Posted on: September 7, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 2:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Baylor's last-ditch legal effort to save the Big 12 is cute and all, but let's be realistic: Texas A&M to the SEC is something that A&M wants, the SEC wants, and even the Big 12 seems to want in an effort to put the Aggies behind them. Baylor, being Baylor, is not going to be able to hold back a tide that strong for very long. (For a visual representation of the effectiveness of the Bears' efforts, click here.*)
Which means, yes, A&M is going to become SEC school No. 13 and yes, before long the SEC is going to add school No. 14. No. 14 may not be able to join the Aggies in their new digs as soon as 2012 (it's possible -- arguably even likely at this late stage -- the SEC goes one season with an unbalanced divisional setup), but there's no way Mike Slive and Co. will stay at 13 one day longer than they have to.
So who's got next in the SEC expansion race? Breaking down the candidates in no particular order (and reminding you that a "gentleman's agreement" is in place that will prevent any expansion into states where the SEC already has a school):
Pros: Excellent academics is a major plus for SEC presidents. Ties to both St. Louis and Kansas City television markets. Could be a candidate for Big Ten expansion as well. Well-supported basketball program.
Cons: Despite recent successes, not a traditionally nationally-relevent football program. Zero competitive history with any current SEC member and not even much with A&M. Little to gain in SEC recruiting by expanding to Missouri. Debatable how much impact in those major markets Mizzou actually has. Trickier to add team to West than East; would either require ignoring geography or moving current West team (Auburn?**) to the East.
Pros: Rabidly supported, traditionally strong football program with plenty of success vs. SEC. Hoops program would give SEC a boost, too. Adding school for East division would bring geographic balance opposite A&M.
Cons: Not connected to any major market and expanding into West Virginia does nothing for SEC recruiting. Presidents sensitive to SEC's reputation may not want a university not considered a strong academic school.
Pros: Access to Raleigh TV market and fertile North Carolina recruiting grounds. More geographically accessible than other candidates. "Sleeper" football program enjoys high level of financial/fan support. Would join the East.
Cons: Despite that support, school has rarely fielded championship-level teams and won't move national needle. Academics aren't a minus, but may not be a Mizzou-style plus, either.
Pros: Most powerful, recognizable football program among potential/likely candidates; would hypthetically compete for East championships from moment of arrival. Sizable (if not national) following in Virginia and along Eastern seaboard. Could offer potential inroads in Virginia recruiting. Would join the East.
Cons: Swears up and down school is loyal to ACC. No real history with any SEC school.
Pros: Just hear out the scenario here: with the Sooners poised to force Texas's hand by jumping to the Pac-12 -- taking Oklahoma State with them and destroying the Big 12 in the process -- Mike Slive makes a preemptive strike against the potential Longhorn/Sooner Pac-16 by inviting the Sooners, Cowboys, and a third Big 12 castoff (Mizzou?) to form a 16-team SEC. Auburn and Alabama both move East and leaving the new SEC West looking like this: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Missouri. The blockbuster move secures the SEC a gigantic new TV rights deal, keeps the Sooners and Aggies out from under the Longhorns' thumb, and even approaches competitive divisional balance.
Cons: This is exceedingly unlikely.
But if Texas really is planning to join the Sooners in the Pac-12, that may be Slive's best option. With all due respect to the other four teams mentioned here, not one is a slam-dunk choice to justify its addition as a 14th team, much less a 15th or 16th if Larry Scott's new league redefines the college landscape. When all is said and done, the guess here is that either Missouri (or possibly N.C. State) gets the invite ... and then the SEC stops to catch its breath to figure out if 16 is a luxury or a necessity.
*Via CBSSports.com's own Will Brinson.
**The Tigers are the easternmost West team and most of their traditional rivalries -- Georgia, Tennessee, Florida -- are in the East. The issue would be what to do with the Iron Bowl with Auburn and Alabama in separate divisions; would the league risk having the Tigers and Tide play each other on consecutive weeks?
Posted on: September 7, 2011 9:37 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Statement from Dr. Bernie Machen, Chair, Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors:
After receiving unanimous written assurance from the Big 12 on September 2 that the Southeastern Conference was free to accept Texas A&M to join as a new member, the presidents and chancellors of the SEC met last night with the intention of accepting the application of Texas A&M to be the newest member of the SEC. 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. The SEC voted unanimously to accept Texas A&M University as a member upon receiving acceptable reconfirmation that the Big 12 and its members have reaffirmed the letter dated September 2, 2011.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 5:39 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If multiple reports are to be believed, Texas A&M could be less than 24 hours away from officially becoming the 13th member of the SEC.
Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com and Andy Staples of SI.com have both reported that the SEC's presidents will meet Tuesday to determine if the league will officially extend its expected invitation to A&M. "By Tuesday night, the SEC should know whether it has the required nine presidential votes," Staples writes.
Given the discussions between SEC commissioner Mike Slive and Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin earlier this year, it will be the biggest upset in sports this year if finding those nine votes is anything but a formality. According to CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart (as well as multiple other sources), A&M could officially announce their new SEC membership as early as Wednesday morning.
If A&M does indeed leave for the SEC -- an event we previously placed odds against happening at 47 billion to one, and that might have been lowballing it -- all eyes will turn to Oklahoma, who could shatter the Big 12 for good by leaping to the Pac-12 with Oklahoma State in tow. (The San Jose Mercury-News's Jon Wilner reported Tuesday that the Pac-12 might take the Sooners and Cowboys even without a pledge from 16-team linchpin Texas.)
But none of the other dominoes can fall until A&M-to-the-SEC officially does. The good news for expansion-watchers: that domino appears to have already been tipped.
Posted on: August 31, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 3:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Texas A&M announced Wednesday it would apply to join "another conference," a conference that even the tubeworms living without sunlight at the bottom of the Pacific could tell you* is the SEC. The Aggies will certainly-as-certainly-gets make 13 for Mike Slive's league, and since a 13-team conference with one 6-team division and one 7-team division is the college football equivalent of a table with one leg an inch too short, expect the SEC to find a 14th team sooner rather than later.
The question begged by A&M's arrival is this: why now? During Expansionpalooza 2010, Slive and the SEC seemed more than happy to stand pat with the same 12 teams and two divisions that have made them the sport's proverbial 500-pound gorilla, the elephant no one has proven capable of shoving out of the room. But come 2011, when the Aggies called griping about the changes in their neighborhood, Slive was happy to ask them to move into his.
Ask many fans and pundits, and they'll tell you the A&M invite is Slive's preemptive strike against Larry Scott and the Pac-12 and Jim Delany and the Big Ten, the two commissioners and conferences that -- the argument goes -- are poised to usher in the era of 16-team "superconferences," wresting away control of the sport ... if Slive doesn't beat them to the punch.
But adding Texas A&M isn't about what Scott and Delany might have in the future. It's about what they have right now.
Namely, it's about the television networks that those conference have or will have, and that the SEC version that Slive shortsightedly passed on when he signed the league's current deals with CBS and (more to the point where the league network is concerned) ESPN. While the Big Ten Network's revenues skyrocket and the Pac-12's TV revenues are set outdo the SEC's even before the league's network starts airing, the SEC is scheduled to earn the exact same amount in TV money in 2023 they are today ... when the league's contract is already below market value.
Whether the SEC's expansion will give them enough re-negotiation leverage to either get an SEC network off the ground -- or just keep pace with the Pac-12 in base contract value -- remains a matter of conjecture. But if any expansion choice could do it, you'd think Texas A&M would. The Aggies expand the league's "footprint" into Texas, have close ties to the major-major Houston market, have a massive alumni base, and have traditionally been a highly competitive, nationally relevant football program.
But even the Aggies might make not that much of an impact on the SEC's bottom line. Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told CNBC this week that "there are smart people at both ESPN and CBS and I would anticipate that they foresaw this type of contingency ... if there's any adjustment to the TV deals, I would anticipate that it would be a very modest adjustment." Pilson wouldn't even guarantee that after A&M's addition, the SEC's per-school revenue distribution would match what it is now.
That may be selling the Aggies short. But it nonetheless speaks to why even after the A&M-SEC marriage, the age of the 16-team superconference is not yet upon us. Conference expansion isn't as simple as adding a team, sitting back, and watching the bottom line swell; that team has to add enough value to offset the significant division of league profits by 13 (and then, inevitably, 14) rather than 12. There's other substantial drawbacks, too: increased travel costs, fewer games for current members against their existing rivals**, stiffer competition for the league's limited number of national broadcasts (and, you know, championships).
Which is why "superconferences" likely remain firmly in the distant -- rather than the near -- future. If it takes adding Syracuse and Rutgers for the Big Ten to get up to 16 teams, why would they bother? If the new-look Pac-16 includes the likes of Fresno State or even Boise State -- still not exactly a major-market media powerhouse -- that's not exactly going to force Slive's hand. And assuming the SEC's "gentleman's agreement" not to expand into current SEC states is still intact, who would Slive pull for teams No. 15 and 16? The current whispers are that if Virginia Tech stands by its ACC man (as they say they will), the SEC could look at N.C. State--a member that would give the SEC the Raleigh TV market but (with all due respect) wouldn't have Scott and Delany crying into their respective beers.
The one scenario that could overturn the whole apple cart is Texas deciding to listen to Scott's overtures this go-round and dragging the likes of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with them. But given the Longhorns' already-substantial investment in the Longhorn Network, here's a guess that neither they nor ESPN is going to like sharing their rare live content with the partially Fox-owned Pac-12 Network. And if the Longhorns either stay committed to the Big 12 or go independent, the Pac-12 could add some value by snapping up the Sooners and Cowboys ... but again, are there enough schools out there to justify going to 16?
When even adding A&M to go from 12 to 13 isn't a hands-down slam-dunk for the SEC -- and given that it's a backwards-looking desperation move motivated by the need to repair an earlier mistake, not a forward-looking "gotta do it" type of decision, how can it be? -- the guess here is that no, those schools are not.
14 may indeed be the new 12, but 16 remains what 14 was when the SEC first expanded in 1992--a number major college football will probably reach at some point in the future, but one that's not more than an intriguing hypothetical in the present.
*Trust me, I asked them. They added they were sick of hearing about expansion and scandal and just wanted the season to start.
**In the particular case of A&M and the SEC, this doesn't apply to LSU and Arkansas; the Tigers and Razorbacks have more history with A&M than they do many of their current SEC brethren.
Tags: Big 12, Big Ten, Big Ten Network, Boise State, ESPN, Fox, Fresno State, Jerry Hinnen, Jim Delany, Larry Scott, Longhorn Network, Mike Slive, N.C. State, Neal Pilson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Network, Rutgers, SEC, SEC expansion, Syracuse, Texas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech
Posted on: August 29, 2011 7:37 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
How close is the divorce between Texas A&M and the Big 12 to being finalized? Close enough that we're already two steps closer than we were this morning, and (as a great man once said) the day ain't over yet.
Earlier Monday we found out the two sides are already set to begin their negotiations over the Aggies' exit fee. Now A&M has announced that their soon-to-be former conference has sent them a letter spelling out the "withdrawal prodcedures" for their exit.
Chief among those procedures are the "mutual waivers of legal claims," the agreement of which has long been thought to have been the "speed bump" on A&M's initial fast-track departure to their next conference destination--one that might be, say, speaking purely from a hypothetical standpoint, the SEC. With the Big 12 already having taken a stance on what "waivers" it would agree to, whatever negotiations (if any) on that front can begin sooner rather than later--as well the "financial provisions" of the move, as an A&M spokeman put it.
The official departure date appears to be advancing quickly enough that even A&M president R. Bowen Loftin -- who has previously stressed that the move was a "100-year decision" that would be handled "methodically" -- released a statement that sounds as if he expects the changeover to be wrapped up quickly (emphasis added):
“I certainly appreciate the discussion among the Big 12 presidents/chancellors and the expression of their desire for Texas A&M to remain in the conference. We all agree that Texas A&M is an extremely valuable institution; thus, it is incumbent upon me, as the president of the university, to ensure that we are in a position to enhance our national visibility and future financial opportunity.Maybe the divorce isn't final just yet. But if Loftin and Mike Slive are spotted at an Ikea this week picking out a coffee table they can both agree on, don't be surprised.
Posted on: August 15, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 11:49 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Monday was an eventful day for developments on Texas A&M's conference affiliation. The Aggies appear to be at least one step closer to joining the SEC, but Texas A&M's president didn't set a timetable on change, nor even confirmed that Texas A&M would be leaving the Big 12.
-- The Texas State House Committee on Higher Education canceled a hearing scheduled for Tuesday that would have involved officials from Texas A&M, the SEC, and the Big 12.
Committee chair Dan Branch had said that making any conference moves without meeting with his committee first would be "inappropriate," but according to Kirk Bohls, Branch postponed the meeting because Texas A&M had yet to "complete anything." Branch added that the hearing may re-convene at a later date.
On Sunday, the presidents and chancellors of the SEC met and announced that the conference was happy with its 12-team alignment for right now, and "took no action" in regards to unhappy Big 12 member Texas A&M. The underlying message from the SEC was clear: the ball is in your court, Texas A&M, not ours.
To that end, the Texas A&M Board of Regents met on Monday, and as expected whent the agenda was released, has authorized Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin to leave the Big 12 or do whatever else he sees fit with the school's athletic conference alignment. Loftin is now expected to make an entreaty to the SEC.
Loftin told reporters after the meeting that the SEC has yet to invite Texas A&M, however, and when asked if there was a timetable, replied "Not for me." He also said that staying in the Big 12 still remained an option, and that any move to the SEC would be a "lengthy" process.
-- According to CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, NCAA president Mark Emmert contacted various conference CEO's to discuss the realignment situation.
Here's the statement issued by the office of Mark Emmert to CBSSports.com:
The NCAA did not elaborate on the discussions had between Emmert and the CEOs, nor did it specify which ones were contacted (though it's probably not hard to guess). The New York Times had a report about that call, however, in which Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said, "I think people have asked him to make some phone calls. He’s doing exactly what he should be doing.”
Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:09 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As the Texas A&M-to-the-SEC expansion rumors reach critical mass, the inevitabe follow-up question becomes: if the Aggies really are No. 13, who's No. 14?
According to Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, it won't be the Hokies. Speaking to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Weaver said the school would "politely decline" any hypothetical offer to join the SEC. His reasoning:
"Virginia Tech has always wanted to be in the Atlantic Coast Conference and I would think that’s where we’re going to stay, because it’s the right thing and the best thing for our university" ...
"[W]hen you realize the travel involved and so on, we’re virtually in a ‘bus league’ right now. The SEC would cause other travel issues. Certainly there is (increased) revenue involved (with joining the SEC). But I just feel like, and this is me talking – I haven’t talked to the president or any of that – Virginia Tech would politely decline, because we’re very happy to be in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”Of course, it's very easy to say that now when (as Weaver points out up front) any invite from Mike Slive is entirely hypothetical. With the SEC still not even having reached the point of extending the Aggies an invitation -- per both CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart as well as other media sources -- it's fair to assume the league's decision on it's next expansion target is still a good ways off. If Slive ever did come calling, would Weaver still be so devoted to the ACC?
Maybe. As Weaver points out, the ACC has its advantages for the Hokies. (If Florida State did wind up the SEC's 14th school, the Hokies might be poised to dominate the league in football the way, well, they've already dominated it.) So we'll take him at his word for now.
But if the SEC's interest in Tech does heat up, we have a feeling Weaver will have to repeat himself -- probably multiple times -- before we rule the Hokies out entirely.
Posted on: August 11, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 8:30 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
There's no place in the country like Texas A&M.
If you haven't had a chance to go to Midnight Yell or be in the stands at Kyle Field when they sway back and forth when the War Hymn is played, you should quickly add it to your bucket list.
The Aggies, excuse me, the Fightin' Texas Aggies, are a different kind of fan too. Really a different kind of person. Tradition is about more than dunking your ring upon graduation or saying 'Howdy,' it's part of the fabric of A&M fans' everyday lives.
Growing up in Dallas, I went to plenty of A&M, Texas and Oklahoma games. As much as the fans of the other two teams liked their schools, they never loved their team like the Aggies. Through thick and thin they were still the Fighting Farmers.
The demographics and culture in College Station have shifted over the past few years. Fewer kids from the country and more from the cities. Less of a focus on the agricultural and mechanical and more of a focus on the business school. But no matter what, they all believe in the school the same.
Now Texas A&M fans are unsure of the future and they're upset. They're mad at Texas. They're mad at commissioner Dan Beebe. They're mad at the Big 12. Frankly, they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
The uneasy truce that was drawn up last summer after Larry Scott came looking to build his superconference is in shambles. The Longhorn Network is the straw that broke the camel's back but really it was the lack of stability in the Big 12 that is the driving force. Even if the NCAA denied the network of their ability to televise high school games, that wouldn't calm the uneasiness A&M has about Texas being in bed with ESPN and in a prime position to join the ranks of the independent.
The hard reality though, is that the University of Texas is the university of Texas. Texas A&M's entire athletic department budget in 2010 was $66.8 million. Texas' PROFIT from football alone was $68 million last year. The Aggies lost money in 2008 and 2009. The rumors of going to the SEC is not about high school games or money, it's about the gap between the two schools widening even further.
In the state of Texas - and in the eyes of most nationally - the Aggies are, and almost always have been, second class citizens in the state they love so dear. The move to the best conference in college football is their trump card. Their chance to shine and - at least in their minds - become peers and not Texas' little brother.
They better learn that they'll have to take their lumps with a move though. Prior to last season, the Aggies best record in the previous 11 years was 9-4. They were embarrassed by Oklahoma to the tune of 77-0 in 2003. Texas A&M has only won one bowl game since joining the Big 12 and has only one league title to their name.
Now they want tougher competition. By moving East they'll face conference opponents that have won 81 percent of their non-conference games of their games the past five years and, oh yeah, five straight national titles.
One fan tweeted me on Wednesday, "If you do understand than you would know this move is not for athletic success. Its bout the cash and the EQUALITY of the SEC."
First of all, if A&M goes to the SEC, they'll have to pay an exit fee of a good chunk of their television revenue in 2011 AND be phased into a full revenue share in their future league. Remember, this is an athletic department that was struggling to pay the bills (the school's endowment has plenty in the bank however). Second, you would not be equals in the mighty Southeastern Conference. You are the new kid on the block and you're closer to Ole Miss and Arkansas than Alabama and Florida. All conferences are not created equal.
Many will point to the fact that the program can get better recruits by selling the fact that they'll be able to play in the best conference. That will win over some.
"The conference really put them over the top," Van (Texas) linebacker Dalton Santos told Volquest.com as to why he picked Tennessee over Texas A&M. "Being able to do things in the SEC will show I can play anywhere."
What some fail to keep in mind however, is that the Longhorns will almost always have the pick of the litter in-state. Sure you can win over one or two elite players. Talent development is always been a strength in College Station and better players certainly never hurt but it's not going to shift the balance of power in the recruiting game as much as many think (or hope).
There is also the notion that grabbing Texas A&M is appealing to the SEC because it opens Texas to the league. That is obscuring the obvious: it's already open. Remember Alabama won a national championship with a quarterback from the Dallas area. When they failed to land the top in-state signal-caller Jameis Winston, they picked up a commitment from a Dallas area quarterback less than 48 hours later. If a head coach of an SEC school wants a player in Texas, they typically don't have many doors closed on them, if any.
It remains to be seen how it all will work but at the moment but it's clear there is mutual interest in making the move, should there be a shift in the college landscape. Beebe said he was taking the threat of the school leaving very seriously and Texas governor Rick Perry, an Aggie alum, confirmed to the Dallas Morning News that 'conversations are being had' on making the move.
“I’ll put it this way, I’m taking it very seriously," Beebe told The Austin-American Statesman. "I’ve been talking to a number of people. Obviously, there are a significant number of Aggie supporters who are interested in going in that (SEC) direction."
Sources told the Statesman and the Morning News that the Big 12 would continue to operate as a nine-team league if Texas A&M left. The school's offer to join the SEC has not been formally made however. As Mike Slive said at SEC Media Days a few weeks ago, he could expand the league to 16 teams "in 15 minutes." but it remains to be seen if he's willing to move on expansion at the moment. The league will add a member only if and when Slive and the SEC presidents want, the timetable is not up to the Aggies.
A source at Texas A&M said the school won't tap the breaks on the rumors until all options have been explored. The school is still mulling creating or partnering on their own network and it just so happens that the head of Fox Sports Southwest is an Aggie alum and booster. Yet many in the administration feel the stability the SEC offers is the biggest reason why the school is ultimately "forced" east.
Let's face it, it looks more likely to happen than not at this point. Culture-wise, they probably fit in well when you consider their other programs, such as baseball, and passionate fan base for all things Aggie.
When I called my father last night, an A&M alum himself, he was mostly upset over the Longhorn Network's unfair advantage. My mother, having lived through the Southwest Conference until the end, thought the whole move was a crazy reaction however.
"They're cutting off their nose to spite their face," she said.
Just like any motherly advice, she was right.
A&M thinks they've got a trump card for their rival. They better be careful what they're wishing for or the Aggies might be the ones being trumped.