From one perspective, the next phase in the rapid unraveling of the Big 12 – still unfolding strictly along the lines of the widely accepted narrative first introduced more than a week ago – got even clearer today when Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott reportedly met with officials of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City, presumably hand out invitations to join new Pac-10 member Colorado in the mass exodus to the West Coast. From there, Scott is expected to fly to Texas to issue invitations to Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.
Texas and Texas Tech have both scheduled Board of Regents meetings for Tuesday, where they're expected to vote to ditch the Big 12 for the Pac-10; Oklahoma, preferring to wait for Texas' decision has scheduled a meeting/vote for Wednesday. Officials from both OU and OSU have confirmed their commitment to following the Longhorns, including an e-mail from Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder to a Texas regent exclaiming, "We just want to be with Texas when the dust settles!" Short of the votes themselves, it doesn't get more "official" than that.
As recently as Thursday, Texas A&M was thought to be in the same boat, committed to remaining with its traditional rivals at almost any cost – even late-breaking rumors of interest from the SEC seemed like a sidebar to the dutiful trek to the West Coast. By Friday afternoon, the flirtation had become serious enough for a Big 12 official to describe the Aggies as "on the fence." And if Vegas was laying odds on A&M's defection to the SEC tonight, they'd be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2:1 after news that SEC advocates – notable former A&M player/coach and current regent Gene Stallings and chancellor Mike McKinney – have won over enough of the right people:
Multiple sources tell Orangebloods.com Texas A&M has enough votes on its nine-member Board of Regents to join the Southeastern Conference and could announce that move as soon as next week.
The sources said A&M and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are now working feverishly to convince Oklahoma to join the SEC with the Aggies rather than follow Texas to the Pac-10.
... sources close to OU say, up to this point, the Sooners have made a decision to go with Texas and not break up one of college football's most unique rivalries. ... Sources close to the SEC/Texas A&M talks say Oklahoma is still listening to proposals from the SEC. But the sources said the SEC is not interested in Oklahoma State. Trying to split OU and Oklahoma State could cause resistance in the Oklahoma Legislature...
Ah, yes: The politicians. A&M has plenty of them at its disposal, chiefly Texas governor Rick Perry (who seems to have taken a hands-off approach, shrewdly expressing his preference for an "all-Texas conference," i.e. the old Southwest Conference) and U.S. Congressman Joe Barton, who said Friday he favors the SEC to shipping the Aggies "two time zones away" to play Washington and Oregon State, even if that means the end of the century-old rivalry with Texas – not to mention years of cold shoulders in state politics and, in all likelihood, in attempts to schedule any of its old rivals in anything for the foreseeable future. But another source told the Dallas Morning News that, while the margin remains "razor-thin" on both sides of the aisle, the SEC camp has momentum.
If true, the regents' support would seem to answer Question A: Is the SEC the Aggies' first choice? Apparently, yes. The answer to Question B – does the SEC really want the Aggies? – is less clear. Not surprisingly, Texas and Oklahoma are considered bigger, more attractive fish, and the conference's interest in A&M has certainly had an element of leverage to it: Get the Aggies, and the Longhorns and/or Sooners become far more likely to follow. But Texas' apparent lack of interest in the SEC (and Oklahoma's apparent lack of interest in any scenario that doesn't involve Texas) hasn't seemed to deter the SEC from pursuing A&M; multiple, credible reports today placed commissioner Mike Slive in College Station, brokering away. Whether that will actually lead to an offer without a stunning reversal of its Pac-10 commitment by OU or Texas, though, remains in the air.
It's entirely possible that A&M's regents aren't as sold on the Pac-10 as they've been made out to be, and the upcoming meeting with Scott will convince them the Pac-10 (aka the "Surf and Turf Conference") is the City of Gold, after all. Hell, it's still entirely possible Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe will miraculously hold the remnants of the Big 12 together, as everyone – including Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and A&M AD Bill Byrne – continues to advocate on the record. If there was one outcome I wouldn't bet on tonight, though, it would probably be that one.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.