Big 12 tries to keep Aggies in fold
COLLEGE STATION, Texas
As the Big 12 pushed to keep Texas A&M, the Southeastern Conference presidents were set to talk about bringing the Aggies on board.
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Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and the conference's Board of Directors discussed the future of the conference and Texas A&M's possible departure during a teleconference Saturday.
''The board strongly conveyed to Texas A&M its unanimous desire that it remain a Big 12 member, and acknowledged its value to the conference,'' the Big 12 said in a statement released late Saturday night. ''The other nine members reaffirmed their long term, unconditional and unequivocal commitments made to each other and the conference last summer.''
The statement said Big 12 athletic directors took action approved by the board to adequately address concerns Texas A&M has expressed about institutional networks. Texas, which nearly left the Big 12 for the Pac-10 last year, has created its own television network.
Earlier Saturday, The New York Times reported that university presidents from the SEC were scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss expansion and Texas A&M.
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Associated Press that the meeting will be held in Atlanta. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting had not been publicly discussed.
The Texas A&M System board of regents has a meeting slated for Monday that includes an agenda item about conference alignment.
The SEC is interested in A&M because the move ''brings us into the Texas market,'' another person familiar with the situation told the AP on Saturday. But the person added that ''it's not about us wanting or needing 14 teams, Texas A&M came to us.''
The person said the conference could not ignore the Aggies.
''If A&M is dead set on getting away from Texas, whether it be because of the Longhorn Network or if they have had enough for whatever reason, you have to listen,'' the person said. ''If you don't, someone else will.''
''It's a business decision.''
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If A&M does jump to the SEC and is put in the West Division, the person speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity said the conference will have to add a 14th team in the East. However, the person said though the ''Texas A&M thing will be decided in the week or so, the 14th team has not been discussed.''
Texas A&M considered switching to the SEC last year before staying in the Big 12 after Nebraska and Colorado announced their departures. Now that the Aggies seem to be looking to move again, it could jeopardize the future of the Big 12.
If Texas A&M does leave the Big 12, the conference would almost certainly search for a replacement to get the league back to at least 10 teams.
''Although the board hopes Texas A&M remains in the conference, the board is prepared to aggressively move forward to explore expansion opportunities,'' the Big 12 statement read. ''In doing so, the board recognizes the strength of the Big 12 Conference national brand and the opportunity to capitalize on it.''
State Rep. Dan Branch, the chairman of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, called a hearing before his committee for Tuesday with Big 12, SEC and Texas A&M officials. Texas A&M then moved up a meeting of the board of regents from August 22 to Monday.
But presidents at both those Atlantic Coast Conference schools said Saturday they have had no contact with the SEC.
''From coach to (athletic director) to president and the board chair (trustees), there has been no discussion,'' Florida State University President Eric Barron told the AP in a phone interview during a Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce meeting in Destin, Fla. ''I feel quite certain if any of those individuals had any discussions, including me, we would have shared it with each other.''
Clemson University President James Barker Saturday also denied reports that the Tigers are considering a move.
''We are committed to the ACC,'' Barker said in a statement. ''We have had no contact with the SEC.''
The Tigers have been charter members of the ACC since it was formed in 1953. Florida State joined the ACC on July 1, 1991, after months of courtship by the SEC.
The person said it's a ''zero chance'' that Florida State would be the 14th team and that it is highly unlikely it would be any ACC team.
''Our presidents simply don't want to break up another conference,'' the person said. ''Remember, Texas A&M reached out to us. You know how many households there are in Texas? 8.9 million. Why would we want to hand that to the Pac 12 or any another conference?''
West Virginia and Missouri have also been mentioned, but the person said Louisville would make more sense.
''The question is what's the dynamic with Kentucky? Will Kentucky have a problem with it?'' the person said. ''I doubt Kentucky would have the beef that Georgia does with Georgia Tech or South Carolina does with Clemson.''