Just when we thought the Big 12 Conference was solid again, albeit smaller in size, and poised to move forwards as a league of ten, here it comes again, talk by one of the members of leaving the Big 12 for prospective greener pastures in another conference.
Can you believe it? New reports have surfaced that Texas A&M officials have talked to the Southeastern Conference recently about joining that league. A year ago at this time, A&M was being wooed as one of four Big 12 South schools who reportedly had been extended the opportunity to become members of the then-Pac-10 Conference on the heels of Nebraska and Colorado making known their plans to break away from the Big 12.
At that same time, school officials at Texas A&M were also exploring other potential conference affiliations, including with the aforementioned SEC. A&M has never been happy about Texas launching its own sports network, and the sentiment in College Station doesn't appear to have gotten any better, even with decision by the Big 12 athletic directors and presidents prohibiting the Longhorn Sports Network from broadcasting high school football games this year while the matter is studied more thoroughly by a special committee appointed by Dan Bebee, Big 12 commissioner.
A&M officials have said all along that what Texas does more negatively impacts the Aggies than any other school in the conference. Any competitive advantage, or the perception thereof, gained by Texas, whether it has to do with increasing revenue or boosting recruiting opportunities is like taking a bullet as far as Texas A&M is concerned.
It could be that A&M has come to the conclusion that a break with the big Texas state school would be in the best short- and long-term interest of the Aggies and especially their athletic programs. And continuing this logic trail, becoming part of another conference would enable Texas' big archrival to break out on their own and get out from under the long shadow cast by the Longhorns.
There were even reports Thursday night that the SEC taking in Texas A&M has gone far beyond the talking stage and was all but a done deal. These proved to be false, but Texas governor and soon-to-be Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry lent credence to the issue when he told a reporter that "conversations were being had."
According to Sporting News, Texas A&M officials are expected to discuss a potential move out of the Big 12 on August 22 at a scheduled meeting with the university's board of regents.
Whether Big 12 officials are taking all of this seriously and what the contingency plans would be should Texas A&M decide to go through something like this are unclear at this time. And even if Texas A&M feels a move away from the Big 12 would be the best course of action, is the SEC really willing to take them in without bringing in another conference member to balance the conference size and divisional structure at 14 teams? If not the SEC, would A&M be willing to pursue affiliation with another conference? And if you are the Big 12, should you be concerned that if another school goes (let's say Texas A&M because of the timeliness of all the recent buzz on the subject), would it unleash another wave of defections?
It may be too early to answer these important questions, but it's clearly not too early to get to the bottom of them, if you're the Big 12 and stop believing and acting as if everything around the conference is so stable and secure and filled with satisfaction.
Losing Nebraska and Colorado is one thing. Losing a Texas A&M in addition is something entirely different and much more damaging to the future of the Big 12.