September 12, 2011

SEC looks at bringing in A&M for 2012 as OU plans meeting on possible realignment plans

Source says chances to rebuild Big 12 without A&M "look pretty small."

Signs began surfacing Monday that the Big 12's latest comeback attempt could be short-lived.

A statement by Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, acknowledging plans to have a 13-team league that includes Texas A&M in the 2012-13 school year, marked that league's first indication that it will not sit still and let the Aggies' desired move be stalled by the legal threats of Baylor and other Big 12 schools.

Also, Oklahoma regents have scheduled a Sept. 19 meeting in Claremore, Okla. The agenda will not be finalized until Friday but multiple Big 12 sources said Monday that a likely item will be realignment. One regent told the Tulsa World that "sensitive" negotiations are expected.

The flurry of action came one day after a Sunday meeting between administrators from Texas and Oklahoma. Texas' contingent in Oklahoma City included President Bill Powers and men's athletic director DeLoss Dodds. Oklahoma President David Boren also attended, sources with knowledge of the meeting said Monday.

Texas officials have been public about their desire to remain in the Big 12, where the school could keep its 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network. Boren announced Sept. 2 that OU would explore other conference options, with the Oklahoman reporting the school's "sole focus" was on the Pac-12.

Sunday's talks did not change the outlook, from all indications.

After a weekend marked by optimistic comments from Big 12 administrators about the league's desire to rebuild from a nine-team nucleus without A&M, one league source said the odds "look pretty small" of that happening in light of Monday's events.

A&M sent the first tremor Aug. 31, when it announced its withdrawal to pursue membership in the Southeastern Conference. But A&M's planned move, which received conditional approval last week, has been delayed because Baylor and other Big 12 schools have not waived their rights to legal claims if the Aggies depart -- a condition specified by the SEC.

That stance may be changing. In a statement posted on the league's website, Slive said: "We remain optimistic that Texas A&M will be a member of the SEC and have started to look at schedules for 2012-13 involving 13 teams ... When Texas A&M joins our conference, we don't have immediate plans for a 14th member. We aren't thinking in terms of numbers. We think about the strength of the SEC and the attractiveness of Texas A&M as an institution."

Slive's comments suggest he expects an eventual break of the stalemate with Big 12 schools blocking the move. That could trigger realignment and the demise of the Big 12.

Although it remains unclear if Oklahoma would have a bid to join the Pac-12 without Texas, there have been indications an OU-OSU offer to join is possible. Texas' preference, if no Big 12 exists, remains unclear. School officials have said they do not want to be an independent.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Saturday: "I don't think anyone, with how dynamic the situation is, would stick their neck out and say nothing is going to change."

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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