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Jeff Eisenberg

Texas is definitely staying in the Big 12 ... or maybe not

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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It's a sure sign of how wild this wave of conference realignment has been that we now have a pair of totally conflicting reports on the Big 12's future from two otherwise very credible reporters.

Orangebloods.com's Chip Brown reported Monday morning that Texas could announce as soon as later in the afternoon that it is scrapping its plan to bolt for the Pac-10 and throwing its support behind a 10-member Big 12. ESPN.com's Joe Schad countered with a report that commissioner Dan Beebe's last-ditch attempt to save the Big 12 has "zero" chance to succeed and the departure of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remains imminent.

And the rest of us? Well, if you have a realignment-induced headache, you're not alone.

The idea that Texas would re-commit to the Big 12 is certainly a departure from what we've been hearing for the past week, but Brown has owned this story so thoroughly that it would be wise to take anything he writes very seriously. Maybe the Longhorns are finally coming to the same conclusion to many of us did last week when we questioned why the departure of Nebraska persuaded Texas that remaining in the Big 12 was no longer a viable option.

If Texas does indeed commit to a 10-team Big 12, it could be enough to stave off the seismic changes that were expected from conference realignment. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would also stay in the Big 12, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri would no longer have to scramble for a new conference and the Pac-10 would likely just add one more school (Utah?) and be done.

The wildcard in this process remains Texas A&M, which Sunday night appeared to be on the verge of snapping up an offer to join the SEC. The Aggies are intrigued by joining the nation's premier football conference, drawing huge SEC crowds on Saturday's in the fall and guaranteeing themselves a $17 million annual payout in TV revenue.

By throwing its support behind a 10-school Big 12 but not necessarily a nine-school Big 12, Texas conveniently would be absolving itself of reponsibility for the fate of the conference if it disintegrates.

If Texas A&M opts to leave for the SEC, Texas can claim its rival was the one who jeopardized their 100-year relationship and delivered a finishing blow to the Big 12. If the Aggies yield to Texas and remain in the Big 12, they'll likely remain in the shadow of a Longhorns program that will have only gotten more powerful as a result of agreeing to Beebe's plan.

Orangebloods.com reported Sunday that Beebe's last-ditch pitch to Big 12 schools promised everyone would receive at least $17 million in TV revenue, but Texas would still receive the most money because it makes the most TV appearances. Furthermore, the Big 12 will grant schools the right to launch their own TV networks, a goal of Texas' that it would not be able to do if it leaves since the Pac-16 intends to start a conference-wide TV network.

Those factors would make Texas A&M's decision a difficult one, but Aggies fans should take solace in at least one thing if this scenario comes to pass.

Whether Texas A&M chooses the SEC, the Pac-10 or the Big 12, the fate of the Aggies' fiercest rival would finally be in their hands.

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