27 August 2011

What Texas A&M Leaving the Big 12 Means for College Football

Texas A&M has been very public in its desire to join the SEC and leave the Big 12 in the dust and the Associated Press has reported that the school will announce that statement in the coming week. What does this move mean for the collegiate football world? Here are my thoughts.
Texas A&M's decision to leave the Big 12 has far reaching ramifications and will result in more realignment that could have even more ramifications than the realignment of a year ago. What's so ironic is that Texas A&M's decision to move from the Big 12 was driven by the very thing that kept the Big 12 together last year and that was the Longhorn Network, Texas' network which led to a lot of tension in conference over how fair it was but the anger was heard no louder than in College Station. A&M is Texas' little brother in the Big 12 and they felt that the LHN would have made the differences between A&M and Texas to be even greater. So now they have left for greener pastures.
As much as the Aggies want to be the ones that cause the shift in the tectonic plates, what would really stir up the college athletics world would be if Oklahoma left the conference, which would cripple the Big 12 to the point of dissolution. Oklahoma does not have the incentive that Texas A&M has to leave because while the LHN will give Texas a clear advantage, Oklahoma has a program that is on par with the Longhorns and has the cache nationally in football. The difference between the two football programs is that Texas plays in the massive state it's named for with four of the nation's largest cities while Oklahoma only has one mid-sized city in its state. It's more likely that Oklahoma, should they choose to bail on the Big 12, would head of to the Pac-12 rather than the SEC because the state legislature would likely force whatever conference that takes the Sooners to take Oklahoma State and it's unlikely that the SEC would be as excited as the Pac-12 would to take the rising program in.
Speaking of the SEC, I would highly doubt that they would sit with 13 teams so they would need another member. Texas A&M is a solid get and while they're an equal program with Arkansas essentially, they bring Texas into play with the conference's footprint. So the SEC, as the dominant conference, would get a nice chunk of change in contract re-negotiations anyways so they can afford to just take a program inside their footprint. If they did not bring in Oklahoma, probably the next best choice, or possibly ahead of the Sooners, would be Florida State, which looks to be back with the nation's elite. Other programs that could be considered include Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami, Missouri has been rumored for some reason, maybe West Virginia or Pittsburgh from the Big East. Plus who knows, maybe the SEC will push the action to 16 teams and really mix things up. Because if there is one thing we've learned about commissioner Mike Slive, he is always on the cutting edge. And SEC poaching schools from either the ACC or Big East would lead to those conferences poaching other schools and so on.
As for the Big 12, the conference will survive if Oklahoma stays put. The conference will have to replace Texas A&M and schools that would make sense would be Boise State, BYU, Houston and SMU, just coming from the top of my fathead. But the conference is DOA if Oklahoma leaves.
And who thought conference realignment was a thing of the past?

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