The higher-ups in College Station, Texas keep on checkin’ that mailbox.
A few days ago, the Texas A&M student-run Battalion newspaper reported that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, the man credited with saving that conference, didn’t exactly seem fired up to discuss the $20 million the Big 12 is supposed to pay A&M annually as part of a deal that kept the conference intact, noting that Beebe would “get around to talking to A&M about this ‘hidden’ money.”
As you recall, part of the deal that held the Big 12 together a couple of months ago was that the “big three” schools — namely Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma — would each receive a yearly $20 million payment as part of a new ABC/ESPN/Fox Sports television deal and from the exit costs incurred by Nebraska and Colorado when they decided to bolt for the Big Ten and Pac-10, respectively. Those exit fees (if they actually exist) from those two schools totaled upwards of $20-40 million, and five of the remaining schools — Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State, as reported in a summary of this situation by the Houston Chronicle — agreed to forego their shares of this money and let the “big three” divide it up amongst themselves, as long as those three schools would stay in the conference and thereby keep it together. Texas and Oklahoma said thanks-but-no-thanks to that cash. Texas A&M accepted it.
Also according to that piece by Brent Zwerneman in the Chronicle, a Texas A&M official stated last Wednesday that A&M doesn’t really care how the conference comes up with the money — just that the Big 12 honor their end of the agreement, and that failure to do so would result in both legal action and a reopening of talks with the SEC. Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin spoke at an A&M event in Houston on Saturday and minced no words on the issue, proclaiming, “I guarantee you we will be treated fairly. Whatever it takes.” Loftin’s words came two days after Mr. Beebe reaffirmed that Texas A&M would get their $20 million cut.
For several reasons, we’re pretty sure that the Big 12 will come through. Not only would they never live down the embarrassment from reneging on the deal, but consider that the payments don’t even start until the 2012-13 academic year, giving them ample time — something they didn’t have as the conference was crumbling in June — to figure out how to divide up the cash from the TV deal and the exit fees. And if the conference somehow doesn’t hold up their end, Texas A&M would certainly make good on that SEC threat, enticing rival Texas to do the same, and leaving Oklahoma no incentive to stay put. The price of not coming up with the money would seem to be the very existence of the conference.
Keep in mind, though, that as of right now this whole agreement involving the $20-mil is oral. Until one of two things shows up in College Station — the dough, or a written form of the agreement — A&M will continue to play that SEC card, and you can’t really blame them.