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Star-Telegram.com

Texas A&M officially joins SEC as 13th member

Posted Sunday, Sep. 25, 2011

By Jimmy Burch

jburch@star-telegram.com

Texas A&M officially became the Southeastern Conference's 13th member Sunday, with the move announced in a statement posted on the SEC website.

SEC presidents and chancellors acted unanimously to remove the conditional status from the school's bid to join the league, the statement said, with A&M becoming a member on July 1, 2012. The Aggies will be competing in the SEC for the 2012-13 school year.

A&M officials have scheduled a news conference at 6 tonight in Kyle Field to address the move. Participants include SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, A&M President R. Bowen Loftin and Florida President Bernie Machen, chairman of the SEC presidents and chancellors.

Machen issued Sunday's statement saying SEC administrators "are pleased to welcome Texas A&M University to the SEC family."

Slive also released a statement. Neither Slive nor Machen addressed the legal issues the SEC referenced on Sept. 6, when it placed a conditional status on A&M's invitation, pending a waiver of legal claims by Baylor and other Big 12 schools associated with the move.

Big 12 sources confirmed Sunday night that no waivers have been granted. But in the interim, the Big 12 has taken significant steps to stabilize the league as an eight- or nine-member nucleus, depending on whether Missouri also pursues SEC membership.

Those steps have reduced the likelihood of legal action, from all indications, because the Big 12 is expected to continue operating without A&M -- an issue that was in doubt on Sept. 6. Also, there were indications Sunday that A&M may have taken steps to shield the SEC from being targeted if legal claims surface.

But the bottom line, as of Sunday, is that A&M is SEC-bound and will compete in the 13-member league during the 2012 football season.

"The addition of Texas A&M ... as the SEC's 13th member gives our league a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions," Machen said in announcing the league's first new member since Arkansas and South Carolina joined the league in 1991, effective for the 1992 football season.

In Slive's statement, the SEC commissioner called A&M "a nationally prominent institution on and off the field and a great fit for the SEC tradition of excellence -- athletically, academically and culturally."

In Loftin's statement, the A&M president said moving to the SEC raises the school's national visibility and offers an opportunity to compete in "the nation's premier athletic conference," which is home to teams that have won the last five BCS football national championships.

"This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically," Loftin said. "I believe the Southeastern Conference gives the Aggies the best situation of any conference in the country."

But the move, which may end the A&M-Texas football rivalry, will be costly. Under Big 12 bylaws, A&M would be required to forfeit roughly $28 million to compete in the SEC next season, based on projected revenues. A&M officials seek to lower that figure through negotiation, a move that allowed Nebraska to pay $9.25 million in exit fees based on projected revenues of $19.37 million when it left the league in 2010.

Chuck Neinas, the interim Big 12 commissioner, said he was "personally saddened" to see A&M leave but added that the Aggies' official departure means league officials "can focus on the desired course" for expansion.

Texas men's athletic director DeLoss Dodds, a member of the league's expansion committee, has confirmed preliminary talks with Brigham Young, an independent in football, as well as a desire for a 10-team league. Oklahoma President David Boren said he prefers a 12-team configuration. Other expansion candidates include TCU, Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia.

Although A&M officials have expressed a desire to continue playing Texas in football, Dodds said Wednesday it would be "problematic" to schedule the game as a non-conference contest but did not rule out the possibility. He also said he thought fellow Big 12 administrators "feel OK about" A&M's departure.

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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