Texas A&M is taking their ball and they're going, well, somewhere else.
Wherever it is, it's not home. That notation belonged to a conference that was a natural geographic fit and housed the Aggies' three fiercest rivals. You know, the Big 12.
But, home was not where their heart was.
That's because—little did we know—Texas A&M was faint-hearted. Their "little brother" complex with the University of Texas was larger than any of us had imagined. Unable to compete with the Longhorns on the recruiting trail (UT has landed 39 ESPNU 150 recruits since 2008, A&M has signed just six) and despite winning three of the last five meetings between the two schools (a major accomplishment given that the all-time record stands at 75-37-5, in favor of Texas), the Aggies used the Longhorn Network as their excuse to quit.
Don't get me wrong, I disagree with the Longhorn Network on a plethora of different levels, with much of my disdain being aimed at ESPN. Still, I don't see this 24/7 vomit of burnt orange as tipping the competitive balance any more than "All Access with the Oklahoma Sooners" did over the course of this past month.
That's because athletic directors all over the Big 12—not just in College Station—cried foul from the outset, leading to the subsequent neutering of the Longhorn Network by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. Only two regular season games will air on the network, and zero of those are high school games after Texas A&M successfully lobbied Beebe to invoke a 17-year old rules interpretation prohibiting such.
To date, no major providers have elected to add the Longhorn Network, and while it may eventually pan out to some degree—it's difficult to imagine Disney sinking $300 million into an annual Texas versus Rice showdown—television is television. The University of Oklahoma doesn't have a network, but the Sooners don't have any shortage of coverage. Winning gets you on ABC. Losing lands you on FSN.
The Aggies lack of exposure is not due to some Texas-sized conspiracy theory. Prior to the end of last season, Texas A&M hadn't finished a season inside of the AP Top 25 since 1999. The Longhorns have appeared in two national championships, with two of college football's most transcendent quarterbacks, during that same period of time.
If you want to be perceived as Texas' equal, then be their equal. Works fine for Oklahoma.
The Southeastern Conference grass appears greener, and moving to the NFL's minor league will allow Texas A&M a recruiting chip that Texas doesn't have. Ironically, however, the Aggies are merely confirming the Longhorns' supremacy. Texas doesn't need the SEC recruiting chip.
As for that whole "earning it" part... well, it doesn't appear that A&M thought that through, either. There is no Iowa State in the SEC. They're about to share a division with Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas. Once the new wears off, they'll be just another middle-of-the-road team amid a stacked conference.
UT would be laughing uncontrollably if the Aggies weren't in the process of further expanding the SEC's footprint into the state of Texas. To that end, Texas A&M may be doing far more damage to the Longhorns and Sooners than they could ever hope to do on the field of play.
Ignored in all of this is the bigger picture.
Texas A&M doesn't make the SEC any better on the top end. Their departure, in and of itself, does not make the Big 12 much weaker, either. The Aggies are not nearly as good or as important as they seem to believe that they are.
What they are, however, is a domino.
Their relocation to the SEC will a trigger a chain reaction of epic proportions. When the dust settles, the landscape of college football will never be the same.
Here's a look into the crystal football...
Logically, after the Southeastern Conference adds Texas A&M they're going to need to push the membership total to 14.
But, why stop there?
The SEC will vote to add three teams in addition to the Aggies: Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech.
Each is a better geographical fit than Texas A&M, and each can be competitive in a conference that will be more powerful than any other that we have ever seen.
Perhaps more importantly, every one of those additions will fit in with the culture and atmosphere of the SEC—something Missouri couldn't say.
After Mike Slive and Co. finish handing out invitations, here's how it'll look:
- Mississippi State
- Texas A&M
- Florida State
- South Carolina
- Virginia Tech
The ACC crippled the Big East when they poached Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College in 2003.
They'll finish them off this time around.
In a bit of a karmic twist, three of the four additions to the SEC come from ACC, dropping the conference back down to nine teams. But, it won't last long.
In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, the Atlantic Coast Conference will pluck West Virginia and South Florida from the Big East.
East Carolina will come over from Conference USA, giving the ACC an even dozen, once again.
Here's a look:
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina
- South Florida
- Boston College
- East Carolina
- North Carolina State
- West Virginia
- Wake Forest
After watching their football membership drop to seven teams, the Big East becomes defenseless against the expansion of those around them.
The Big Ten adds Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
Syracuse and Rutgers join their fellow defectors in the ACC, giving the conference 16 teams.
The Big(ger) Ten looks like this:
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
As for the Big East... well, like I said, they are merely a better A-10. As such, they'll grab Xavier, Temple, UMass and Richmond. The final product:
- Notre Dame
- St. John's
- Seton Hall
With the uncertainty surrounding the Big East, Dan Beebe is able to coerce TCU into joining the Big 12 instead.
That move saves the conference.
Fearing future instability, the Big 12 does not stand pat at 10 teams this time around. They'll try unsuccessfully to add Notre Dame before settling for BYU and Boise State.
Beebe gets a great deal of pressure from the state of Texas to add SMU and Houston. True to form, however, he'll reject the notion of expanding for the sake of expansion.
After all is said and done, the new Big 12 is stronger than the old Big 12:
- Boise State
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech