Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

SEC keeps Aggies at bay until A&M-Big 12 divorce is final

To SEC fans hoping to see some kind of definitive plume of white smoke today from the "secret location" where officials were reportedly mulling Texas A&M's admission to the conference: So sorry. All you got instead was this perfunctory statement from University of Florida president Bernie Machen on behalf of the league:

"The SEC Presidents and Chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment. We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M."

Well, so much for Expansion Expo 2011. Drive home safely.

SEC keeps Aggies at bay until A&M-Big 12 divorce is finalOh, if only it were that easy. The first line of the statement may sound like the beginning of a rejection notice, but the rest reads more like the first steps in a long, legalistic waggle dance to appease the lawyers. As an anonymous "high-ranking official" suggested to the New York Times on Saturday, the SEC is very concerned about being cast 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. In other words, the SEC wants Texas A&M to commit first by finalizing its divorce from the Big 12, and won't allow itself to be seen with the Aggies until they're single.

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 proposition considering the apparent opposition to adding a new member from a state where the conference already has a flagship member and a strong foothold, which would eliminate Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami from the discussion. But that's getting ahead of the game a bit: In the meantime, the A&M Board of Regents is still scheduled to meet Monday to authorize president R. Bowen Loftin to "take all actions" relating to its "athletic conference alignment," and the Higher Education Committee of the Texas House of Representatives is scheduled to meet Tuesday to "discuss matters pertaining to higher education, including collegiate athletics," with Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and SEC commissioner Mike Slive both on the guest list.

Once the A&M-Big 12 split is formalized in those meetings, the ball will be back in the SEC's court.

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Hat tip: Andy Staples
Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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