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What about A&M?

On the one hand, there’s evidence to suggest that the Aggie faithful want to sever ties with UT and go East.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive visited College Station on Saturday, according to Billy Liucci’s Maroon & White Report, and A&M potentially could call a regents meeting for later in the week, a school official said Saturday.

The bottom line is it appears many Aggies, including some near or right at the top of the A&M food chain, are willing to risk their team getting battered for a time while the program adjusts to the brutally tough SEC.

“We’ve just gotten a sense that A&M feels it’s a better match for the SEC,” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, of politicians trying to take A&M’s temperature.

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A&M hasn’t finished in the Associated Press Top 25 this century and has had trouble enough competing in the Big 12. The Aggies also have had their hands full with their most recent encounters with the SEC. Tennessee whipped A&M 38-7 in the Cotton Bowl five years ago, and last season, Arkansas (47-19) and Georgia (44-20) both beat up on 6-7 A&M.

Neither the Razorbacks nor Bulldogs competed for a title in their respective SEC divisions. Still, the pro-SEC faction at A&M figures the Aggies’ recruiting classes will improve greatly, with the promise to youngsters in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio that they’ll be playing in the nation’s premier league — while staying in their home state.

On top of that, state Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, said that if the Big 12 had to break up, the SEC makes more sense than the Pac-10 for fans in this part of the country.

“You can road trip to Mississippi,” he said. “You can’t really do that to California.”

Congressman Joe Barton, an A&M alum, thinks the SEC is the best fit for the Aggies, too. On the other hand, there’s one prominent Aggie who has not yet spoken up, and politics may make him push the school West.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will have a decisive say in which conference his alma mater, Texas A&M, joins and he probably prefers the Aggies link with Texas and other Big 12 schools and accept invitations to the Pac-10 Conference, two long-time political figures told the Statesman.

“Anybody who thinks Rick Perry is not going to sign off on the final decision is fooling himself,” one of the sources said. “A&M will go where the governor wants them to go.”

The second source said Perry, a former Texas A&M yell leader, does not want to do anything to disrupt his re-election plans and consequently might try to push the Aggies toward the Pac-10 to calm the political waters. Perry has said he’d prefer to keep all the Texas schools together.

“Perry’s political team has told him that the one thing that could beat him (in the November election) is to get involved in a football fight,” the long-time political observer in Austin said Saturday. “He doesn’t want to tick off Texas Tech and the Longhorns. The least amount of political downside is for A&M to join the Pac-10.”

Interestingly, at least some Baylor fans are already upset with the Governor for not fighting to keep the Big XII, or at least the Big XII Texas schools, together. I don’t think that will amount to much, but I could see a UT/A&M divorce (and a Tech/A&M divorce) having some blowback. This is all assuming that the Aggies were to get an invitation to join the SEC, something they don’t have yet.

One thing everyone agrees on is that the Aggies only have so much time to make a decision before the PAC 10 makes it for them by inviting someone else. That Chron link mentions Utah as a possible alternate choice for the PAC 10, while that last link suggests Kansas. There are other possibilities for Kansas as well.

Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri could be playing in the Mountain West, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Interestingly, Baylor is not part of the equation amid strong opposition from MWC member TCU.

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What seemed interesting Saturday was word that the schools that will be left behind once the Big 12 dissolves finally began to draw some serious interest. The five left-behind schools are believed to be exploring every possibility from sticking together in what will be a diluted Big 12 to banding together to become influential members in a non-BCS conference.

Kansas, however, could be out of the equation which would all but leave the four scrambling. There has been a great deal of speculation that if Texas A&M does not join the Pac-10 then Scott will extend an invitation to the Jayhawks. Initially it was thought that Kansas could not separate from Kansas State but that has changed with everyone in panic mode.

“Look at it this way,” KU coach Bill Self said to The Kansas City Star on Friday. “No matter what, I’m 100 percent confident we’re going to land. And we may land in a group that gives us more exposure than we ever could have had before. We may land with somebody that opens up recruiting doors in areas that we never really tested before. We’re not gonna lose what we already have. This may open up new avenues for us.”

I don’t know what TCU’s animus towards Baylor is all about – resentment that Baylor was in the Big XII to begin with while TCU got stuck with the WAC before moving to C-USA and then finally the MWC, I suppose – but if you can get past the idea of Kansas being a “mountain” state – which, let’s face it, is no more ludicrous than Oklahoma being a “Pacific” state – the MWC makes some sense. It’s the closest fit geographically, and who knows, the MWC may wind up as a BCS conference out of this now that there will be one fewer in existence. Justin has been banging the drum for the Big East to grab Kansas, and that certainly makes sense from a basketball perspective. But if one thing is clear in all this, it’s that basketball considerations have not been part of the equation in all of the conference shuffling of late.

I don’t see how college sports are better when Nebraska has to start new rivalries so it can get a bigger chunk of TV money. I don’t see how putting Texas and Washington State in the same league makes this enterprise more compelling for anybody.

And since this is all being done for TV money, it is all about football. It is telling that in the last two decades, no league went after Kansas, Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina. College basketball, a national obsession every March, is not even part of this discussion. And if the school presidents aren’t giving a thought to basketball, you can be sure they don’t care a bit about the various soccer players, lacrosse players, sprinters and swimmers who will be going pro in something other than sports.

It’s interesting to me to see 16-team conferences becoming the new hotness. As a Rice fan, I have some experience with such things, as Rice wound up in what was then a 16-team WAC back in 1996. The original conference added six teams – SWC leftovers Rice, SMU, and TCU, plus UNLV, San Jose State, and Tulsa – and went to two divisions with a championship game. That lasted three years, before a group of original WAC members decided it was too much and split off to form the MWC. (Certain current PAC 10 members might want to note that when they did this, they took new school UNLV with them while leaving longtime members UTEP and Hawaii behind.) There were complaints about diluted rivalries, too much travel, mismatched academic standards. If any of this sounds familiar, just file it away for future consideration. Maybe the future PAC 16 will be the only conference to go that big, but whatever the case, the point I’m making is that it’s been done before, and that experience should give anyone pause. I for one am planning to laugh my rear end off if that history winds up repeating itself.

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