All signs point to Texas A&M wanting to leave the Big 12 Conference.
First they were at the center of rumors about Southeastern Conference expansion, then Monday, the New York Times reported Texas A&M president, R. Bowen Loftin, sent a letter to the conference board chairman notifying the league that the Aggies would formally withdraw.
Now the Aggies are denying the report, which cited two unidentified college officials with direct knowledge of the decision.
Schools spokesman Jason Cook said simply that the university did not send a letter of withdrawal to the conference, which could be translated as a “don’t bother us now, we’re trying to negotiate our withdrawal from the conference,” statement.
There’s little question the Aggies are eying a spot in an expanded SEC, but they still have a couple obstacles in their way to make their dream of traveling to road games in Gainesville and Lexington a reality.
First, the school will need to pony up an exit fee expected to be around $15 million. Then, nine of the 12 SEC schools would have to vote in favor of A&M’s entry.
Both should be easy to accomplish with the SEC looking to tap into the Texas television market and spread it’s brand well beyond the reaches of the “Southeast.”
From the Big 12 perspective, A&M’s departure could trigger massive financial losses — particularly if Fox Sports decides to void the 13-year, $1 billion TV deal it signed with the conference in April.
The lone team rumored to be interested in joining the Big 12 — which is about as popular as the whooping cough right now (see Nebraska, Colorado) — is SMU.
Concern over Texas A&M’s impending departure has led the league to form a special committee to discuss its future and how many teams they want. With the Big Ten and other numerical conferences setting the trend here, expect the Big 12 to go with a logical number like 9 or 13 or 16.
In the interim, the Aggies will continue to pretend like everything is hunky-dory.