This time the rumor is coming from the governor’s mansion in Austin.
Current Texas Governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry reignited rumblings of further conference movement by talking about a possible move by his alma-mater, Texas A&M University.
"I'll be real honest with you," said Perry. "I just read about it the same time as y'all did. ... As far as I know, conversations are being had. That's frankly all I know. I just refer you to the university and the decision makers over there."
The key phrase is, “As far as I know, conversations are being had.”
A former Aggie yell leader turned politician annunciating that is enough to likely start ringing the phones in SEC commissioner Mike Slive’s office as well as his those in the office of his Big 12 counterpart, Dan Beebe.
For Beebe, this is yet another “missile crisis” twist in his shaky league that has appeared to be unraveling on a daily basis for the past 14 months.
There is little doubt that once again Texas is making its in-state rival Texas A&M feel inferior by launching the Longhorn Network in partnership with ESPN.
What probably blew the cork wide open on this one more than anything was the decision to attempt to air high-school football games, which is a mega-business of its own in the Lone Star State.
Of all the Big 12 schools, Texas A&M clearly has the most to be upset about regarding this proposal, and despite the moratorium agreed to by league athletic directors recently, it clearly makes remaining in the Big 12 not in the best interests of Texas A&M University based on statements by President R. Bowen Loftin.
Needless to say, this clearly shows that league realignment is far from over, and the Big 12 is proving to be the least stable of any of the six power—or AQ—conferences.
At the very least, Dan Beebe has one more highly unsatisfied partner in his firm that is looking to jump ship, as he did with Colorado and Nebraska last spring.
There are several scenarios that could develop over the next 6-10 months depending upon what the SEC schools decide they want.
If they desire to be the first league to go beyond 12 schools, inviting Texas A&M to join just might be to their best interests.
Who Else to the SEC?
This one is where the issues get potentially sticky for the SEC. Whom else do they try and bring in? Oklahoma? Florida State? Clemson?
Oklahoma is very much tied to Texas and last summer made it clear that they were going to do whatever they could to stay partnered with the Longhorns.
They received a solid inquest from the SEC as well as an outright invitation from Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott last year.
Many Sooner fans would love the SEC, but academically that conference might not be the fit the powers that be desire for Oklahoma's flagship research institution, given that the only AAU members in the SEC are Vanderbilt and Florida. More than anything and having over 70 PhD programs, Oklahoma aspires AAU affiliation, which is part of why they cling to Texas, and if they go anywhere other than the Big 12 it will be the Pac-12.
FSU could be the 14th institution invited to the SEC, and last year FSU AD Randy Spetman admitted the school had some talks with the SEC about potentially changing leagues from the ACC.
Clearly some feel Florida would object to this, but others strongly suggest this might be a good addition to the eastern division with Texas A&M going to the west.
This would also bring a longstanding instate rivalry into the league, which would further help build conference tradition.
The addition of Texas A&M could help further solidify Arkansas in the league and end the rumors that they will defect to the Big 12 to rejoin their old SWC rivals as well as be closer in geographical proximity conference schools in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.
The Tigers also get mentioned due to their longstanding rivalry with SEC member South Carolina, not to mention strong geographic rivalries with Georgia and Tennessee.
One other option the SEC might consider is expelling Vanderbilt.
The AAU did it to Nebraska last spring for having less-than-stellar research dollars and programs; why not have one arguably the most prestigious athletic leagues follow suit with a school whose athletic program has been a similar deadweight?
Will the Remaining Big 12 Sick Together?
Despite all the talk of Texas following in the footsteps of BYU and becoming independent, the Longhorns will not seek independence since Oklahoma appears strongly committed to staying with them along with the other seven schools that would remain in the league.
Given the logistical issues BYU has faced, it is doubtful Texas will be in any hurry to further ostracize itself from the rest of the league.
If Dan Beebe can keep Texas and Oklahoma together, he can keep Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State, and the Kansas Schools with them. Despite appearances, this would not be the destabilizing move that the loss of Nebraska to the Big Ten last year was.
But if an additional vacancy turns up and the Big 12 surprises many pundits by sticking together, there is no getting around expanding and seriously considering replacement schools.
The schools that get the most mention for future inclusion in the Big 12 have been TCU, BYU, SMU, Memphis, and Houston.
While the loss of Texas A&M might end the argument of not considering anyone in Texas for future alignment, TCU lacks the alumni numbers and would really not prove to adequately replace the TV numbers Texas A&M represents.
Also the remembrance of the corruption scandals of the 1980s puts TCU in company with SMU, albeit not on the same destructive level, but nonetheless, TCU disappeared for a decade during the 1990s as they began their sojourn from the imploded SWC to the WAC then C-USA and the MWC and finally the Big East, to which they have firmly now committed themselves.
Also, TCU made it clear last year that if the Big 12 imploded, they would seek to block the inclusion of Baylor in the MWC, which does not make for good realignment relations.
Houston and Memphis represent commuter schools that hardly fit the Big 12 model of institutions.
This clearly puts BYU in the line of fire. BYU AD Tom Holmoe remains coy about how long BYU will stay independent, and many Cougar fans feel that eventually BYU will be confronted with the prospect of being invited to a conference.
If these developments come to fruition or the Big 12 does fall completely apart, as many wish would happen, regardless, the administration at BYU might be confronted with the possibility of joining a league yet again or even forming a league. They were heavily involved when the original WAC was formed in 1961 and again when the MWC broke away in 1998.
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