A&M’s SEC-ession Plan: Hoops Stands to ProsperPosted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2011
It’s now official. After over a month of hinting, positioning and closed-door legal wrangling, Texas A&M officials have received approval from the Big 12 Conference that its stated intention to “explore its options” with respect to conference realignment will not be met with resistance (of the litigious kind, at least). Earlier this week, commissioner Dan Beebe sent A&M a letter outlining the school’s options for withdrawal from the Big 12, and today the TAMU president, R. Bowen Loftin, wrote Beebe with the school’s next steps:
I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference. We appreciate the Big 12′s willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement. We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members.
The essential phrase in Loftin’s statement of intent to the Big 12 is ‘mutual waivers.’ This language implies that there is a tentative agreement in place between the other Big 12 institutions and the conference itself to waive any future legal redress so long as A&M pays its due and propers at the door on its way out. How much dough that will be is anyone’s guess, but by comparison, Nebraska’s skip to the Big Ten last year cost it a one-time fee of $9.25 million dollars, while Colorado’s venture west to the Pac-12 cost it $6.9 million dollars.
Regardless of the penalty, it has become increasingly clear with this announcement that the 2011-12 academic year will be Texas A&M’s last as a member of the Big 12 Conference. Its most likely destination, of course, is the SEC, and while we know that football dollars drive these decisions, it seems as if the Aggie basketball program has more to gain from the move. Much has been made about the fact that Texas A&M (2-12 in bowl games since 1992) will enter a football league where the last five BCS national champions reside, including three schools (Alabama, Auburn, LSU) in its pending new division, the SEC West. Given that reality, even in its best possible future season where everything goes right, is it realistic to believe that Texas A&M will fare any better than Arkansas, Ole Miss or Mississippi State in similar previous years?
In basketball, though, the SEC West is a completely different animal. Although the league will formally do away with its East/West divisional designations in 2011-12, those schools from within the same SEC sub-region will still have traditional home-and-home rivalries going forward — count on that. This means that Texas A&M will play LSU, Arkansas, the Mississippi and Alabama schools more often than the bigger, badder hoops schools residing in the East with names like Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt attached. Considering just how terrible the traditional SEC West schools have played basketball over the last five years (versus the NCAA stalwart, Texas A&M), Billy Kennedy’s team could be waltzing into a situation where it can exert instantaneous dominance among those schools given its current hoops standing relative to the others (only Anthony Grant’s Alabama Crimson Tide program appears to be an existing and future threat). Football clearly drives everything from the conversations to the dollars, but when analyzing A&M’s potential move from a competitive perspective, it could be the basketball program rather than the gridiron that stands to benefit the most.