SBD/September 26, 2011/Colleges

SEC Formally Extends Membership To Texas A&M Without Conditions

Texas A&M is expected to join the SEC for the '12-13 academic year
Texas A&M yesterday “finally was able to accept membership” in the SEC, ending a “two-month, drawn-out process that very nearly led to the demise of the Big 12,” according to Suzanne Halliburton of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. SEC presidents and chancellors yesterday “voted unanimously to accept the Aggies without conditions.” The SEC's initial invitation to A&M “was granted nearly three weeks ago, but was held up by several Big 12 schools that were concerned over millions in revenue they stood to lose if the Big 12 collapsed.” A Big 12 official said that “neither the SEC nor Texas A&M have asked any of the Big 12 schools to waive their right to sue.” A&M is “set to become the 13th team in the SEC, and will start play in the league beginning in the 2012-13 academic year.” Per the current contract with Big 12 schools, A&M is “facing an exit penalty that could be as high as $28 million.” However, the conference “negotiated exit fees when Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 last year, cutting the amount by more than half to avoid a protracted legal fight” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 9/26). Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas “had hoped to talk A&M into staying in his league.” Neinas said, "We will continue to work in securing the long-term stability of the Big 12” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/26).

WHO’S GOT NEXT? The AP’s Ralph Russo noted it is “unclear if the SEC will add a 14th member for next season or go with unbalanced divisions.” Rumored possibilities “include the Big 12's Missouri and West Virginia of the Big East” (AP, 9/25). In St. Louis, Vahe Gregorian notes when the SEC and Texas A&M announced yesterday that their “forbidden union finally had been cleared, implying legal roadblocks had been removed, it also plowed away an impediment for a potential SEC-Mizzou hookup.” Since the SEC “had resolved not to proceed with ushering in A&M until the Baylor-led legal wrangling was reconciled, it now faces a new landscape: an unwieldy membership of 13 but a perhaps less litigious-minded Big 12 to contend with if it is indeed serious about MU to be its 14th” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/26). Neinas on Saturday said that he “remains concerned about the possibility of Mizzou leaving the Big 12.” Neinas: "What the chancellor told me is that he has some curators who are new and interested in talking about things. But in the end, I believe it will be resolved.'' But Neinas said that the Big 12 “can be viable as a league even without Mizzou” (STLTODAY.com, 9/24). Neinas, who officially takes over his role Oct. 3, said, “I’m not planning to be there long term, so my responsibility is to help mend fences if that has to be the case and try to make sure that everyone is operating and doing their best in the right direction” (KANSASCITY.com, 9/23).

LOOKIN AHEAD: In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch noted Neinas and Big 12 officials “expressed optimism Friday that a proposal to turn over each school's ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports television rights to the league for six years will solidify the league as a nine-member nucleus.” Big 12 sources on Friday said that Univ. of Texas officials, who “previously balked at signing away TV rights, are now open to the concept -- as long as it is limited to a six-year window.” Missouri, another “possible roadblock to league stability, has sent mixed signals about its intentions” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/24). UT men’s AD DeLoss Dodds, a member of the league's expansion committee, has confirmed “preliminary talks with Brigham Young, an independent in football, as well as a desire for a 10-team league.” Oklahoma President David Boren said that he “prefers a 12-team configuration.” Other expansion candidates “include TCU, Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/25). ESPN.com’s Andy Katz noted BYU is “adamant that it wants its own network to be successful on a national and global stage.” BYUtv has an agreement with the WCC and ESPN “that works to its advantage by getting games on television that weren’t available under the previous contract with the Mountain West and Comcast.” BYUtv “probably wouldn’t be an issue for Big 12 membership, but the question is do both parties want each other?” Katz: “BYU’s hierarchy does like being with like-minded, faith-based universities in the WCC that can understand its mission. The Cougars do seek stability and their new conference does offer it up. But if the Cougars did want to leave, they wouldn’t get held up by the WCC” (ESPN.com, 9/23).

EVEN IT OUT: Univ. of South Carolina President Harris Pastides “would like to see the Southeastern Conference cap expansion at 14 teams.” Pastides said, "I don't think 13 is a sustainable number, but I think 14 is. I'm not in favor of 16 personally right now. You begin to lose what is a very special quality." Pastides “understands he and other like-minded leaders might not be able to slow the expansion train once it leaves the station -- as was the case with A&M -- but he would like to limit how far it goes” (AP, 9/23). In Omaha, Lee Barfknecht wrote, “Super-conferences are imminent. This will lead to the football playoff that ‘everybody’ wants. Sure, collateral damage would be done to the NCAA basketball tournament. Just keep an eye out for a large-school breakaway from the NCAA. It's coming fast.” BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock said, "What surprises me about this is that people think this is the first time this has ever happened” (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 9/24).
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