Fri Jun 11 06:28pm EDT
At the rate it's dissolving today, the Big 12 Conference may not exist by the time you reach the end of this post, so try to keep up: Colorado is officially out as of Thursday, en route to become the 11th member of the Pac-10. Nebraska is officially out, on its way to become the 12th member of the Big Ten. Texas' Board of Regents will meet on Tuesday for "discussion and appropriate action regarding athletic conference membership," where they will confirm persistent speculation by voting to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10, according to "a highly-placed official from a Big 12 school." At this point, that should probably say "soon-to-be-former Big 12 school."
The same official confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman that three of the South Division rivals rumored to be accompanying Texas out of the conference since last week – Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech – are fully on board with the move, putting the Pac-10 membership at an unprecedented 15 teams. (A source in Oklahoma confirmed the Sooners are all in, as soon as Texas takes the first step.) That could become 16 teams by the time the announcement comes down on Tuesday, but only if Texas A&M decides to rebuff overtures to join the SEC by the end of the weekend:
A highly-placed official from a Big 12 school confirmed Friday that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will join the Pac-10 Conference once formal offers are made to them, but said that Texas A&M officials remain on the fence between joining the Pac-10 or the SEC.
"The decision has been made," the official told the American-Statesman. "We're bringing everybody to the Pac-10 but A&M."
The official said the Aggies have a 72-hour timetable to decide whether to accept the Pac-10's offer. The official also said those formal offers could be made over the weekend.
A&M has been in contact with the SEC for months, despite the longstanding assumption that the Texas schools would hang together behind the wildly profitable Longhorn juggernaut. But former Aggie player/coach Gene Stallings, now an A&M regent, has taken control of the push for the SEC, where he won a national championship as Alabama's head coach in 1992. Stepping out of the back channels of Texas politics, Stallings didn't hesitate to distance A&M from the Longhorns on Alabama radio: "I think A&M is now big enough to stand on its own. We don’t need to piggyback on Texas." Truly spoken like a man with only a few months left in his term.
If A&M opts out of the Pac-10 exodus, their crucial position as the 16th team could fall to Kansas or Utah; given the political and competitive ramifications, the odds remain on the Aggies' following the original route to the West Coast – especially if the SEC invite is tied to their ability to deliver Texas, as well, which appears to be a complete nonstarter. Even if the decision boils down to A&M's own discretion, it has to weigh the prospect of big TV money in the SEC against the cold shoulder by everyone it counts as a traditional rival in scheduling (all scheduling, not just football) for the foreseeable future, and by a substantial segment of the legislature when it comes to funding and other political considerations, which adds up to one long, bitter weekend in smoke-filled rooms around the capitol. And not to get nostlagic here in a ruthless debate that boils down to revenue and television ratings and markets and apparently little else, but voluntarily balking at a heated, 109-year-old in-state rivalry that hasn't been interrupted since 1914 – not even by World War II – seems like an unlikely move in the end. But that's only a tentative guess by a sentimental sucker.
(And whether they're looking for cynical or sentimental, Baylor would like to remind its friends in Austin that the Bears are still available. You don't want your friends in Waco to be snapped up by Conference USA, do you? Thank you for your consideration.)
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.