If you've not been keeping up with the conference realignment chatter, all signs are pointing toward Texas A&M going to the SEC starting in 2012.
I've been keeping up with the buzz at TexAgs.com; TexAgs' Billy Luicci has had the only solid information in all of the speculation, so if you're the type that needs to know, check out his premium subscription service [/end commercial]
Last year when the SEC came calling, Texas A&M decided to stay put and saved the Big 12 from t.u.'s straying ways. We did this with the understanding that the Big 12 would address certain inequities. Another strike against a move last year was concern about travel cost (though, this was likely more of an issue with a move to PAC-10 than SEC). Since the cards on the table now tell a different story, this move has everything to do with Texas A&M's interests, and not some childish ego trip, as t.u. mouthpiece ESPN has taken to reporting.
Even some Aggie faithful have had a hard time seeing the light on this. Roland Martin '91, journalist at CNN, wrote recently in his blog
Texas A&M has a better shot of being a dominant school in sports by staying right where they are. That 20 percent may look good today, but there is no doubt that if the Texas A&M family walks away from the 80 percent, they will regret it for years to come.
Unable to keep silent on this as one of our own is throwing mud, I penned the following response:
Roland, I think you're a swell guy, and a good Ag to boot. But you're also dead wrong on this. Since you asked for an explanation, here's mine.Several roadblocks remain: the SEC Presidents meet today to discuss the issue, the TAMU Board of Regents meets tomorrow, the Texas Higher Education Coordination Committee meets Tuesday, and a nebulous speculation about tortius interference.
1. Yes, let's look at Arkansas. The Ags had a 21-34-4 SWC record against this powerhouse. Uneven, sure, but certainly competitive. Arkansas had a learning curve to step up their game in the SEC, as the Ags will. As you note, they've been to a BCS bowl since, have we? It is a truism that you play up to the level of your competition.
2. Sure it might be easier to a title game from the Big 12-2, but would we be competitive when we got there? The track record of the Aggies (and most the Big 12 at large for that matter) has been less than stellar in post-season play. If speculations pan out about 16 team superconferences and a playoff system, everyone stands to benefit from the churn.
3-4. This is not a reactionary move. Certainly the schedule for this decision has been accelerated by the recent publicity surrounding the University of Texas’ Longhorn Network, but to focus squarely on this issue would be to flatten out some very important topography of our context. When Texas A&M kept the Big 12 together with our decision to stay last year, it was with the understanding that the unequal distribution of conference revenues was going to be addressed by Commissioner Beebe. The developments of past twelve months suggest that no progress has been made, or may even be possible, given the players and leadership in the issue. A move to the SEC puts Texas A&M in a position of relative strength in that we are a school that the conference wants and is willing to work for and with. From a recruiting standpoint, being in the SEC gives Texas athletes a way to be affiliated with the most exciting and successful conference in the nation without leaving their home state. A large number of Aggie Former Students and fans see this as a proactive decision and a move that is net positive for all involved.
5. Yes, in-state rivalries matter...and so long as the t'sips are willing to play us, we're going to keep the door open to the Turkey day game. Out-of-state rivalries matter, too, and we've got history with LSU, Arkansas, Alabama...and these schools are willing to acknowledge and enjoy those rivalries, unlike t.u. (which distinction will be all the more useful once we're playing the T.U. Vols).
Update: As I'm writing, I've received word that the SEC Presidents met and released the following statement:
The SEC Presidents and Chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment. 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.Luicci tweets that this could just be part of the process. I note that they didn't say "never."
Update #2: Rep. Branch's Higher Ed meeting has been cancelled. TAMU BOR voted Pres. Loftin the latitude to make decisions on conference realignment.