Orangebloods.com — the Rivals site covering the University of Texas — reported last night that “sources close to Texas A&M” have told the site that the Aggies will officially withdraw from the Big 12 sometime today.
Yesterday, the school received a letter from the Big 12 outlining the league’s withdrawal procedures. That letter was believed to have included a layout of financial penalties and exit fees.
“The full exit fee penalty would be between $28 million and $31 million, according to Big 12 sources. But the Big 12 could withhold A&M’s revenue for the 2011-12 academic year, which would total roughly $18 million.”
So says Orangebloods.com.
Whatever the cost, the Aggies seem primed to move. And seeing as how A&M has admitted to having had conversations with the SEC dating back to July, it would be very surprising if the Aggies at this point hadn’t already received assurances that they’ll be welcomed into Mike Slive’s league with open arms.
However, nine of the SEC’s 12 presidents and chancellors will still have to okay A&M’s application for membership. If four schools — for whatever reason — decide that they or the league as a whole would be better off without the Aggies in the SEC, A&M could be left in no man’s land.
How could that happen?
For Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Kentucky, Texas A&M would represent yet another traditionally solid program that would likely rank above them on the SEC’s football food chain.
For those schools to okay the deal, there would have to be something in it for them. Like money. But if A&M joined the SEC by its lonesome in 2012 — and it now looks like that would be the case — what kind of television deals could the SEC cut? Would a one-team expansion even trigger renegotiations with CBS and ESPN? And if renegotiations did take place, would A&M allow the SEC to make up enough cash to cover the Aggies’ slice of the pie as well as add some whip cream to the top of the other schools’ slices? Newspapers from New York to Dallas have recently said the money just isn’t there. We believe it is or else talks wouldn’t have gotten this far, but ESPN will be the one that decides to either pay big or pay small.
And what of the schools in the SEC West? Would they want to play in a 7-team division while East Division schools continued to have a 1-in-6 chance of reaching the SEC Championship Game?
Also, what the heck is going on in the search for School #14? Numerous anonymous SEC officials have told numerous media outlets — including this one — that if Texas A&M is #13, then #14 must quickly follow.
But look at the current landscape and you’ll find that on the surface there appear to be few good fits for the SEC.
The ACC is sturdy at the moment so it’s a longshot that any of the top academic, basketball-centric schools would leave. Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State are supposedly off the SEC’s list because of their location. And while Virginia Tech would make a prime target for the SEC, they went through 40 years of political wranglings just to earn an ACC berth. It’s hard to picture Tech leaving so soon if they believe the ACC to be stable.
On the Big 12 side of things, Missouri would seem to be the best bet to move with A&M, but all has been very quiet in the Show Me State. Perhaps Mizzou learned from its failed Big Ten flirtations last year that it’s better to conduct business behind closed doors. Or perhaps school officials would rather hold out for a Big Ten bid somewhere down the line. Either way, it’s quiet in Columbia and no one else to the west seems interested in moving east.
That leaves the Big East and the choices would be limited from that league, too. South Florida and Louisville would be nonstarters because of their location. Cincinnati would bring solid athletics, a good TV market and Ohio recruiting. But the SEC doesn’t do urban schools and UC is a poor academic draw for the presidents making this decision. West Virginia would fit the SEC profile — good athletics, crazed fans, strong campus environment — but WVU is located in a small state with small money and a small recruiting base. Pittsburgh is an excellent school with solid athletics. The Panthers would also bring good recruiting ground and a hearty television market. But it’s an urban school and it also seems to be a much better fit with the basketball-first Big East.
No one knows what the landscape will look like next year (or what’s going on behind the scenes this year), but as it stands, the SEC could be looking at a 13-school set-up for a while to come. Would SEC presidents be alright with that?
We believe A&M to the SEC is probably going to happen. After all, we’ve been saying since the day the Big 12 was saved last year that the Aggies would definitely land in the SEC at some point. But until those 12 SEC presidents and chancellors officially cast their votes… this thing is still not a lock. We’re talking about 12 men who will be looking out for their own school’s best interests. And, as noted above, there are a lot of variables that might give some of those administrators pause.
Is A&M’s move to the SEC likely? Yes. Very likely? Uh-huh. Probably a done deal? Sure.
Would we be willing to bet the house on it? Not when it comes to the guys in the bow ties who’ll be casting ballots.