Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork has a message for any newcomers to the Southeastern Conference: “We’re ready.”
Texas and Oklahoma are preparing to exit the Big 12 and join the SEC, just as A&M did nearly a decade ago. The Longhorns and Sooners are expected to inform the Big 12 this coming week and begin preparing for their pending exits — and how soon they join the SEC (whether by 2022 or as late as 2025) is to be determined.
“We believe that throughout our time in the SEC, Texas A&M has become stronger than ever,” Bjork told the Houston Chronicle on Saturday. “We’re the largest university in Texas and in the SEC. We have 550,000 former students. We’re knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff, and our women’s basketball team is the reigning SEC champion. We’ve got so many Olympians. There are so many great things and strengths about our program.
“As you look at all of this and our landscape, our position is, ‘Who wouldn’t want to join?’ The SEC is in the best position to lead in this transformative time in college athletics, and obviously there are others wanting to join us in that journey. Here in Texas, we’ve paved that way, and we’ve been leading that way over the last 10 years.”
A&M and other SEC programs apparently were largely kept out of the loop on informal discussions among UT, OU and the SEC in recent months, and Bjork said A&M is addressing that with the league.
“Those conversations are being had … there are definitely procedural matters that need to come forward, and those things are being discussed,” Bjork said.
A&M is pivoting from its early stance when the Chronicle broke the news on Wednesday at SEC Media Days that UT and OU intended to join the powerful conference.
See here, here, and here for the background. I can’t blame A&M for feeling blindsided by this, but their first mistake was in thinking that anyone outside Aggie Nation cared. It’s all about the money, y’all.
I also found this amusing.
Back in summer 2016, schools from the so-called Group of Five lined up to make elaborate pitches to join the Big 12.
For three months, the University of Houston was among the reported favorites, along with Cincinnati, to join the Big 12. It would have been a monumental moment for Houston, which has long desired a seat at college football’s table of power brokers — and the exposure and lucrative payout that come with it.
It all turned out to be a three-month charade. The Big 12 eventually decided against expansion. Tilman Fertitta, UH’s deep-pocket board of regent chairman, blasted the process, calling it “a total sham” … “PR play” … “biggest ramrod, railroad, ever.”
Five years later, conference realignment is back on the table. This time it’s not just talk. As early as this week, Texas and Oklahoma are expected to declare their intention to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.
That once desirable Big 12 destination that had schools tripping over each other for admission like a sold-out concert. Not so desirable anymore.
And once on the verge of being raided, the AAC could open its doors to some, if not all, of the eight remaining teams from the Big 12, a group that includes Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU.
The AAC will not take a wait-and-see approach and instead will be aggressive in pursuit of the Big 12’s leftovers, an industry source confirmed Saturday. The Athletic was the first to report the AAC’s intentions.
For what it’s worth, in my previous update I linked to a Yahoo News story that suggested it would be the diminished Big XII that would be aggressive in courting AAC schools to join them. That has been the normal flow of events in the conference-hopping game, though one must admit that “Big XII minus UT and OU” is a lot less formidable, and maybe not so much bigger or grander than the AAC or the Mountain West. I just enjoyed the Mouse That Roared energy from this story. Maybe it plays that way and maybe it doesn’t, but I suppose there’s no harm in assuming one is now on equal terms with a former big boy. Where it stops, nobody knows.