August 30, 2011

No Texas A&M move yet, but Big 12 looking ahead

The league will “act aggressively” on expansion, official says.

With Texas A&M officials positioned to withdraw from the Big 12 at a moment's notice, the league has formed a special committee to address potential expansion.

Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton, chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, said in a Tuesday statement that the committee is "poised to act aggressively" and is "currently considering a list of possibilities in the broad context" to make a recommendation on whether to expand to 10 or 12 members if A&M departs for the Southeastern Conference, as expected.

A&M took no official action Tuesday on the withdrawal front, one day after receiving a letter from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe outlining withdrawal procedures and acknowledging mutual waivers of legal claims.

The mutual waivers of legal claims should expedite the move because it signals to SEC officials that the school -- and, by extension, the SEC -- will face no legal challenges from the Big 12 if A&M continues moving forward in the realignment process.

An A&M spokesman said Tuesday there were "no changes" to the school's plans expressed in Monday's statement by A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, who said it is "not our intent to prolong our conference exploration for an extended period of time." But Loftin did not specify a timetable. A Big 12 official said a withdrawal announcement from A&M is expected, possibly as early as today.

Under Big 12 bylaws, A&M would forfeit roughly $28 million in revenues if it left in time to compete in the SEC for the 2012 football season. League sources have indicated a willingness to negotiate a lower figure -- probably between $15 million and $20 million -- that could be deducted from A&M's projected revenues for the 2011-12 school year ($19 million to $20 million).

A&M officials have cited the precedent set last year with Nebraska, which paid $9.25 million based on projected revenues of $19.37 million to depart after the 2010-11 school year. A&M's final exit fee could be decided through arbitration, a step the Big 12 used with Nebraska.

Upon withdrawal from the Big 12, A&M must apply for SEC membership and receive approval from at least nine of the league's 12 members. From all indications, A&M has the necessary votes for SEC approval.

In his statement, Deaton said Big 12 officials are prepared to move forward without the Aggies but will take no action until A&M officially severs ties with the league.

"When official notification has been received, the Big 12 will make an official announcement at that time," Deaton said.

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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