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Could The SEC Be Forcing The Pac-12′s Hand?

At this point, it’s assumed by most observers that Oklahoma wants out of the Big 12.  Perhaps they’re not quite as froggy as Texas A&M, but they sure seem to be eyeing a jump to the Pac-12.

Only Oklahoma doesn’t want to move first.  They want A&M to take that leap.  The Pac-12 wants the same.  And A&M and the SEC were perfectly ready to make that leap today before Baylor started a mini-revolt by refusing to agree not to sue Texas A&M and/or the SEC and/or Mike Slive (as the school had initially agreed).

But we all know the following to be true:

* Any Big 12 school will have a hard time proving tortious interference against the SEC.  The Aggies apparently made the first call and the SEC slowed down the process time and again to make sure all i’s were dotted and all t’s were crossed.  Not to mention the fact that Baylor doesn’t have a contract with Texas A&M.  It has a contract with the Big 12.  And the SEC isn’t dealing with the Big 12, it’s dealing with A&M.  A very tough case to prove.

* Multiple Big 12 officials have admitted that Colorado and Nebraska seriously wounded the league by leaving last summer — as if the third team out the door could really be held accountable for collapsing the conference.  Meanwhile, other Big 12 representatives have made reference to the league’s uneven revenue split and Texas’ arrogance as being the sparks that truly lit this powder keg.

* Also, Texas A&M’s departure would not destroy the league.  One Big 12 official after another — including commissioner Dan Beebe — has said that the league’s goal is to expand further (by raiding other conferences for their teams) and to grow stronger. 

* Finally, the last time a lawsuit like this was attempted, the Big East sued the ACC.  After two years of legal gobbledygook, the Big East got a settlement of — wait for it — $5 million.  That might be big cash to you or me, but a BCS league spends that much on a coaches’ luncheon.

Now, as we’ve mentioned, the SEC would have to consider the possibility that a lawsuit filed in Waco might possibly be presided over by a Baylor grad who might just see the law through green-and-gold-shaded lenses.  But the odds against a tortious interference case — even under those circumstance — going against the SEC are still extremely long.

Former attorney Mike Slive knows this.  So why isn’t his league simply marching forward as the Pac-12 and Big Ten have?  With little regard for legal threats or the cries and lamentations of the innocent?

1.  Because Mike Slive does not want to be viewed as Atilla the Hun.  He’ll let other schools come to him, but he’s not going to raid and destroy other conferences.  At least not publicly.  He’ll leave that for Jim Delany and Scott.

2.  Perhaps the league doesn’t want to get bogged down in any type of legal red tape.  The SEC has plenty of money, but attorney fees can get pretty darn expensive.  More to the point, who wants the headaches and all the bad publicity?

3.  Perhaps the SEC is just playing chicken with Oklahoma, Texas and the Pac-12.

By putting the ball back in the Big 12′s court, it’s possible that Slive and company believe Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech are so far down Route 66 headed West that they will be willing to cross the Big 12′s boundary lines before A&M.  (Emphasis on Oklahoma and Texas, not State and Tech.)

If those schools move first, then you can forget about lawsuits being filed against Slive and/or the SEC.  OU, UT and the Pac-12 will have destroyed the Big 12, not A&M and the SEC.

In the end, it’s hard to imagine A&M returning to the Big 12.  Those bridges are burned.  But the rest of the league can recover and survive by adding one school.  If so — again — there would be no need for lawsuits.

Texas A&M is clearly caught in the middle of all this and there’s no telling what the SEC’s next act might be.  But for now, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Slive intentionally punted the ball back to the Pac-12, OU and UT to see how they’ll handle it… knowing that he can eventually race right past any legal obstacles and score should they choose to punt the ball back to him.


18 Responses to “Could The SEC Be Forcing The Pac-12′s Hand?”

  1. ShannyDeridan says:

    1. Because Mike Slive does not want to be viewed as Atilla the Hun. He’ll let other schools come to him, but he’s not going to raid and destroy other conferences. At least not publicly. He’ll leave that for Jim Delany and Scott.

    2. Perhaps the league doesn’t want to get bogged down in any type of legal red tape. The SEC has plenty of money, but attorney fees can get pretty darn expensive. More to the point, who wants the headaches and all the bad publicity?

    3. Perhaps the SEC is just playing chicken with Oklahoma, Texas and the Pac-12.

    I think its 1 & 2

    He has always maintained he will not be predatory, but will listen if teams come looking to him. He doesn't want to take the blame if the Big XII falls apart

    if A&M leaves, it wont be the end… if OU leaves, then its game over. But its like Dominos if A&M leaves that may cause OU to leave and so on and so on… so maybe Slive doesn't want that on his plate either

    He's also been very open about his intentions to avoid lawsuits, just b/c of the headaches and time and energy involved. why deal with such an immense hassle if you dont have to

    I dont know about chicken… but I'm know he'd love for the Pac 12 and OU to go ahead and announce a move so he wouldn't have to move first

  2. ShannyDeridan says:

    So we are thinking:

    Texas, TT, OU, Ok ST go west

    A&M goes to the SEC

    Baylor & Iowa State cry like babies before going to the Sunbelt or WAC

    What about Kansas, K State, MizzWho? Should we be expecting lawsuits from them as well?

    Will someone take Kansas & K State? Nobody mentions them ever in all this

  3. HoustonVol says:

    kansas, KState and Mizzou all have landing places. Mizzou will land either in the Big east or the SEC, and the Big east is hungry for Kansas, KState. Iowa St had been mentioned for the BE up to today. Maybe the BE said that Iowa St is not good enough for them. The only athletic program that Iowa St. excells at is wrestling.

    I am think that you will see an announcement tonight of the B12 inviting boise St. to replace A&M. There is a plane that took off from Alabama, landed in college station for 30 minutes and is flying direct to Boise, ID. This might be what the B12 members need to sign off on the right to sue and let A&M leave cleanly. The B12 does not want to keep them, and A&M does not want to stay. So the B12 is going to try and do everything possible to make all parties happy so this issue will disappear.

  4. Dagga Roosta says:

    Missing one crucial tidbit: today's revolt isn't about A&M and the SEC. It's about OU and the imminent destruction of the Big 12. Per the Waco Herald-Tribune the six revolting schools will sign the SEC legal waiver if OU commits to staying in the conference. Otherwise, no one leaves without getting sued. Not A&M, not OU, probably not even Texas. It's a MAD gambit.

    And I think Mr. Pennington is underestimating how massive a pain in the ass a TI lawsuit would be for any conference. Emails, internal memos, phone records, employee interviews would all be subpoenaed. And if any of those sources shows that the SEC offered anything in the way of encouragement or enticement to A&M to break its contracts, the conference will be forced to redress the plaintiffs for economic loss. In the Big East/ACC case it was hard to demonstrate much economic loss; both conferences shuffled teams around and the TV deals didn't really suffer much. In the Big 12 case, if a handful of schools get demoted to non-AQ conferences it wouldn't be hard for them to make a case for a eight-digit penalty. Apiece.

    The "A&M doesn't have a contract with Baylor" issue doesn't hold water either. If the SEC is found to commit tortious interference then any party directly damaged by the breach of contract has a right to sue. Liability is not limited to the literal counterparty of the contract. Such an argument would be especially silly in this case because Big 12 Inc. is a corporate entity owned by the schools that would sue, so they are in fact a literal counterparty.

    But hopefully OU will succumb to its fate soon and end all of this. A&M can leave but the Big 12-3 will live on, at least through the end of the TV contract.

    • The issues that your going to have on the "Breach of Contract" stage is whether or not the contract was actually breached. The Big12 Bylaws alow for a member institution to leave its ranks given notice and certain penalties are met. If the Big 12 is indeed a shell under which the member institutions are owners, then those institutions are bound contractually to the Bylaws that they signed as well. As the TV contracts do not override the Bylaws of the conference there is no rigid demand that a party cannot leave. Its the tangle that you get into with "At will employment" scenarios. Yes even in "AT Will" cases tortious interference can be made to stick but it is a much harder claim.

    • Getting the emails and such will nto be easy and even with them it will be hard to disprove when a phone call or such from A&M might have been had. Once A&M callseeking a job the SEC could then tell them what benefits such would entail and the likelihood of being hired. All it take is A&M coming ford or its own will, which A&M will attest to of course. Also the emails of the suing institutions could be subject to subpeona as well. Once A&M made clear its intentions to leave, every roadblock setup by the various schools could also qualify as Tortious Interference. Also as the "owners" of the Big12 each member institution would be subject to Tortious Intereference claims in their attempts to lure Arkansas away. Damages lost are not the only damages that can be collected in such a case, but are the major portion of such s agreed. Seeing as Baylor used political connections to roadblock the A&M deal however it could get very ugly should the SEC go on the offensive.

      • Dagga Roosta says:

        I misspoke, For TI in Texas, a contract doesn't have to be breached, it simply needs to be interfered with in a way that produces damages. Consider a conference scooping up teams out of another conference, leading to a "look-in" clause activation in the latter's TV contract that destroys the value of said contract. If the former conference induced or enticed those schools to leave the latter conference, that's TI.

        Don't know why you SEC folk are getting all uppity about it anyways. It's not about you. You're just a handy tool here. This is about Baylor scaring off the Pac 12 and keeping the Big 12-3 alive once Aggy's gone. TI wouldn't be much of a threat to the SEC because losing A&M wouldn't produce many damages. With UT, OU and an AQ spot the conference is still viable. But losing OU and OSU next week would immolate the Big 12-3, causing damage to small schools in the hundreds of millions, so the Pac 12 should take the Starr threat seriously.

        • Dagga Roosta says:

          And Martel, your commets about Arky shows you don't know what you're talking about, bud. You can't sue anyone if there are no damages. Arky didn't leave your conference. No damages.

          And if you think Kenneth Starr doesn't know how to use subpoenas to maximum effect, you must have been in diapers in the 90's.

  5. Bulldog says:

    Good article…

  6. brandonh says:

    I think the danger of a lawsuit isn’t in losing the suit. it’s in all of the SECs dirty laundry being aired. I for one do not want the SECs emails being opened up to public scrutiny. Every SEC fan should be very afraid of that happening. Kenneth Starr is involved after all.

  7. [...] the Red River Rivalry for a more secure home in the future. Texas would likely have to give up the unequal revenue sharing they had in the Big-12 or maybe agree to similar concessions given to USC  and UCLA for joining [...]

  8. SecFan says:

    Go Baylor! Hold that line!! Hold that line!!

  9. [...] who I believe had a spot-on commentary on the SEC’s true motives in asking for these waivers: Mike Slive wants to see if he can cause Larry Scott and the Pac-12 to act first.  Personally, I doubt Slive will win this particular game of chicken since, by all accounts, the [...]

  10. Texas A&M Leaving Big 12 - Page 635 - CycloneFanatic says:

    [...] [...]

  11. [...] explanation that makes the most sense is that this is simply SEC commissioner Mike Slive taking advantage of the threat to try and get Larry Scott and the Pac-12 to move first. It’s unlikely to work, but Slive has the time to give it a go. And indeed, Slive is now [...]

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