It's no secret: Texas A&M's relationship with the Big 12 is all but over, and everyone knows it. Between A&M giving its president permission to pursue other options and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe letting the Aggies know the conference will be just fine without them, they've hardly bothered keeping up appearances.
For the first time, though, A&M has told the conference face-to-face that it's putting itself out there:
Texas A&M has taken the next step toward leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC.
A letter from Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin was delivered Thursday afternoon to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to inform Beebe that Texas A&M is exploring its conference options. In the letter, Loftin asked Beebe to outline the procedures required should the Aggies decide to leave the conference.
"If Texas A&M withdraws from the Conference, we want to do so in a way that complies with the Bylaws and is supportive of your efforts to seek a new member of the Conference," Loftin wrote in the letter. "We would appreciate your conferring with the other member institutions and outlining for us the process to be followed by Texas A&M should it withdraw from the Conference."
Just a little more patience, SMU, and the Aggies' old room will be officially up for grabs.
But before that can happen, A&M needs an invitation to move in with the SEC. And before that can happen, the SEC (and its lawyers) need to see some divorce papers. As an anonymous "high-ranking official" from the SEC suggested to the New York Times earlier this month, the conference is very concerned about being portrayed as a raider — not because it's such a nice, polite neighbor, but because the Big 12 could conceivably fire back in court by accusing the SEC of tampering with an existing contract between the Big 12 and one of its members. Waiting for the Aggies to extricate themselves from their current arrangement is the only proper thing to do.
The SEC could also be dragging its feet because it doesn't want to add a 13th school until it has the 14th already lined up, a tricky play considering the apparent opposition to adding a new member from a state where the conference already has a flagship member and a strong foothold, all but eliminating Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami from the discussion. But for now, the league seems content to jump that ditch when it comes to it.