SBD/September 8, 2011/Colleges

Most Big 12 Schools Reserving Right To Sue SEC, Texas A&M Over Departure

Some believe Baylor is Big 12 school with most to lose if conference dissolves

The Univ. of Texas and Univ. of Oklahoma are "willing to waive any legal claims and allow" Texas A&M to leave the Big 12, according to a source cited by Bruce Gietzen of KXXV-TV. But the other Big 12 schools, led by Baylor, indicated yesterday that they "are not willing to give up the right to sue the Aggies for damages." Baylor yesterday "threatened legal action to protect its own interests and keep the Big 12 together." Gietzen writes Baylor likely has "the most to lose if the conference were to disband." A source said that Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State "jumped on board with Baylor," and Gietzen notes Texas Tech, Missouri, and Oklahoma State "may get in line, as well." Sources said that UT "prefers to stay in the Big 12 rather than move to the Pac 12 or become an independent" (KXXV.com, 9/8). ISU Dir. of University Relations John McCarroll said yesterday that the school "has not waived its rights to sue either the SEC or Texas A&M for the involvement in that university's decision to leave the Big 12." McCarroll: "There has been no waiver of any legal rights" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 9/8). KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little yesterday added, "We are not planning litigation, but we have not waived our legal rights in this matter." In Kansas, Matt Tait noted the "interpretation of that statement is up in the air, however, it tends to suggest that KU wants to remain a loyal member of the Big 12 and that a strong Big 12 is the best outcome for KU" (LJWORLD.com, 9/7).

STANDING TOGETHER? ESPN.com's Katz & Schad cited a source as saying that during yesterday's conference call of the Big 12 BOD, "it was made clear that the SEC was unwilling to accept the Aggies until the rest of the Big 12 schools waived their right to sue." The source added that A&M President R. Bowen Loftin yesterday "asked if the schools would waive their right to litigation and only one -- Oklahoma -- agreed to do so." The source also said that eight of the nine remaining Big 12 schools "will not waive their right to pursue litigation against the SEC and A&M" unless OU "stays put" in the conference (ESPN.com, 9/7). But an OU official yesterday said, "I haven't heard anything about this 'group of 6,'" referring to the ESPN report. The official added that his colleagues at several other schools "all denied they were part of any kind of collusion" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 9/8). UT Senior Associate AD for Communications Nick Voinis said, "We are not part of the group that is threatening legal action against the SEC" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 9/8). A Big 12 official said that the "threat of a suit [is] a ploy to slow the process and allow the Big 12 to recalibrate without Texas A&M." In N.Y., Pete Thamel notes it is "well known that the Pac-12 will not admit Oklahoma -- and potentially Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech -- until Texas A&M goes to the SEC and clears any legal hurdles." The conference official said, "Until people know they're not going to end up in the Mountain West or Conference USA, I don't think any of the schools with any risk at all are going to release the claims" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/8).

BEING "HELD HOSTAGE": A&M's Loftin said, "We are being held hostage right now. Essentially, we're being told that you must stay here against your will and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans for example and makes us a free people" (AP, 9/7). A&M sources yesterday said that they were "confident the SEC would step in and bring the Aggies on board should the situation get more convoluted." One source added that he "anticipated the Aggies' announcement to the SEC to come shortly," but did not specify a timetable. In San Antonio, Brent Zwerneman notes speculation yesterday "centered on A&M perhaps offering the SEC to cover any potential litigation costs, although a school official declined to discuss legal strategy" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/8). In N.Y., Dick Weiss writes Baylor and university President Ken Starr are "literally holding A&M and every school in the country hostage by preventing them from acting in their best interests." Weiss: "We have no problem with Baylor flexing its survival muscles, but the idea of trying to rally support by suggesting to the SEC 'don't mess with Texas football' because it is part of the fabric of the state is ridiculous. ... This is a desperate attempt by Baylor to remain relevant on the college football landscape" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/8). In Oklahoma, Berry Tramel wrote under the header, "Baylor Ultimatum Could Backfire." Tramel: "If A&M is forced to stay in the league, and it continues at 10 teams, what kind of environment would ensue? It would be a pirate ship of a conference. A virtual prison, with every school sleeping with one eye open, because it trusts no one. Do you think OU, much less A&M, wants to be in a league with Baylor after Wednesday?" (NEWSOK.com, 9/7).

ALL COMES BACK TO LONGHORN NETWORK: CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd wrote UT may have "overplayed its hand in pushing the LHN on its conference brethren and college athletics as a whole." Dodd: "If you don't agree, consider Texas' options at this point: It can stay and try to resuscitate a diminished Big 12, it can go to the Pac-12 (where it will have to change or drop its lucrative LHN deal) or go independent. In all three scenarios, Texas loses some of the power and influence it enjoys today. All because of a debate over high school games?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/7).

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