Texas A&M, Missouri Play First Conference Games As Members Of The SEC
Texas A&M Univ. played its first SEC football game Saturday, a 20-17 loss to the Univ. of Florida, but it “might have been too strong to say a win would’ve proved the Aggies made the right decision in spurning the Big 12 and traditional rivals for their new league,” according to Kate Hairopoulos of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. However, the loss “doesn’t mean they don’t belong in the SEC, either.” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said, “It wasn’t about today’s game. It was about a 10-, 20-, 30-year horizon, saying to ourselves, ‘How can we remain the pre-eminent conference?’ We thought the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri would put us in position to do that long term.” Hairopoulos noted the SEC is “negotiating with television partners CBS and ESPN, with a potential league network involved, for what is expected to be a major payday.” Slive said that a deal “could be finalized by the end of this season.” Hairopoulos added A&M fans “largely embraced the move and celebrated everything SEC, treating each time the SEC logo appeared outside of Kyle Field, on the field and on Aggie T-shirts as monumental moments.” Florida officials, including President Bernie Machen, “visited for the weekend, dining and meeting with A&M regents.” Slive “took in Midnight Yell Practice the night before the game.” Slive: “It was quite extraordinary, 40,000 people in the stands. We’ve appreciated from day one the traditions and the culture. Everything that we thought was A&M has proven to be A&M” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/9).
ROCKET MAN: In Atlanta, Chip Towers noted Slive was “present for the pregame coin tosses of both the Florida-Texas A&M game in College Station, Texas, and the Missouri-Georgia game at Faurot Field.” Slive “flew by private jet to both venues, leaving Kyle Field in the second quarter to fly the 750 miles to Central Missouri.” Slive said, “You can’t walk five steps downtown without finding an SEC logo, so we like that a lot.” Slive: “I was able to flip the coin in both games, which was a real treat for me. In both stadiums, you could just feel the energy, you could feel the euphoria, you could feel the pride and how excited everybody is. These are the third and fourth teams we’ve added to the league in 80 years. So it’s a historic day, and everybody wants to be a part of that history” (AJC.com, 9/9). YAHOO SPORTS’ Pat Forde writes, “You can debate whether conference realignment in general, and SEC expansion in particular, are good for college athletics. You cannot debate the elation it has brought to the newest members. At least for now.” Slive said, “Leading up to the games, in talking to the athletic directors, you had a sense there was a lot of excitement building. We knew they had great tradition and great fans. But then to come and experience, in a tangible way, the proof of their excitement is very gratifying. And the games were very competitive” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/10).
THE BIG 12’S TAKE: SI.com’s Pete Thamel wrote Florida-Texas A&M "will resonate much longer as an event, a day that both celebrated new life and finalized a divorce from an abusive relationship. A decade from now, we'll be able to tell if the move stemmed from institutional smarts or inferiority spite.” Oklahoma State Univ. booster T. Boone Pickens said, “I think they made a mistake. I think it’s going to be a tough place for them to compete” (SI.com, 9/8). CABLEFAX DAILY notes even if the Big 12 did expand, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby is “not sure the league would add a championship game.” He said with the new playoff coming in '14, "We really like our path to the national championship playoffs, playing a full round robin." Bowlsby did “reveal the potential to expand and/or add a title game are discussed in the contract, leaving open the room to renegotiate.” As part of the deal, reportedly worth $2.6B, ESPN “continues as the primary rights holder of Big 12 men's basketball.” Starting this season, ESPN, Fox Sports or a conference institution will “carry every Big 12 home football game.” Big 12 schools will have “the option to retain rights to 1 conference-controlled football game per season for distribution via permitted member institution outlets and 3rd-party licensees, or can return the retained game back to Fox for broadcast.” Institutions also will be “permitted to retain a minimum of 4 men's basketball games a season.” Fox will have “the 1st choice of games through '15 and starting in '16, Fox and ESPN will alternate 1st choice” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 9/10).