The Big 12 board of directors met Saturday and made enough progress in regard to details related to Texas A&M's potential departure that one league source indicated he "wouldn't be surprised" to see A&M taking steps to join the Southeastern Conference later this week.
Asked about that timetable, an A&M source said: "I'm not going to come out and say, 'No, it couldn't happen by the end of the week.'"
But the A&M source cautioned there are "a lot of steps to go through" before the school could apply for SEC membership. First and foremost would be coming to terms with the Big 12 about how much money A&M will be asked to forfeit if it wants to compete in the SEC by the 2012 football season.
The final figure, sources said Saturday, could approach $20 million.
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Under league bylaws, a departure in such a short turnaround would require A&M to forfeit more than $28 million, based on projected revenues. But sources said league administrators appear willing to expedite the departure process and work out a settlement, likely reached by withholding most -- if not all -- of A&M's projected earnings from the 2011-12 school year (expected to be around $19 million or $20 million).
A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, who participated in Saturday's conference call, announced Thursday that he has requested information about Big 12 withdrawal procedures, adding that a move to another league might be "in the best long-term interests" of the school and the state.
After the teleconference, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe issued a statement saying league administrators "will continue to conduct meetings related to the situation with Texas A&M and conference membership. There will be public statements as appropriate and necessary if and when action is taken."
In a text message, A&M spokesman Jason Cook wrote that school officials are "waiting for the Big 12 to respond to our letter from Thursday" before the school can make its next move. That involves a final figure in regard to forfeited revenues, which still is being negotiated by lawyers.
Big 12 administrators seem resigned to a future without A&M, a prospect Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance does not consider a threat to the league's long-term stability.
"I think the Big 12 is going to survive," Hance said in a Saturday interview with Lubbock radio station KTTU-FM. "I hope the Aggies don't leave. But if they do, it's not the end of the world... They'll be replaced by at least one, and maybe three excellent teams that will be a bigger story, if we get what we're asking for, than the Aggies leaving."
Hance did not elaborate on potential expansion targets, although the league's wish list is believed to be topped by Notre Dame, Arkansas and Brigham Young.
Among that group, BYU -- an independent in football with no direct pipeline to a BCS bowl opportunity (which Notre Dame and Arkansas have) -- seems like the most available option.
League officials envision Notre Dame, which has spurned Big Ten expansion offers in the past, possibly being enticed by the prospect of keeping its NBC football contract and starting its own school network, similar to the Longhorn Network, to enhance revenues in addition to what would be distributed by the Big 12.
Multiple Big 12 administrators, including Tech President Guy Bailey and Texas men's athletics director DeLoss Dodds, have expressed a desire for a 10-team league in the future. But the final configuration will be shaped, at least in part, by negotiations with TV networks.
Some scenarios have included Pittsburgh or Louisville as a possible inclusion in a 12-team league with Notre Dame and BYU. Other expansion targets could include Houston and Air Force.
But A&M must leave before expansion talks would begin in earnest. In the radio interview, Hance said he viewed A&M's decision to cast its future with the SEC as "irreversible."
"It's kind of like a divorce," Hance said. "When somebody makes up their mind, there's usually not much you can do about it."
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Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760