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SEC says ‘no’ to A&M, at least for now

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1 SEC says ‘no’ to A&M, at least for now on Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:22 pm


ST. LOUIS — For the moment, anyway, the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences will remain as they are.

The SEC on Sunday "reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment," according to a statement released by SEC presidents and chancellors’ committee chairman Bernie Machen of Florida.

Yet the cryptic statement added, "We recognize however that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M."

The term "future conditions," of course, could mean within days, especially if the statement reflects the idea of decorum — read: legal concerns — that A&M would have to formally withdraw from the Big 12 before being offered a place in the SEC.

Arkansas Chancellor Dave Gearhart made a point of telling The Associated Press that "(Texas A&M) did approach the SEC, not the other way around," Gearhart said. "I’m not really sure of all the reasons for that. I’m sure that there’s a lot of speculation on behalf of a lot of people (as to) what caused them to do that. The bottom line is they did approach the SEC."

A "high-ranking" SEC official told The New York Times [NYT] this was a way to "tap the brakes" so A&M could get its "house in order," probably meaning for its board of regents meeting today and its hoedown with the Texas legislature on Tuesday.

If the brake tap suddenly becomes a screech, the Big 12 and A&M face the awkwardness of trying to extend their affiliation with A&M red-faced over its apparent rejection and the rest of the conference wary of A&M’s sincerity in any renewed commitment it might make.

But at least temporarily_whether because the SEC is further plotting to add a 14th school at the same time it adds AM, fears costly legal action from the Big 12, doesn’t quite want A&M or doesn’t want to expand at all_the Big 12 is tenuously holding with 10 members.

In a statement released Sunday afternoon by Texas A&M, school president R. Bowen Loftin said, "There has been a considerable amount of misinformation regarding these discussions and any associated timelines. ... These are extremely complex issues, and it is imperative that we proceed methodically and in the best interests of Texas A&M."

The Big 12 offered no immediate comment.

Scattered reports have suggested Mizzou also might be under consideration by the SEC, but an SEC official debunked that notion to The New York Times. And Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton told the Post-Dispatch Saturday night that Mizzou was "totally committed to the Big 12."

As chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, Deaton has particular reason to honor that commitment. MU athletics director Mike Alden also bluntly denied any contact or interest in the SEC.

Beyond that, it’s both questionable how Missouri would fit in the SEC or whether the SEC would consider it to have enough value to divide its pie further.

While Missouri touches three SEC states and has two major television markets to offer, it’s hard to know how intriguing that would be to the SEC. Whatever virtues Mizzou offers, if it doesn’t clearly and overwhelmingly bring increased television revenue value the SEC would have no incentive to extend an offer.

As for whether it makes sense for Mizzou, let’s zoom in on one area:

Football clearly has been demonstrated to be driving conference realignment. And no conference is more nasty top to bottom than the SEC, which has won the last five national titles.

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So in one sense, it’s hard to resist the chance to join the best.

But while MU has become competitive in the Big 12 — its 22 conference wins the last four seasons are second only to Oklahoma’s 24 — it hasn’t won a conference title since 1969.

A schedule loaded with the likes of Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana State wouldn’t be conducive to further prosperity.

While less scrutinized in the realignment hoopla, MU also has put a premium on the idea that any conference change needs to be beneficial for the overall institution. That’s why Mizzou has been so enamored of the Big Ten:

Until recently, each Big Ten school was in the prestigious Association of American Universities, a criteria that MU meets and Nebraska met ... until after it was invited to join.

Five current Big 12 schools are in the AAU; only two make that grade in the SEC, Florida and Vanderbilt.

That’s only one measure, of course, for academic distinction. But it might be a useful common denominator in understanding Mizzou’s institutional view on the matter_which may be a moot point, anyway.

Either way, it’s first things first with A&M.

If the Aggies leave, the Big 12 then has to determine whether it will go forth with nine schools or expand.

But other members would seem likely to be wooed by other conferences, and with a third departure announced in just over a year those left probably would wonder who’s next . . .and where do I end up?"


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