|Are the Aggies ready to jump into the nation's toughest conference? (US Presswire)|
Eventually leaving the Big 12 for the SEC might mean a few more bucks for the Aggies -- though I'm not so sure, and I'll tell you why in a minute -- but otherwise it would be a bad move. No, sorry. It wouldn't be a bad move. That's negative, and I don't mean to be negative.
It would be an awful move.
There. Better. That wasn't negative -- that was honest.
Leaving the Big 12 for the SEC would be an awful move for Texas A&M, but the Aggies have been leaning in that direction anyway because they're that tired of Texas. And that's impressive. No, really. That's impressive, and I say that without a shred of sarcasm. None of this is meant as an insult or even a backhanded compliment. Not to Texas A&M, anyway.
All of it is an insult to Texas, which has become so repulsively greedy and self-serving that it could soon lose its biggest rival -- a school it doesn't want to lose, by the way -- to another conference. And more schools have tried to follow. Spurred by Texas A&M's flirtation with the SEC, Oklahoma rediscovered its backbone by leading a quartet of Big 12 schools recently to the Big Ten to inquire about joining that conference in one mass transfer. The Big Ten, a source on the front line of the NCAA's changing landscape told me, cited its allegiance to the prestigious American Association of Universities and opted not to pursue an alliance; Oklahoma and OSU aren't AAU members.
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So there you have it. One Big 12 school wants to leave Texas, and four others tried. It says a lot about Texas, none of it good. Texas should be a black hole, an enormous force of nature that draws other schools to it from sheer gravity. Instead Texas is like the wrong end of a magnet, strangely pushing partners away.
By joining forces with ESPN over the $300 million (and counting) Longhorn Network, Texas wants the best of all possible worlds. It wants to monopolize a network like Notre Dame and BYU have done, only it doesn't have the guts to strike out on its own as a football independent. Texas wants to have its cake and eat it too, but instead the Longhorns are giving everyone around them a bad case of botulism.
Yes, the world understands why Texas A&M wants to leave. But it's an emotional move the Aggies have been contemplating -- look how fast this has been moving -- not a sensible one. Getting away from Texas is a strong move, an independent move, and I couldn't be prouder of Texas A&M. Not willing to be viewed nationally as Texas' little brother, Texas A&M has enough self-respect and inner strength to want to break free from Texas' gravitational pull and pursue another orbit to call its own. An orbit, by the way, where all schools would be on the same financial footing.
Leaving the Big 12 would be freeing for the Aggies' psyche, but it would be crushing for their football team. And not good for the rest of their sports teams, either. Not even a little bit good.
Instead of busing to play several conference rivals, as it does in the Big 12, everything would be a flight in the SEC. That's an additional commitment of finances that would cut significantly into whatever profit comes from SEC football -- Texas A&M fields teams in 18 sports, not just one -- but it's also an additional commitment of time.
Instead of busing to Austin or Waco for a Tuesday night volleyball game, and then busing back afterward, the Aggies probably would have to fly everywhere in the SEC. If it matters to anyone, that's a lot of additional time out of class for a lot of students, and the NCAA is about to judge a team's postseason worthiness on its Academic Progress Rate (APR).
Plus, parents of Texas A&M athletes, most of whom come from the state of Texas, wouldn't be able to fill up the gas tank and drive to see their kids play. It's a flight. And a hotel room. And meals and ground transportation. Or those parents could do the alternative -- read about their kid's game in the newspaper.
Geographic rivalries? There aren't any, other than old Southwest Conference foe Arkansas, which is 500 miles away and last played in the same league with the Aggies in 1991. Oh, I suppose there's the possibility of something growing with LSU, which would be Texas A&M's closest SEC rival. The drive from College Station to Baton Rouge is 360 miles.
But enough about the other sports. This move would be made for football, so let's look at what Texas A&M would get for fleeing Texas:
Texas A&M would get its butt kicked.
Sorry, that's just the way it is. Texas A&M hasn't exactly distinguished itself in the Big 12. One conference championship and one BCS bowl, both 13 years ago. Three division titles in 16 years, only one since 1998. A record of 1-9 in bowls as a member of the Big 12. All of which tells you two things:
Not only has Texas A&M not dominated its own league ... but it has been dominated when it played quality non-conference opponents in the postseason. Add it up, and Aggies haven't finished a season in the Top 10 since 1994.
And now Texas A&M wants a piece of the SEC, which has won the last five BCS titles -- by four different schools? Really? Read this from my colleague Tony Barnhart, who put it better than I could: "Last season Mississippi State finished 9-4 and beat Michigan 52-14 in the Gator Bowl ... and Mississippi State finished FIFTH in the SEC West."
Texas A&M would be joining the SEC West, where it would have no chance. Not based on its history in the Big 12 South, where over the last decade it has finished on average fourth. That means finishing ahead of Baylor and either Oklahoma State or Texas Tech. Finishing fourth in the SEC West would mean finishing behind Alabama, Auburn and LSU, which would happen almost every year.
And then finishing ahead of Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss -- every year.
See my point here? The SEC would be an awful move for Texas A&M, just about any way you slice it. Yet they want to go, and I understand it. I really do:
Texas A&M would cut off its nose to spite Texas -- regardless of what the procedure does to Texas A&M's own face.