September 09, 2011
To listen to Oklahoma State booster/sugar daddy T. Boone Pickens tell it Thursday during the second half of OSU's shootout win over Arizona on ESPN, the Big 12 is on the verge of digging itself out of its own grave via the magic of revenue sharing. With Texas A&M's imminent defection to the SEC in limbo under the threat of legal action by Baylor, a new wave of sentiment in favor of keeping the band together appears to be gaining some momentum behind the scenes. If the league's heavy hitters can come around to a revised revenue-sharing deal that splits the pie evenly among all ten schools — a la the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — the current crisis, too, may yet pass.
Then again, to hear the San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman tell it, Texas A&M is more bound and determined to fly the coop than ever — so determined that it's even considering temporary independence as a more viable alternative to the status quo:
COLLEGE STATION — No matter Texas A&M's direction from here, there's one place the Aggies won't be after next summer: the Big 12.
Following this school year, A&M intends to be in the Southeastern Conference, and assurances out of Aggieland on Thursday night are that an announcement on that front is simply a "matter of time." If the SEC agreement somehow falls through — and chances are great it won't — the Aggies might go independent for a year.
That's how bad they don't want to be in the Big 12. Multiple A&M insiders have said as much — the Aggies have gone too far to turn around now. ...
Make no mistake: "Independence" in this scenario is less a likely outcome than it is a rhetorical device to reinforce just how determined and certain the Aggies are that the SEC deal is going to come through. This deal was done, and it can be done again. Furious as it may be at "being held hostage" in a conference it's clearly bound and determined to leave, A&M still fully expects the legal hurdles to be cleared, or else for the object of its affection, the SEC, to come to their rescue regardless of the obstacles — which, let's face it, are probably just a lot of frivolous bluffs by a few desperate hangers-on, anyway.
We'll see if that turns out to be the case. But whenever it comes, even Texas A&M's formal withdrawal wouldn't necessarily kill the Big 12's egalitarian moment. A pledge to divvy up the spoils evenly from the league's assorted television and bowl contracts could make it more attractive to the few viable replacements for the Aggies, and a viable replacement (or three) might make it attractive enough to prevent Oklahoma from hitting the "self-destruct" button by high-tailing it to the Pac-12 before A&M's moving vans are even out of the driveway. Even Texas may be on board for the sake of preserving the fiefdom it specifically chose over the Pac-10 last year, as long as it gets to keep all of the gold bouillon tumbling out of the Longhorn Network.
If there is a movement to salvage the conference, though —through equal revenue-sharing or otherwise — it seems increasingly clear that Texas A&M is only going to be a part of it over its dead body. What we can't be sure of is just how many of its colleagues are thinking "That can be arranged."