Saturday is known as "moving day" in the world of professional golf, and we certainly have that today in the 93rd PGA Championship as the leaders try to separate themselves from the rest of the field. But the term has taken on a completely new context on this particular Saturday with news reports flying all over the place this morning about the high probability that several major NCAA Football Bowl Series schools are planning to leave their present conference affiliation for another.
What started out as a grass fire (some would say by the whiny Texas school that cried wolf) in Austin, Texas, actually (I'll explain that further in a few more paragraphs), has now grown into a raging forest fire that is becoming front-page news, again, just three weeks before the start of another college football season.
It's difficult to say with any certainty what exactly is going on in College Station regarding all the speculation that has Texas A&M packed and ready to leave the Big 12 Conference, reportedly with travel vouchers already in hand. Several reputable news services, including ESPN, are reporting today that Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 and becoming a member of the Southeastern Conference is a done deal and that formal announcement of same could come as early as Monday or Tuesday next week.
That's big news in and of itself, but we are finding out today that Texas A&M may just be part of this exploding story. Joe Schad, ESPN college football writer, broke the story today that SEC representative are meeting this weekend to discuss and vote on prospective schools - as many as four - that the conference is expected to extend invitations to join. Texas A&M is firmly believed to be one of the schools, but there is another Big 12 school believed to be in the mix, as well: Missouri.
The sports rumor mill also is filled with speculation and commentary on the likelihood that Florida State and Clemson also are having conversations about becoming the newest SEC members and that the SEC is ready to expand its membership from 12 to 16 schools.
Just when the conference realignment waters seemed relatively calm after all the whipsawing and scrambling among officials of several college conferences - none of whom wanted to be left holding the bag if there was about to be a mass exodus of schools from their longtime conference affiliations - it appears the volcano is on the verge of another major eruption.
Missouri athletic director Mike Alden strongly denied the rumors that Mizzou was talking with the SEC or any other conferences. "No, no, no," is the way Alden put it to St. Louis Today.com reporter Vahe Gregorian, when told of the ESPN report that Missouri might be included in a group of teams ready to move to the SEC. "Missouri is committed to the Big 12," the Missouri A.D. said in a statement issued by the university.
Interestingly, Alden cancelled a scheduled appearance Friday afternoon on Kevin Keitzman's "Beyond the Lines" sports-talk program on WHB 810 radio. The cancellation came about 40 minutes prior to the time of the scheduled phone interview with Alden. His reason for cancelling was that he had phone calls to make and some business to tend to and wouldn't be able to appear on Keitzman's show as previously scheduled. Read into that what you will, but it can't be a coincidence that Alden's sudden change of heart synched up so well with all the breaking news surrounding Texas A&M and, now, we're being told, Missouri.
All of this seemingly gained momentum with the comments made by Texas Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday, confirming that serious conversations were being held between Texas A&M and the SEC. It should be noted that Perry is an alumnus of Texas A&M. He was a yell leader at the school when he was there.
Not surprisingly, Texas A&M has never been happy about what it believes is a conscious and deliberate deference given by the Big 12 Conference to archrival Texas, for sure, as well as Oklahoma. And A&M has been one of the most vocal critics against the Longhorn Sports Network, Texas' venture with ESPN devoted exclusively to University of Texas athletics, which is set to launch shortly. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Gary Pinkel of Missouri also have been very outspoken about the Longhorn Network, arguing that it gives Texas a huge recruiting advantage.
The Texas A&M System board of regents is scheduled to convene Monday in a special meeting to discuss several agenda items, the most prominent and pressing of which involves the subject of conference realignment. This meeting precedes a meeting of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education on Tuesday, which is holding a hearing to discuss the potential realignment of college conferences involving and/or impacting schools in the state.
The meeting on Monday is probably confirmation of what everyone is anticipating regarding Texas A&M's future plans. The legislative hearing on Tuesday, however, is where I think a potential road block may come. I'm not sure the state legislators, looking at this situation from political as well as financial considerations, are going to be so willing to allow the break up its two largest state universities.
Although everyone seems to be reporting that Texas A&M's departure from the Big 12 is imminent, there is a whole different school of thought that all of this may just be public and political posturing by A&M officials in order to get a better deal from the Big 12.
It's hard to see how Texas A&M officials believe they would be better off in the SEC than they would toughing it out and staying put in the Big 12. What do the Aggies really have to gain versus what they stand to lose in the process, and all just to get out from under the shadow of Big Brother in Austin. And insofar as Missouri, you would think University of Missouri officials would be a little gun shy of jumping out in front of this train after being left at the altar once before when such a big deal was made about them leaving to join the Big Ten.
Where does the Big 12 go from here, should Texas A&M go, and possibly also Missouri? "I think nine is an option," Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds told the Austin American-Statesman on Friday. "I think nine are solid. I've always liked ten. In my mind, we'd try to stay at ten. If we had to, we'd go to 12," he said. In a Twitter note sent late in the day on Friday by the same reporter who wrote the A&M story for the American-Statesman, he said that officials at Texas had created a list of 20 potential candidates to replace Texas A&M should it leave the Big 12, as advertised.
"They've (Texas A&M) got to do what's best for them," Dodds said. " We're going to look at every option we've got, and we're going to end up in a good place. That's what we do. We're good at that."
Other Big 12 schools seemed to be speaking the conference party line when asked about the latest concerning Texas A&M. "(Kansas) has been assured that the nine (remaining) schools are firmly committed to the Big 12," said Jayhawks athletic director Sheahon Zenger. President Kirk Schulz of Kansas State said, "K-State is fully committed to the Big 12 and continues to be excited about its future."
From the look of things, if you're a fan of the Big 12 or a Big 12 school, it might be a good idea to buckle your seat belt. The ride is likely to get pretty bumpy and potentially treacherous over the next week or so.