The watching, waiting and anticipating is all but over. Effective earlier this morning, Texas A&M officially announced that they had notified the Big XII of their plan to leave the conference. Their final day as a member of the Big XII will be June 30, 2012.
Via a release on Texas A&M’s website:
"After much thought and consideration, and pursuant to the action of the (Texas A&M University System) Board of Regents authorizing me to take action related to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment, I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference," President R. Bowen Loftin wrote to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe in the letter dated August 31, 2011.
"We appreciate the Big 12's willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement," Loftin added. "We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members."
And with that, we could be in line for more college football anarchy.
By now, you know the circumstances around A&M’s departure. Barring something shocking, once they’re officially out of the Big XII cross-hairs in June, Texas A&M will become the 13th member of college football’s most powerful conference, the SEC.
And as you also know, Mike Slive doesn’t like odd numbers. The hunt for the SEC’s 14th team, if not 15th and 16th, is officially underway. If it hasn’t started already (which it most certainly has). Of the leaders in the clubhouse, it appears as though Virginia Tech, Missouri and North Carolina are serious candidates. Clemson, Florida State or Georgia Tech might be too, if the current conference Presidents agreed to break a “gentlemen’s agreement,” not to expand into already established states. Of course whoever ends up heading to the SEC, it will result in a mad scramble to keep that conference intact, with others schools poached from different places. For example, say the SEC takes Virginia Tech from the ACC. It will only make the ACC look elsewhere to keep their conference at 12.
As for the Big XII, well, it’s hard not to see the writing on the wall. Down to nine teams without A&M, it appears eminent that the conference is about to go the way of the dodo bird and LeBron James' hairline, and disappear. Missouri or even Oklahoma could end up in the SEC, or some combination of the Sooners, Oklahoma State and a few Texas schools (Baylor and Tech?) could make the Pac-12, the “Western 16.” That’s of course if the monolith that is the Texas Athletics Department decides to take its shiny new toy (the Longhorn Network) and go play as an independent in its own sandbox. Or the Longhorns could also become a member of Larry Scott’s Super Sweet 16 out West.
To his credit, Big XII commissioner Dan Beebe will do his best to keep the Big XII together, and names of potential replacement schools have already been floated. Is SMU a real possibility? What about Air Force? Notre Dame is a one in a million shot in the dark, and for the sake of comic relief, even the wild Hogs of Arkansas have been thrown into the mix.
And finally, we haven’t even begun to mention the long-term effects that this decision by A&M will have. With another conference re-shuffle in order, we are closer than ever to a handful of 16 team super-conferences, with everyone else on the outside looking in.
You may think that’s not a big deal now, but it will be.
Think about it like this: How hard is it to win the SEC right now? Now add four teams into the shuffle. What becomes of schools like Ole Miss, who have a yearly struggle as it is just to get bowl eligible? Now they’ve got to add Texas A&M and another school to an already tough conference schedule? What about a program like Virginia Tech or Missouri? If one of those two makes the move to the SEC, will they ever have a realistic shot at a National Championship again? It seems uncertain.
And with all this said, I haven’t even gotten to the idea of A&M competing in the SEC. Sure they’ll survive, but I’m certainly not the only writer that sees the Aggies as selling their shot at winning, for the green of the SEC. It’s tough seeing a school that has won a grand total of one Big XII title since the conference’s inception in 1996, waltzing into the SEC and being better than an average team. By the way, has anyone else noticed that A&M’s President Loftin has been very loud in this process, while Athletic Director Bill Byrne has been shockingly quiet? Think he doesn’t know that his job could be on the line in time?
Simply put, the move by Texas A&M is the first domino in college football heading to a place that you don’t want it to go. But it’s on its way.
Now I’ve got to ask the question: How great would it be SMU upset the Aggies in College Station this weekend?
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We're being technical here, but the exit from the Big 12 is contingent upon being accepted by another prospective conference. But they will be accepted so I guess they are as good as gone.
The question for me is now what happens with Oklahoma. Assuming Texas is comfortable with the possibility of being an independent with their own ESPN-aided network (good for them), then Oklahoma becomes the Albert Pujols of the college football realignment process. Every conference should want them, and every conference would benefit from having them.
Forget Missouri, I'm going after Oklahoma if I'm the SEC, Pac 12, or Big Ten.