its courtship of Texas A&M, the SEC could withdraw its vote to admit A&M" (ORANGEBLOODS.com, 9/7). In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch notes A&M's move, "once completed, could trigger another round of widespread conference realignment in college athletics, as well as the breakup of the Big 12" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/7).
SOONER OR LATER? ESPN.com's Andy Katz reported OU is "debating whether staying in the Big 12 or pursuing a move to the Pac-12 makes sense for the long-term stability of the school's athletic interests, including weighing the idea of leaving the footprint of neighboring states that makes travel easier for its passionate fan base." A source said that OU officials are "perfectly happy in the Big 12, even after Nebraska left for the Big Ten," but A&M's announcement "to leave the Big 12 started the process of reconsidering." OU President David Boren "created a stir Friday when he said that the Sooners had interest from other conferences." But a source said that there is a "lot of internal discussion about whether going to a 16-team super conference in football is the right decision for the Sooners' program." The source added that the 10 Big 12 schools were "committed to remaining together until emotions became involved," pointing to A&M's frustrations with the Univ. of Texas' Longhorn Network (ESPN.com, 9/6). In San Jose, Jon Wilner cited sources as saying that Pac-12 presidents and chancellors "do not want to expand." However, the Pac-12 likely will "evaluate its options" with A&M heading to the SEC. Sources said that "in all likelihood the Pac-12 would take Oklahoma and Oklahoma State even if Texas were off the table" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 9/6). Meanwhile, Univ. of Colorado President Bruce Benson said yesterday, "One of the reasons -- and there are a lot of reasons -- we got in the Pac-12 is to play regularly on the West Coast. When I hear things like East-West divisions, we're going back to the Big 12 again. I don't know who's possibly going, but I sure don't want to get shorted out of the West Coast" (DENVER POST, 9/7).
LONG & SHORT OF IT: SI.com's Andy Staples reported UT officials are "tired of being painted as the villains, so don't expect them to make any move before the Sooners." But if OU and OSU leave, "there would be no Big 12 left to salvage." In that case, UT "would need to decide whether it wants to join a conference or be independent." If UT joined the Pac-12, it "would be possible to fold the Longhorn Network into the Pac-12's new regional network structure." The university "may have to partner with another school such as Texas Tech to make the deal work." Staples noted ESPN, which runs LHN, "also is a network partner of the Pac-12," so the network "could essentially negotiate with itself to make a deal work that keeps all its partners happy" (SI.com, 9/6). In Houston, Tim Griffin cited sources as saying that LHN "is not perceived to be an impediment that would keep the Longhorns from joining the Pac-12" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/6). ORANGEBLOODS.com's Brown reported a source "put the chances of UT going to the Pac-12 at '50 to 60 percent' on Friday night and had those odds increasing as of Saturday." But the source said that by Sunday, those percentages dropped to 20% because UT "wanted to explore ways to hold onto the Longhorn Network." Brown noted UT "would have to give up LHN if it went to the Pac-12, which has equal revenue sharing and pools its third-tier TV rights in a series of regional networks" (ORANGEBLOODS.com, 9/5).
The Univ. of Tennessee named Dave Hart its new AD Monday after UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek “convinced Hart that now was the time to leave his alma mater, Alabama, where he had served as the executive director of athletics since 2008,” according to Andrew Gribble of the Knoxville NEWS-SENTINEL. Hart “will make a base salary of $575,000, an additional $150,000 for personal appearances and media opportunities and will receive $50,000 ‘retention bonuses’ through Aug. 31, 2017 that will give him $775,000 annually.” If Hart “meets Cheek's ‘expectations,’ he will receive an annual 3 percent raise to his base salary.” But if Hart leaves UT for another Division I AD job “before the end of his contract, he would owe the school 75 percent of his remaining base salary.” UT would owe Hart the same amount “if it were to fire him without cause before the end of his deal.” Hart's first day is Sept. 21, a “little more than three months after” former AD Mike Hamilton resigned. UT Women's AD Joan Cronan, who has served as the school's Interim Vice Chancellor of Athletics, said that Hart's name “didn't pop on UT's radar until sometime last week.” Hart had worked as Alabama Exec AD since August ’08, and previously served 20 years as AD at Florida State and East Carolina Univ. (Knoxville NEWS-SENTINEL, 9/6). Hart on Monday said, “I want this to be perfectly clear: I am absolutely and totally committed to the University of Tennessee. I wanted to say that early because I don’t want you to trip over each other to ask the Alabama question.” The AP’s Beth Rucker noted UT “had been looking for an athletic director since Mike Hamilton resigned in June in the wake of a lengthy NCAA investigation into the Volunteers’ basketball and football programs.” Hart said that the NCAA’s “final ruling on Tennessee’s case, which was announced Aug. 31, had no bearing on his decision to accept the job” (AP, 9/6).
DIFFERENT BALLGAME: In Memphis, Ron Higgins writes it is “hard not to like” Hart’s credentials. During his tenure at FSU he “did all the right things an AD should to improve the overall athletic program and grow the department.” It seems like UT “hit a home run hiring him.” Still, Higgins writes there is “this one fact that keeps nagging at me: In the three major men’s sports at FSU … Hart only had to make two head coaching hires during his 13 years in Tallahassee” (Memphis COMMERIAL APPEAL, 9/7). In Nashville, David Climer writes Hart in UT’s athletic department will be “in a virtual vacuum when it comes to on-campus scrutiny.” But unlike “most similar schools, Hart will enjoy uncommon freedom to do his job at UT without people in positions of power second-guessing his every move” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/7).