Once again, Texas A&M is making a lot of noise about leaving the Big-12 conference and joining the SEC. This all came to the surface a few weeks ago when the Aggies expressed their displeasure at the plans of the new cable television network for the University of Texas, the Longhorn Network, which is operated by ESPN. The Longhorn Network had planned to show a number of high school football games in the state of Texas, which potentially presented Texas with a unique recruiting advantage. Their private television network could offer money to a local high shcool for the rights to televise their high school football game. And if that team happened to have a prospect or two that the Longhorns were recruiting, then maybe the school would feel inclined to steer that kid towards Austin. After all, the LONGHORN network just gave the school some money and a few hours on national television. You get the idea.
Regardless of whether that presents Texas a true advantage or not, the fact is that the Aggies believe it may. And the truth is that the issue over televising high school games only scratches the surface of the Aggies' issues with the Longhorn Network. The Horns' deal with ESPN gives them a significant financial edge over the rest of the Big-12, moreso than they already had.
The Aggies don't like it. They don't think it's fair.
And they're making a ton of noise about leaving the Big-12 for the greener pastures of the SEC.
While I initially thought the Aggies were doing a lot of grandstanding on the issue, the smoke over the last couple of days has been pretty thick. I still think all these rumors are mostly the result of some posturing on A&M's part, but most believed that the Big-12's 10-team solution was a very temporary fix anyway. This 10-team league was put in place to salvage the conference last summer when it looked like it would completely fall apart. It's possible it was more temporary than anyone really imagined.
I question whether the Aggies REALLY want to join the SEC. After all, they have only won 43% of their games against SEC teams in their school's history. And that includes an 0-6 mark this decade.
Here is a recap of some of this "smoke":
- Texas governor Rick Perry, a former Aggie Yell Leader, said today that "conversations are being had" regarding A&M to the SEC.
- Texas A&M's Board of Regents is meeting on August 22, where they will apparently discuss this potential move in depth.
- Billy Liucci of Texags.com said the following today on Paul Finebaum's radio show:
"I think they're (A&M) going to try to wrap this up very quickly."
"I have heard that the SEC will go to 13 teams for one year, then add a 14th team from the East"
- Audrey Bloom of 247 Sports.com said on the same radio show:
"I think that A&M & the SEC would like to make an announcement soon... could hear something as early as Aug 22."
- Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com said via Twitter:
"There's nothing definite about A&M to SEC. But I was told A&M's lawyers are "looking at everything." A&M regents mtg Aug. 22 will be big."
So there you have it. We know that 1) Texas A&M is unhappy and 2) They are considering a move. That's really what it boils down to. A lot of talk and nothing concrete. Will they have the stones to actually pull the trigger this time? Are they even invited? Nobody knows for certain, but it appears that we'll know more sometime after August 22.
What's more intriguing to me is what A&M's decision could mean for the rest of college football. Should they make the move, I cannot imagine the SEC sticking with 13 teams for more than one season. So the question is whether they look West or East for the 14th league member.
Oklahoma has long been rumored to be equally unhappy about the Longhorn Network. But it may also be very tough politically to take the Sooners without also taking Oklahoma State. And I don't see that happening. If the SEC looks East, then a number of teams could be possibilities. Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech are talked about most. I think Florida and Georgia would both oppose the addition of Florida State. And I think South Carolina would oppose the addition of Clemson. That leaves Virginia Tech. Geographically, they are somewhat of a reach, but not an unreasonable one. Blacksburg, VA is further south than Lexington, KY. Virginia Tech is 236 miles from Knoxville, 313 miles from Lexington, and 265 miles from South Carolina. That's not real close. But as a comparison, Arkansas is 401 miles from Ole Miss, which is their closest SEC neighbor. And they could potentially open up the Washington DC television market (along with Richmond, VA). Lastly, Virginia Tech has only been a member of the ACC since 2004. Their inclusion in the conference has been a good one for the school, but it's not like they have any deep historical ties to the ACC.
There is even talk of the SEC going to 16 teams and adding Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri. Those four teams would join LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State in the SEC West while Auburn and Alabama move to the SEC East. I'm not a big fan of this idea. Sorry but road trips to College Station, Norman, and Stillwater just don't do it for me. It would feel more like LSU moving conferences rather than welcoming new schools to our conference.
A sleeper team could be NC State only because I think the SEC would love to get into the state or North Carolina.
So let's keep following the bouncing ball...
Assuming the SEC poaches the ACC for their 14th team, now the Big-12 has nine teams and the ACC has 11. So the ACC can no longer have a conference championship game unless it adds a 12th member. Do they go after another school? Would the other members of the Big-12 be content if the league added a replacement for Texas A&M? Or would they follow the Aggies lead and look for a new home? The PAC-12 would likely want to keep pace with the SEC and could look to add Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at a minimum. The Big East has said to be eyeing Kansas and possibly Kansas State. Just how many teams can the Big East add? Remember that for basketball, they already have 16 teams. And they are adding TCU in 2012. 19 schools for basketball? Does the Big-10 try to keep up and add two more, to possibly include Missouri? The Big-10 has long been rumored to have their eyes on some east coast television markets. Rutgers? Syracuse? Maryland? How about Pitt? And what about Texas? They seem content to become Independent. Would they really do that?
You don't have to go far to realize the kind of impact that A&M's deicision could have on the rest of college football. It could trigger massive conference realignment which could then jumpstart discussions for a college football playoff or at the very least, a whole lot of new bowl tie-ins.
I remain skeptical that any of this will actually take place, but the smoke is heavy right now. Stay tuned...