Does anybody really know what's going on in the Big 12? The answer is: No, how could they? There are so many moving parts to this chaotic realignment saga, and the situation is so fluid that changes are occurring virtually hourly. As soon as an announcement is made and the game seemingly has reached a checkmate phase, along comes a counter move that tilts the board and changes everything once again.
Here's a recap of what has transpired on this issue in just the past 24-36 hours:
- The Southeastern Conference voted to accept Texas A&M as a new expansion member.
- The Big 12 Board of Directors voted to waive any legal claims toward the SEC for any damages suffered with a membership change to facilitate Texas A&M's departure from the conference.
- Despite the Big 12 board's umbrella action, the conference does not have the legal authority to bind the individual member institutions to such a waiver.
- Baylor, the smallest school in the conference, promptly speaks up swinging a big stick and takes exception to waiving its rights to sue the SEC.
- Later in the day on Wednesday, reports out of Waco said that six of the Big 12 member schools - Baylor, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas Tech - had vowed that they would allow A&M to leave the conference with a promise of not taking legal action to block the move, provided that Oklahoma agreed to remain in the Big 12.
- Wednesday night, ESPN.com reported that eight schools in the Big 12, with the exception of A&M and Oklahoma, had agreed to waive any legal claims, IF Oklahoma stayed put.
- Turns out, Texas Tech made no such pledge and Oklahoma State denied the ESPN.com story, saying "they would never put OU in such a compromising position," according to investigative follow-up done by Berry Tramel, sports columnist for the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City.
- Today, Texas A&M announced it was considering delaying its planned departure from the Big 12 for two years instead of leaving at the end of the 2011-12 academic year. This appears to be a pre-emptive attempt to appease the likes of Baylor and others who seem intent on blocking A&M's move and also allow the Big 12 time to adequately explore and execute its next steps.
And that's just the sequence of activity over the last day and a half. It's getting so that you can't trust anything you read or hear or anyone who speaks out on this evolving issue.
Some see Baylor's actions as a last-gasp attempt by the school's president Kenneth Starr - yes, for those who are wondering, this is the same Kenneth Starr who was involved in the investigation of several political leaders during the Clinton administration, including the president himself - to save the Big 12 and protect the interests of Baylor, which could be left with little or no options if the Big 12 goes under.
All of these last-ditch efforts to show up and slow up Texas A&M's exit plans from the Big 12 have me thinking about the popular expression, "Be careful what you wish for." For the sake of argument, say Texas A&M is forced to stay in the Big 12 for a couple more years, what have you really saved. Who wants to have a disgruntled and unhappy school hanging around that is going to leave eventually and has no allegiance or vested interest in the long-term viability of the conference or its members.
Same scenario with Oklahoma. What do you gain by forcing OU, or any other member school, to remain in the Big 12 if the Sooners choose to be somewhere else? It's time to face up to the brutal facts. Texas A&M is gone. It may not happen for a while, but it WILL happen. That means the Big 12, at the very least, is down to nine teams, and the conference will need to bring in at least one and probably three more teams to remain viable in the future.
Whether it's BYU, TCU or any other prospective school the conference goes after, what school(s) is going to want to become a member of a conference that, at present, is being held together, as the Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes, "by desperation and threats and still with widespread resentment of Texas (and its Longhorn Network)"?
The Big 12 Conference is slowly and painfully disintegrating right before our eyes, despite and maybe because of all the impulsive counter steps to maintain the status quo.
There are plenty of valid reasons for the Big 12 to stay together, but with days like yesterday, those reasons are becoming fewer, leaving the future of the conference in great peril.