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TCU to join Big XII

For now. Until something better comes along, of course.

TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 on Monday night, seizing an opportunity to be a part of a conference with natural geographic rivals despite the league’s recent instability.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the move and Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. made the expected announcement in front a packed room of more than 200 people. Athletic director Chris Del Conte fought back tears as he recalled receiving the phone call from the Horned Frogs’ new conference last week.

“This is living proof that dreams do come true,” he said.

They’re quitting the Big East before ever officially joining it, thus becoming the Britney Spears and Jason Alexander of college football. (I’ll leave it to you to decide if that means that the Big XII is K-Fed.)

The move could provide some much-needed stability for the Big 12, which lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) over the summer and will lose Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference next year. Missouri is also exploring a move to the SEC.

Yes, we’ll see how long that stability lasts. And if the SEC ever wags a finger at TCU, don’t get between them and the exit clause. Now we wait to see who the Big East will go after to fill the holes left by TCU, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Everyone in Conference USA, either brush up your resumes or hold onto your seats.

Missouri on the move?

Still no stability for the Big XII.

It wasn’t too long ago that Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of “working every day to hold the Big 12 together.” Now he’s been tasked with helping decide whether the Tigers are the latest program to leave a troubled conference fighting for its future.

University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board’s members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system’s St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school’s) interest.”

And Deaton, the conference’s public face through its recent turmoil, is resigning as chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors to avoid the obvious conflict of interest.

Just one day earlier, the conference announced that presidents and chancellors of the remaining nine members — including Deaton — had agreed to equal revenue sharing and to seek approval from each university to hand over the most lucrative television rights to the conference for six years.

Now it looks as if the Big 12 might be losing two members for the second straight year.

“The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a statement released soon after Missouri announced its intentions.

[…]

Speculation has centered on a possible Missouri move to the Southeastern Conference, which recently agreed to accept Texas A&M from the Big 12 starting next year

Deaton declined to specifically answer a reporter’s question about interest in the SEC on either the school’s part or the other conference. He said there is no timetable for the decision, whether by a self-imposed deadline or a Big 12 loyalty demand.

“We’re going to be exploring options generally and will be making no comments about specific areas where we have begun to look at,” he said.

Conceivably, Missouri could remain in the Big 12, Deaton said, but the Tigers are officially on the market now. And the SEC could use a 14th member to balance a league that now has an odd number of teams.

“We certainly are not ruling out continuing in the Big 12,” he said. “But we want to be sure to do what is best for our university.”

That boat sure has a lot of leaks, doesn’t it? It’s unclear at this point if or when an invitation for Missouri to join the SEC might come; they are wrestling with how to preserve rivalries in the event of another western school joining. Who knows how long that might take? In the interim, the Big XII is now seeking to expand as well.

Leaders of the Big 12 Conference cleared the way Thursday to add TCU, a move that would bring in a rising program and potentially shore up a league that seemed ready to fall apart just a few weeks ago.

The Big 12’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to authorize negotiations with the Horned Frogs, who play in Fort Worth, Texas, and boast the defending Rose Bowl champion.

TCU was planning to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next year, though the Big East is reeling from the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC.

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. suggested a move to the Big 12 might be a better decision for his school, a former member of the old Southwest Conference that once included current Big 12 members Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. It also included Texas A&M, which is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next year.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” Boschini said. “It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for years. As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

More here and here. The Big XII, assuming it continues to exist as a viable entity, is surely a better option for TCU, which is to conference affiliation what Liz Taylor was to marriage. Never mind the Big East’s own issues with volatility, the Frogs’ travel budget will be much more manageable in the Big XII. One wonders if the Big XII will look for another school to invite in the event Mizzou bolts. And one wonders how embarrassing it would be in the event TCU says “thanks, but no thanks” to the Big XII. Has that ever happened to a BCS conference before now? Anyway, the ongoing drama of As The Conferences Turn seems unlikely to end any time soon.

Who’s number 14?

As the SEC welcomed Texas A&M as its 13th member, commissioner Mike Slive says they have no immediate plans to invite a 14th.

Slive said the SEC wasn’t looking to expand, but that A&M was too attractive of an option to ignore.

“We were very happy at 12,” Slive said. “When Texas A&M came to us and indicated their interest in joining the SEC, we said to ourselves: ‘That is a great institution, academically, athletically, culturally and in every way, and a real fit.’ So we decided even though we were content with 12, that we had the opportunity to have Texas A&M as part of the SEC was something that we just did not want to give up.”

Slive acknowledged that scheduling a 13-team league will be difficult but said it wouldn’t expand just to make things easier.

They won’t expand for 2012, but I cannot believe they won’t expand shortly thereafter to balance the conference. Thirteen is just an unwieldy number to deal with, and while making the scheduler’s life easier may not be a top priority, I’m sure it’s on the to do list. I also figure that the schools that will be in a seven team division will be thinking that their mates in the six team division have it easier than they do, and will want to rectify that. If they don’t add a 14th team by the start of the 2013 season, I’ll be surprised.

Meanwhile, there’s angst about the future of the UT-A&M game.

College football needs Texas-Texas A&M just like it needs rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama and Texas-OU and Lane Kiffin-NCAA. They’re as much a part of the fabric of college sporting life as Beano Cook, the Rose Bowl parade and Lee Corso’s costumes. Take ‘em away, and college football isn’t nearly as compelling.

And a lot of people are sad now that A&M’s gone to the SEC, and Texas-A&M is probably dead.

But John Sharp’s beyond sad. He’s borderline mad. Or he at least halfway sounded like it. Good for him.

“We want to make it abundantly clear we will play the game anywhere, any time,” the new Texas A&M chancellor told me Monday morning. “If that game dies, it will not be on us. That game is bigger than Texas and bigger than A&M. That game belongs to the people of Texas, and if it goes away, it’s not going to be on our watch.”

The Aggies are on record as saying they want to continue the series, come rain, shine or the Longhorn Network. A&M’s president and chancellor both say they want to play Texas every year.

[…]

Both sides are talking about how difficult it will be to fit in that game with conference schedules and all. Poppycock. Isn’t A&M in the third year of a 10-year series with Arkansas? Well, that will become an SEC game, which opens up a spot for Texas. Weren’t the Aggies and Longhorns supposed to play every year until the end of time or Joe Paterno’s next birthday? So now it’s a non-conference gig like all those pre-Big 12 Texas-OU shootouts in Dallas, no problem.

You see how easy it is.

Do not let pride and ego and raw emotion get in the way of the best thing in sports since the State Fair corny dog.

But DeLoss Dodds doesn’t sound as if he’ll budge either.

“As we have said before, scheduling them would be problematic,” the Texas athletic director said. “We have contracts for three non-conference games each year that run until 2018. We also don’t know what the configuration of the Big 12 will be.”

Then, DeLoss adds this for a zinger:

“We didn’t leave the conference. They did,” he said. “We’ll make a decision that’s best for Texas.”

The irony is that while A&M bolted for the SEC in large part to escape UT’s shadow, keeping this game probably means more to them at this point than it does to UT. The Longhorns still have a signature rivalry game with Oklahoma every year. They also now have an incentive, as do other schools in Texas, to minimize A&M’s presence within the state. I’m neither an Aggie nor a Longhorn, so the loss of this game would have no special meaning to me, but I do think that having severed conference ties with Texas, A&M is in no position to blame them for the end of this tradition if that happens. (For that matter, if either school actually cared about tradition, the Southwest Conference would still be a going concern.) The Aggies shouldn’t be surprised or offended that as they have moved on, so has UT.

Well, assuming the Legislature lets them move on, of course.

Texas has a long-standing tradition of creating odd laws to fit nearly every circumstance. Hell, we have an official song for our state flower. But one has to wonder if State Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) may be taking things a bit too far with his proposal to draft legislation that would require the University of Texas and Texas A&M University to play an annual football game every Thanksgiving as they have for many years.

With A&M moving to the Southeastern Conference and the future of the Big 12 very much in doubt, Williams and State Rep. John Otto, who will sponsor the bill in the House, have decided this is a tradition that must be preserved and the best way to go about doing that is making it law.

We’re a long way out from the next legislative session, and for all we know neither Williams nor Otto may be in the next Lege, so to say this is all a bit premature is to understate. I’m not surprised someone has taken this up, but neither will I be surprised if it winds up going nowhere.

And finally, just because it’s such a weird story, we have the possibility of a merger between Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference.

A football-only federation – involving 22 to 24 schools – would offer C-USA and Mountain West a “strength in numbers” response to recent conference realignment.

“It’s an intriguing concept,” Rice athletic director Rick Greenspan said. “It’s one that is probably a bit unique in college athletics.”

A C-USA-Mountain West merger would involve the two leagues remaining separate. At the end of the season, the two champions would meet in a championship game with the hope the winner receives a BCS bid.

No timetable has been set for when a decision could be made. C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday that the possibility of a merger for 2012 is premature but “the following year is something that is possible.” The current BCS contract runs through January 2014.

I guess the idea is that the winner of this mega-conference championship game would be seen as BCS-worthy? Or maybe that they figure either the Big XII or the Big East will implode between now and then, and they would like to be first in line to fill that slot? Seems to me there’s a bit of an underpants gnomes problem here, but maybe they’ve put more thought into this than I’m giving them credit for. All things considered, it’s not the craziest thing I’ve heard this week.

Still room for discontent in the Big XII

Texas A&M is on the way out, OU and UT are settling back in, but what’s left of the Big XII still isn’t quite a happy family.

Contrasting pictures of the stability of the Big 12 were highlighted by OU president David Boren and Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton during dueling head-to-head news conferences Thursday night. Their comments reflected contrary viewpoints on whether the conference’s problems have been fixed.

Deaton’s news conference was held at the same time as Boren’s. Both used the same audio servicing company and Boren’s voice boomed over Deaton’s during part of the teleconference for media members across the nation.

It might have been a technical glitch, but it seemed more symbolic than that.

Boren projected an air of unity with most of the Big 12’s problems settled; Deaton talked about working to reconcile those differences.

Most importantly, the Missouri chancellor didn’t provide a long-term commitment to remaining in the conference. Some reports have the Tigers interested in joining Texas A&M as a new member of the Southeastern Conference.

“That’s a hypothetical that could occur,” Deaton told reporters. “In a sense, anything is possible. That’s all recognized, and that’s what has led to the discussions that we’ve had over the last several weeks.”

Make of that what you will. For its part, the SEC is going to have 13 teams, which seems to be mighty awkward from a scheduling perspective. Adding one more school might help with that.

South Carolina president Harris Pastides would like to see the Southeastern Conference cap expansion at 14 teams.

Pastides and the other SEC presidents have voted to accept Texas A&M as the league’s 13th member, once the Aggies resolve legal issues regarding their departure from the Big 12. The presidents have not decided whether to add a 14th team.

“I don’t think 13 is a sustainable number, but I think 14 is,” Pastides said. “I’m not in favor of 16 personally right now. You begin to lose what is a very special quality.”

Pastides spoke with the Associated Press this week about SEC expansion and his role in an NCAA summit this past summer regarding reform in major college athletics.

Pastides is favor of the SEC growing after Texas A&M joins “because 14 works better than 13,” he said. “But if it were Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech [together], to me, I’d be saying, ‘What happened to the SEC?’ ”

[…]

The president said identifying a 14th school is just speculation and rumors right now. He’d like for SEC members to have some time out of the glare of conference realignment to find a similarly good match as Texas A&M. Pastides knows that might not happen.

I’m not really sure how much better 14 is. With 12, it’s easy – two six-team divisions, each team plays all five division mates plus three teams in the other division. All rivalries are maintained, no teams go more than two years without facing each other, no muss no fuss. With 14, you either skip some in-division games as shown in the 13 team scenario, or you forget about even scheduling across divisions. Seems to me 16 would be easier to deal with, but that has other problems as we well know. I’d have stayed with 12, but no one asked me. As for who lucky number 14 might be, we’re left to our own devices for the time being. Mizzou would like for it to be known that they would not turn down an invitation.

Can this conference be saved?

Here’s your latest Big XII speculation.

Several reports indicate that Texas would be willing to share its Tier I revenue provided through the Big 12’s television contracts for football to help preserve the conference. That would not affect the $15 million provided each year to the school by the Longhorn Network.

But the key to keeping the Big 12 together still appears to be convincing Oklahoma to stay. The Sooners appeared ready to bolt to the Pac-12 with Oklahoma State in tow for most of the last week.

Even with the recent comments of OU president David Boren saying his school wouldn’t be “a wallflower” in a possible realignment scenario, the Sooners may be convinced to stay put after some initial apprehension.

“We just have to tap on the brakes and try to slow down,” a person familiar with the negotiations said. “There is still value in this conference. We all just have to realize that.”

This may already be obsolete, of course; indeed, it may be too little, too late. To be honest, I really don’t understand the mad rush towards 16-team super conferences. Speaking as a survivor of the WAC 16, there are many issues when there are that many schools. But then I’m also pretty sure that logic isn’t the driving factor here. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of As The Conference Turns.

Baylor conference-blocking A&M

Hilarious.

A threat of legal action by Baylor has, at least temporarily, held up Texas A&M’s move to the SEC. The SEC’s presidents voted unanimously Tuesday night to extend an invitation to Texas A&M to become the league’s 13th member, but that invitation is contingent upon all of Texas A&M’s Big 12 counterparts waiving their right to a legal challenge.

A source said Baylor had broken ranks with the remaining Big 12 members, which decided last week to waive their right to legally challenge a move by Texas A&M. In a statement, Florida president Bernie Machen, the chair of the SEC’s presidents group, said the SEC would not accept Texas A&M as a member until the potential legal roadblocks were cleared.

“We were notified yesterday afternoon that at least one Big 12 institution had withdrawn its previous consent and was considering legal action,” Machen said in the statement. “The SEC has stated that to consider an institution for membership, there must be no contractual hindrances to its departure. The SEC voted unanimously to accept Texas A&M University as a member upon receiving acceptable reconfirmation that the Big 12 and its members have reaffirmed the letter dated September 2, 2011.”

You can read that letter here. As you might imagine, the Aggies are none too happy about this.

A&M president R. Bowen Loftin issued a statement Wednesday morning:

“We are certainly pleased with the action taken last night by the presidents and chancellors of the Southeastern Conference to unanimously accept Texas A&M as the league’s 13th member. However, this acceptance is conditional, and we are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in Big 12 Conference. These actions go against the commitment that was made by this university and the Big 12 on Sept. 2. We are working diligently to resolve any and all issues as outlined by the SEC.”

USA Today reports that Iowa State, which would likely join Baylor out in the cold once the music stops, is also keeping its legal options open. Richard Justice thinks Baylor is just doing what it can to delay the inevitable, and I can’t blame them for that. I don’t think it will end well for them, however. Sure does suck not having a Governor and Lieutenant Governor looking out for you any more. Hair Balls has more.

Aggies officially outta here

Smell ya later, Big XII X IX.

Texas A&M is down to a final step in its methodical march to the Southeastern Conference. The Aggies on Wednesday gave the Big 12 official notification that they’re withdrawing from the 10-member league.

The SEC is expected to announce A&M’s entry as its 13th member in the coming days, putting the wraps on a whirlwind month in Aggieland. A&M will end a 16-year run in the Big 12 next summer, and intends to play football, volleyball and soccer in the SEC starting in the summer of 2012.

The Trib has the full press release. I don’t know if this will be good, bad, or indifferent for A&M, and to a large extent I don’t really care. It’s just business. If someone were to visit from the year 2021 and tell me that there’s no such thing as conferences any more, they were all replaced by something that was perceived to be more lucrative, I’d have no trouble believing it. The world already isn’t the same as it once was, we’re just waiting for it to reach a point of temporary equilibrium before it goes all helter skelter again. Burka has more.

Why not start the Aggie Network?

Kirk Bohls raises an interesting point.

It’s hard to blame Texas for having the wherewithal and desire to start its own network and reap $15 million a year off it for the next 20 years. It’s not the Longhorns’ fault they’ve won four national championships in football and two Heisman trophies, and are one of the most recognizable brands from Rome, Italy to Paris, Texas.

And Texas isn’t alone in this. Kansas State just announced it’s starting its own digital network. Oklahoma wants to. Magnus said Missouri’s looking into it.

So is Notre Dame, which is interesting since that could facilitate it joining the Big 12, no matter what A&M does, because the Big Ten Network supposedly would preclude it from taking Notre Dame with a Notre Dame network. The Big 12 could accept the Irish.

Texas A&M should start its own network, too. Lots of Aggies out there.

“The opportunities are just huge for each (Big 12) institution,” Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said. “I think as time goes by, we’ll all learn how to better those opportunities and get past somebody having a network. I think in 30 years, the Big 12 will look smart for doing it this way.”

I think that’s probably right. I also think that if, say, LSU or Alabama or Florida gets an offer from ESPN to start their own network, they’ll jump on it with both feet. What will A&M do if that happens? Better to look for opportunities than whine about threats. Go for it, Aggies.

No SEC for A&M

For now, anyway.

The Southeastern Conference is not extending an invitation to Texas A&M to become its 13th member, but isn’t ruling out adding the Aggies in the future.

University of Florida president Dr. Bernie Machen said the conference’s presidents and chancellors met on Sunday and “reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment.”

“We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league,” Machen said. “We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M.”

A high-ranking source within Texas A&M confirmed to ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb on Saturday the Aggies were intent on joining the Southeastern Conference. And they reportedly hoped to begin play in the league starting as soon as 2012.

[…]

An SEC official had told The New York Times ahead of Sunday’s meeting that there was still a 30 percent to 40 percent chance the Aggies would not get enough votes for an invitation. And the issue of needing to add a 14th team along with A&M remained, the newspaper reported.

“We realize if we do this, we have to have the 14th,” the SEC official said. “No name has been thrown out. This thing is much slower out of the chute than the media and blogs have made it.”

I’m sure finding a 14th won’t be too hard, though I suppose any candidates for that would need to make their desires known ahead of any invitation. Beyond that, it’s hard to say if the SEC is just saying “anything can happen” or if this is all the necessary groundwork for a future invitation. Maybe this was part of Rick Perry’s plan all along. Who knows? There’s still a meeting of the A&M Board of Regents, and the Higher Ed committee in the Lege, which may tell us more. The Trib has reaction from A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, and State Rep. Garnet Coleman brings the inevitable UH perspective.

UPDATE: Rep. Branch has canceled his hearing, though it can be rescheduled later if (when) needed. Meanwhile, the A&M Board of Regents has authorized President Bowen to explore all options, i.e., changing conferences. Finally, Rep. Coleman sends a letter to Rep. Branch advocating for UH to join the Big XII.

NCAA officially nixes high school programming on the Longhorn Network

So much for that.

The NCAA made official Thursday what most suspected would happen: It won’t allow programming involving high school athletics on university- or conference-affiliated television networks.

That means the new Longhorn Network’s plans to carry about 18 high school football games on Thursdays and Saturdays have been scuttled.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said Thursday that the NCAA staff had made the recommendation and it was approved by the governing body’s board of directors. An NCAA spokesman said that an Aug. 22 summit in Indianapolis to discuss the issue will go on as scheduled, with the topic now devoted to how to keep the new university or conference networks operating within NCAA rules.

Earlier, the Big XII had voluntarily put the kibosh on high school sports for at least a year. All of this may well be too little, too late.

Texas A&M intends to bolt the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, multiple insiders said Friday, in abruptly ending its nearly century-old league affiliation with rival Texas, and 15-year union with the Big 12, which includes longtime in-state rivals Baylor and Texas Tech. A&M has called for a telephonic regents meeting for 3 p.m. Monday to discuss “conference alignment.”

Agenda item 15 reads in part, “Authorization for the President to Take All Actions Relating to Texas A&M University’s Athletic Conference Alignment.” An A&M official said Friday night that the Aggies hope to begin play in the SEC in 2012, but it’s too early in the complex process to determine if that will happen.

A&M pushed up its regularly scheduled regents meeting from Aug. 22 apparently to stay in front of a hastily called Tuesday hearing by the Texas House Committee on Higher Education on potential league realignment. SEC school leaders also intend to meet Sunday to essentially rubber stamp A&M’s admittance, according to a Big 12 school official.

Earlier Friday, an A&M official said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe had told A&M president R. Bowen Loftin that the Big 12 would survive without the Aggies and that UT holds the key to the long-term future of the Big 12. The A&M official added that the Big 12 believes Houston would be a viable candidate to replace the Aggies.

The Big XII says it ain’t happening, but you know how that goes. Mentioning UH in this context gets the wish machine working. Hey, you never know, maybe this year is finally the year for them. In the meantime, I’ll just watch and see if there are more dominoes to fall.

It’s “The Longhorn Network” for a reason

Branding, y’all. It’s called branding. And I don’t mean what they do to cattle. Though I suppose that is sort of what’s happening here, now that I think about it.

Opponents’ views of Texas’ new cable network venture with ESPN have quickly escalated from concern to apprehension to resentment. Texas A&M’s board of regents will be discussing the Longhorn Network in executive session Thursday. Unconfirmed rumors suggested A&M and Oklahoma were eyeing the Southeastern Conference.

Texas officials tried to reassure the Big 12 and its conference rivals about the 24/7 cable network this week. UT participated in conference calls with conference athletic directors Monday and presidents Wednesday to allay fears about the network’s scope.

Commissioner Dan Beebe announced a temporary compromise Wednesday. Telecasts of high school football games on the Longhorn Network are now on hold, pending decisions by the NCAA and the Big 12 about how to handle school and conference networks. The Big 12 also delayed the possibility of a conference game on the Longhorn Network, announced earlier this month as part of a side deal with Fox.

“It’s not going to happen until and unless the conference can make it happen with benefit to all and detriment to none,” Beebe said.

[…]

Anxiety skyrocketed in early June after Austin’s 104.9 FM interviewed Dave Brown, the Longhorn Network’s vice president for programming and acquisitions. His responses seemed to confirm the worst fears that the Longhorn Network would zoom from zero to overkill with 18 high school games on Thursdays and Saturdays. Brown specifically mentioned star Aledo running back Johnathan Gray, who has orally committed to Texas but not signed a letter of intent.

“I know people are going to want to see Johnathan Gray. I can’t wait to see Johnathan Gray,” Brown told the station. “Feedback we got from our audience is they just want to see Johnathan Gray run — whether it’s 45-0 or not, they want to see more Johnathan Gray.”

I don’t know about those “unconfirmed rumors” regarding A&M, OU, and the SEC, but A&M President Loftin Bowin was quite clear about their school’s unhappiness with this.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin used the term “uncertainty” time and again Thursday in describing the state of the league, thanks to the start of the ESPN-owned Longhorn Network in Austin next month.

“The (recent) announcement by ESPN that the Longhorn Network might carry a conference (football) game in addition to a nonconference game was troubling, and then following right after that was ESPN’s announcement regarding high school games would be televised as well,” Loftin said. “Both of those we believe provide a great deal of uncertainty right now for us and the conference.”

[…]

Loftin said the LHN has no business showing Big 12 football games, and especially high school games that might target top recruits.

“If (they show) one conference game, then maybe we have two or three,” Loftin said. “High school games are very problematic. … If we have an unequal playing field for various schools (concerning recruiting), we think that is a problem. That creates uncertainty.”

Meanwhile ESPN and A&M athletic director Bill Byrne chimed in on the suddenly touchy subject Thursday.

“We recognize more discussions need to take place to properly address the questions raised by the conference,” ESPN said in a statement. “This is uncharted territory for all involved, so it’s logical for everyone to proceed carefully.”

What I don’t understand is why this is “suddenly” a touchy subject. The UIL has had its eyes on the Longhorn Network from the beginning. Was nobody else thinking about the implications of this at that time? Good luck cramming that genie back into the lamp now, that’s all I can say.

Amazon complains to the SEC about Texas trying to collect taxes on it

Poor dears.

Amazon said in a regulatory filing this week that the SEC is looking into its dispute with Texas, which began last year when the Texas comptroller’s office sent Amazon a $269 million assessment for four years of uncollected sales taxes.

“In March 2011, the SEC staff notified us of an inquiry concerning this assessment, and we are cooperating with the staff’s inquiry,” Amazon said in its SEC filing.

The company gave no additional information. An SEC spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation Friday.

[…]

In an earnings conference call this week, Amazon Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak sought to downplay the potential impact if more states put an end to tax-free online sales. He said Amazon generates more than half of its revenue in places where it already collects sales or consumption taxes, including markets outside the U.S.

However, in Amazon’s SEC filing, the company wrote that additional tax obligations “could create administrative burdens for us, put us at a competitive disadvantage if they do not impose similar obligations on all of our online competitors, and decrease our future sales.”

Whatever. If the only reason Amazon is viable is because they have this tax advantage over brick and mortar stores, then they’re not really viable at all. Does anyone believe they’ll go down the drain if they have to pay sales taxes? I don’t either. Quit whining, Amazon.

On a related note, Amazon is pulling out of another state over a sales tax dispute.

On the heels of a legislative vote in South Carolina that rejected Amazon’s plea for a sales tax collection exemption, Amazon said it won’t open a distribution center in the state, a project that included a one-million-square-foot building already under construction and 1,249 jobs.

“As a result of today’s unfortunate House vote, we’ve canceled $52 million in procurement contracts and removed all South Carolina fulfillment center job postings from our (Web) site,” said Paul Misener, Amazon vice president for global public policy, according to a report on The State newspaper website.

[…]

Amazon’s “our way or the highway” strategy suggests Amazon thinks it will easily find other alternatives to fulfil the company’s needs to open more distribution centers to keep those boxes of goods flowing. Maybe so. But it remains to be seen if this is a sustainable strategy, given the fact that Amazon currently doesn’t collect sales taxes in half the U.S. states.

Amazon this week said it plans to open 11 distribution centers, maybe more, as the company tries to keep up with demand from consumers who have flocked to its website looking for deals on books, music and other merchandise.

But Amazon also has played hardball in states where Amazon does not collect sales taxes from those sales. In March Amazon announced it was closing its affiliate program in Illinois, a day after the governor signed a law requiring Amazon and other online retailers to collect sales taxes on goods sold in the state.

Via Dwight. I’ll say it again, this really needs to be resolved at the federal level, and the sooner the better.

Is the Big XII in UH’s future?

Now that we know the Big XII will survive, one question that now arises is whether it will try to replace defectors Nebraska and Colorado, and if so with which teams. Already, there’s a drumbeat for UH being included. Richard Justice runs out to the front of the parade.

The Big 12 almost certainly will add two teams at some point. It may be two years from now, maybe longer. TCU would seem to be a slam dunk for one of the invitations, and UH needs to position itself for the other.

To do so will require work on multiple fronts, to do things UH has been unable to do in the past. But this is a new era at UH.

I’ve kind of lost count of the number of New Eras there have been at UH since I came to town in 1988. I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard this all before – IF they can maintain recent success, and IF they can upgrade their facilities, and IF they can draw bigger crowds, then it will all come together. If they can in fact do these things, then UH makes some sense; there’s enough UT and A&M alums here to make Houston a part of the Big XII TV market already, so that’s not much of a factor. Let’s just say I’m not going to hold my breath on this.

UH President Dr. Renu Khator gets some space on the op-ed pages to chime in as well with a rah-rah piece for her school. I noticed that the one thing neither she nor Justice mentioned was the concept of rivalries – UH rivalries, I mean. As that was a large subject of discussion when everyone thought the Big XII was headed for the junk pile, and especially when it looked like A&M might part ways with UT, that seems a curious oversight. Not to put too fine a point on it, but UH’s biggest rival these days is Rice, whom UH would be leaving behind in this scenario. Yes, I know, UH sees UT as a rival. I have news for you: UH and UT are rivals in the same way that Rice and UT are rivals. The rivalry means a lot more to one school than it does to the other. If all that lip service to rivalries meant anything, then the UH-to-the-Big XII advocates should be calling for Rice to come along as well. As TCU is also being mentioned, bringing Rice along would give the conference 13 members, so we may as well go whole hog and grab SMU, too, to balance out TCU and get things back to an even number. And since that would make the Big XII moniker as accurate as “Big 10” and “PAC 10” are right now, a new name for it would be in order. I have a suggestion for that, too.

Anyway. If you want to see the UH thing happen, there’s a University of Houston Should Join The Big 12 Facebook group for you. There’s a similar group for TCU, too, if your tastes go that way. If you want to read more about how Dan Beebe pulled this off, read Kevin Sherrington and especially Dan Wetzel, who reminds us that this is a temporary peace. Sooner or later, something like what the PAC 10 was trying to do will come up again. Burka, the Trib, and Sean Pendergast have more.

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.

[…]

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.

[…]

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.

UT headed to PAC 10

So says the Statesman.

The University of Texas is virtually certain to abandon the Big 12 Conference for the Pacific-10 Conference when its governing board meets Tuesday. Texas Tech University is expected to follow along.

Texas A&M University officials apparently are undecided on joining the Pac-10 or the Southeastern Conference. Baylor University’s prospects for joining the Pac-10 remain bleak. And the Big 12 is history.

That, in a nutshell, is how the high-stakes, high-dollar game of college athletics conference realignment — Texas edition — is shaping up this weekend after Friday’s announcement that the University of Nebraska will leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. A day earlier, the University of Colorado said it will quit the Big 12 for the Pac-10.

One highly placed Big 12 school official said there was no doubt that league members UT, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would join the Pac-10.

“The decision has been made,” he told the American-Statesman. “We’re bringing everybody to the Pac-10 but A&M.”

Texas A&M is apparently considering a move to the Southeastern Conference.

Athletic director DeLoss Dodds has been on record as saying he believes both schools should remain in the same conference. Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, however, indicated during last week’s Big 12 spring meetings that Texas and Texas A&M need to play each other regularly in all sports but hinted that did not necessarily mean they had to be members of the same conference.

“We really like the relationship with Texas,” Byrne said at the time. “We have a long relationship with them. We have the Lone Star Showdown in every sport.

“I can’t imagine us ever not competing against the University of Texas.”

The major concern Texas A&M seems to have with a move to the expanded Pac-10 is the increased travel and likely increased missed class time for all sports except football. A move to the SEC seems more logical to A&M, if a move is necessary.

“There is a two-hour time difference,” said Byrne, who was once the athletic director at Oregon. “The travel between Eugene, Oregon and College Station is 2,200 miles. That’s a long way, sports fans.”

More on that is here. I don’t know how seriously to take that. On the one hand, I think the geographical concerns make a lot of sense. On the other hand, I think the Bleacher Report raises a good point:

If A&M were to part with Texas and head to the SEC, they would almost certainly have to maintain the annual Thanksgiving game with the Longhorns, forcing them to not only play an SEC conference schedule that is at this point way out of their league, but to also play a non-conference game against a perennial top-five team.

If A&M were a strong enough program to handle this type of schedule, it would be a great scenario as their strength of schedule would undoubtedly put them in a position to play for the BCS title every season.

However, they are not.

A&M, at this point, will be lucky to finish .500 in SEC play.

Playing Texas each year would almost guarantee another loss, giving them a best case scenario of going 6-6.

This won’t work for long.

That’s a bit of an overstatement, and I’ve no doubt that the Aggie faithful would believe that moving to a “better” conference would make it easier to bring better recruits to A&M, thus raising their game. I’d just ask how well that worked for them in the move to the Big XII.

Honestly, I have a hard time seeing the two schools part ways. If you thought the Lege might get involved on Baylor’s behalf, you can be certain they will take notice of a UT/A&M divorce. In the meantime, thinking about it does allow for some entertaining scenarios, as Sean Pendergrast demonstrates.

On a related note, the Mountain West Conference has gotten in on the expansion game by adding Boise State. I wouldn’t count them out as a final destination for some of the currently left behind Big XII schools, no matter how mountain-free they are. You almost have to feel sorry for Missouri, as it was their initial flirtation with the Big 10 that was the catalyst for all this, and now here they are with no place to go. Hey, maybe Conference USA will take them. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? C-USA would be a pretty good fit for Baylor, in any event. It’s all written on water till the big boys finish up with their business. Stay tuned.