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Star-Telegram.com

Texas A&M to announce move to SEC on Wednesday

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 06, 2011

By Jimmy Burch

jburch@star-telegram.com

An official announcement of Texas A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference is expected today in College Station.

School officials spent Tuesday preparing for a news conference at Kyle Field to celebrate the move, pending a favorable vote from SEC presidents to extend an invitation. The SEC presidents met Tuesday night and approved an invitation to A&M, said sources with knowledge of the situation, but the SEC made no formal announcement.

A&M officials have indicated they would accept an SEC invitation. The move would be effective for the 2012 football season.

A&M's move, once completed, could trigger another round of widespread conference realignment in college athletics, as well as the breakup of the Big 12.

A&M would become the third school in the past 15 months to leave the Big 12, following Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12). Those schools are first-year members of their leagues this season.

The Aggies' move has been expected, pending a formal invitation from the SEC. A&M President R. Bowen Loftin notified Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe of the school's intention to withdraw on Aug. 31, saying the it was "in the best interest of Texas A&M" to compete in another conference.

The lingering question, at this point, is what impact the Aggies' departure will have on the nine remaining schools in the Big 12. Although league officials have formed an expansion committee to consider replacements, there has been speculation that at least two, and possibly four, Big 12 schools could be headed to an expanded Pac-12.

Oklahoma President David Boren and Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis have acknowledged plans to explore other conference options in concert with one another. The Oklahoman has reported that OU's "sole focus" is on joining an expanded Pac-12, and Hargis said OSU plans to remain in the same league as OU. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has said his league would explore expansion if another conference made the first move. The SEC just did that by adding A&M.

It is possible that Texas and Texas Tech could be part of a four-team move to the Pac-12 -- a scenario that almost occurred last summer -- but Texas officials have yet to embrace the idea. To join the Pac-12, Texas would need to downsize its Longhorn Network, a collaborative effort with ESPN, and make it one of the league's regional networks. Such a move likely would mean a reduction in rights fees from the existing $300 million, 20-year agreement.

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops may have upped the ante during a Tuesday news conference in efforts to expedite a decision from Texas, saying he doesn't consider it "necessary" for the Sooners to remain in the same league with the Longhorns. Stoops added that the annual Red River Rivalry game in Dallas could be a casualty of the realignment process.

"I don't think it's necessary to keep the OU-Texas game if we do move out of a conference with Texas," Stoops said, adding that he plans to leave the realignment decisions to Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione.

"I know no one wants to hear that, but things change. If it changes, you've got to change with it. I love the game, but if it doesn't work out we will find other places to play and get excited about."

Asked about remaining in a conference with Texas in the future, Stoops said: "I don't think that's necessary." Stoops added that he was "all in" on any decision Boren makes in regard to realignment.

Texas officials declined comment.

Although A&M administrators expressed concerns this summer about issues related to the Longhorn Network, Loftin said in his letter to Beebe that the desire for greater national visibility and "stable financial resources" were the driving forces behind the decision to leave the Big 12. The SEC shares conference revenues equally, unlike the Big 12, and football teams from the SEC have combined to win the last five BCS national championships.

A Big 12 spokesman said Tuesday that league officials plan to offer a response today to A&M's departure. A league source indicated tweaks could be made to existing league policies in efforts to keep other schools from leaving, adding that the Big 12 must "get stabilized" internally before it explores expansion opportunities.

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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