Texas A&M is looking for new boots.
That was the news out of College Station last week. Yesterday, college preview shows sent folks all over the SEC buzzing with anticipation of what might be in store for them this week.
Will the Aggies be slurping Dreamland (Tuscaloosa) barbeque and shopping at Toomers Corner (Auburn) during next year's regular season play? Or will the news of the past week be stuffed like cows into a trailer, passed off as nothing but mindless talk?
Texas A&M officials put the rumors to rest on Thursday, saying the school might leave the Big 12 conference. The speculation caught the fancies of airwave jocks and sports columnists.
Then, word leaked out through the Associated Press over the weekend that the school's departure was discussed among the Big 12's board of directors, although that story has yet to be confirmed.
What is known is this: Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin made his intentions official in the form of a letter to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe. In that letter, he said the school is "exploring options related to the institution's athletic conference affiliation." That letter, when combined with University of Florida's president Bernie Machen's remarks on August 14 have converged into a cluster of questions that have yet been officially answered. Machen indicated then that the SEC was content with its current 12-school conference.
Could the the Aggies really bring their pomp to the Southland?
Whatever they do, according to Loftin's letter, they desire to do it in full compliance with the Big 12's bylaws, including remaining proactive in finding another team to replace the vacant spot they will leave. That's like saying, "I'm resigning from my job, but don't worry, I'll help you find a replacement who's as talented as me." No one really cares about the replacement. What they do care about is a slew of contracts the Aggies will leave behind.
What will it mean for the SEC? Could the Aggies—whose various sporting venues already mesh with SEC teams like Arkansas and Florida—share the limelight with the most dominant league in college football, and if so, how and when would it happen?
According to Loftin, the reasons for exploring are long term and "extremely complex," and a decision will take time. How much time depends on a few factors, including if the SEC can and will invite the Aggies into the magic kingdom.
So grab your ten-gallon hat and a cold brew and chew on these thoughts.