If you count yourself among the few hangers-on who thought Texas A&M's recent actions and exhortations that it was finished with the Big 12 Conference were no more than public posturing and politicking to get a better deal out of the conference, now is the time to count yourself out and quickly bury that notion.
What is it that some people don't understand about the repeated declaration "We want out." That's what we've been hearing from Texas A&M officials for the last two months, and actually long before that.
Texas A&M today officially notified commissioner Dan Beebe of the Big 12 Conference in writing that it "will submit an application to join another athletic conference. Should this application be accepted," the letter stated, "Texas A&M will end its membership in the Big 12 Conference effective June 30, 2012."
A&M President R. Bowen Loftin did not acknowledge as much in the official notification to the Big 12 office, but you can be pretty certain that he has reasonable assurances from the Southeastern Conference that the Aggies' anticipated application to join the SEC will be accepted and that this process will be executed with some expedition.
Big 12 officials have been somewhat cavalier and relatively close-mouthed about all of this when they should be trying to get out in front of the issue. Losing two teams a year ago should have served as a distress signal for a conference that once prided itself on being one of the major college conferences. Now it's all but academic that the Big 12 is down to the Dwindling Nine, and don't be surprised if that number goes down further as the conference realignment dominoes start tumbling all over again.
It's long past time for commissioner Beebe and his minions to get off the bench and get in the game - and, more than that, begin to take some constructive action - before there is nothing left to save of the Big 12. It's fairly clear that having the continuing members of the conference hold hands and pledge their unabiding allegiance doesn't hold much weight in this day and age of emerging transformational change in the world of college athletics.
"After much thought and consideration...I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference," Loftin wrote in his letter to Beebe. "We desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members."
Granted, President Loftin is being reasonably honest in stating that the university is taking this action because it feels that doing so is in the best interest of Texas A&M. But let's be perfectly clear on what this is really all about: It's all about money grabbing and getting out from under the 100-year shadow of the University of Texas.
Loftin calls it a "100-year decision" that Texas A&M officials have addressed carefully and methodically. In today's letter to the Big 12, he cites A&M's athletic accomplishments and national recognition, including 32 Big 12 championships in the last five years and it conference-best ranking in the inaugural Capital Cup standings in 2010, which rates college teams' final sports rankings on a national basis.
The Big 12 needs to finally put Texas A&M behind it and move on, in the best interest of the remaining member institutions. If someone doesn't want to be part of a group -or, in this case, an athletic conference - the disenchanted party should be allowed to disengage and go elsewhere. Any other course of action will only be problematic if not damaging for all.
As far as this being a long-term decision on Texas A&M's part, one can only hope that the powers that be in College Station aren't being short-sighted on how successful the Aggies will be when they become a smaller fish in a much larger and deeper pond. One hundred years is a long time to have to live with the thoughts of what might have been.
You can expect shortly the announcement that the SEC has formally extended an invitation to join to Texas A&M, followed by a swift acceptance, and on we go. Texas A&M has started the cascade. Might Missouri be the next to seek greener pastures?