So Texas A&M is staying put in the Big 12 Conference. Or are they? In something of a surprise, SEC presidents voted on Sunday to keep America's preeminent football conference status quo. In an issued statement, University of Florida President Bernie Machen, the chairman of the league's presidents and chancellors committee, said the group met and "reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment."
The statement seems pretty cut and dry. Not so, says ESPN reporter Joe Schad. Last evening Schad reported that membership for the Aggies is still a real possibility and that conference leaders want to first study the impact of adding new members before making a decision. Issues to be considered include television rights, scheduling and revenue splits among member programs.
While adding Texas A&M has obvious benefits, you have to wonder whether it would make the SEC better. To even out division play, the conference will need to add one more school. The obvious candidates are Clemson and Florida State. It's even been floated that the league may look to add four additional teams, creating a 16-team mega-conference.
I'm skeptical of 14 league teams; raising that number to 16 seems nuts. The craziest notion flying around over the weekend was that Missouri was a target. You can make an argument for the other three, but what does Missouri bring to the SEC except high travel cost?
Count me among those who are just fine with the present setup. For that matter, I was OK with the old 10 team league. I'd much rather play in Gainesville and Knoxville every year than have to travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas and Columbia, South Carolina. I don't know about you, but I haven't lost anything in western Arkansas.
If I were head honcho for the day, I'd consider maybe adding two more programs, although six-team divisions would be awfully hard to work through unscathed, especially when you throw in the SEC Championship Game.
To fill those two spots I'd look at only three schools - Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech. I know the state of Texas brings huge television ratings. Who cares. I get more excited about the notion of traveling to Grant Field or Doak Campbell Stadium than flying way out to College Station, Texas.
Besides, I'm still not over the 1986 Cotton Bowl.
While I've been openly critical of Schad in the past, this time I tend to believe him. Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12 sooner rather than later. The conference is a ticking time bomb. With ESPN pumping $300 million into the Longhorn Network, the Aggies are determined to part ways with the Big 12. While not as vocal, you can bet Oklahoma shares similar beliefs.
SEC presidents and chancellors understand the landscape. My guess is expansion will happen all at once. In other words, Texas A&M will not join the SEC unless others are ready to sign on the dotted line.
If the league is intent on adding four more teams, commissioner Mike Slive will pull the trigger on all four almost at once. Yesterday may have been a little premature. Behind the scenes, the league is getting its house in order as we speak.
Whether we like it or not, the SEC is changing, regardless of what happened over the weekend. Just give it time.