Last night the SEC voted unanimously to admit Texas A&M as the thirteenth team in their conference, on one condition: The Big 12 and all its individual schools must waive any legal rights to sue. This morning Florida president Bernie Machen, SEC board head (and former U of U president) indicated that the understanding everyone had was that the entire Big 12 had greenlighted Texas A&M leaving:
After receiving unanimous written assurance from the Big 12 on September 2 that the Southeastern Conference was free to accept Texas A&M to join as a new member, the presidents and chancellors of the SEC met last night with the intention of accepting the application of Texas A&M to be the newest member of the SEC.
Well, it seems that at least one Big 12 team (*cough, Baylor, cough, cough*) is strongly considering lawsuits against Texas A&M, the SEC, A&M president Mike Slive and Slive's children's children's children.
That doesn't jive with an earlier letter to the SEC from Dan Beebe, commissioner of the Big 12, dated September 2:
The Big 12 and its members will not take any legal action for any possible claims against the SEC or its members relating to the departure of Texas A&M University from the Big 12 and the admission of Texas A&M into the SEC; provided, however, that such act by the SEC to admit Texas A&M is publicly confirmed by 5:00 p.m. (CDT) on September 8, 2011
In other news, John Wilner from Mercury news is saying that Texas has little or no desire to actually move to the Pac-12, and ESPN wants to keep the Big 12 together too. He says Texas' preferences, in order, would be:
- Make fiscal and Longhorn Network concessions to Oklahoma to keep the Big 12 together.
- If A&M and possibly Missouri go to the SEC, and the Oklahoma schools go to the Pac-12, then make a new Big 12 out of the remaining schools and some new ones (Wilner guesses Houston, SMU, Pittsburg and Louisville might be targets).
- If that doesn't work, football independence, with Olympic sports possibly playing in the ACC.
Wilner lists multiple reasons why Texas does not want to join the Pac-12. It's a very interesting read, available here.
Look for more maneuvering by ESPN, just like last year, to avoid super conferences. The larger the conferences are, the higher the risk of ESPN winning the media rights. If they were to lose out entirely on a Pac-16 deal, that's roughly one fourth of the high-value college sports content of the nation that goes to a competitor.