Aggies Willing to Wait

Aggie Websider's David Sandhop has been the leading source for Texas A&M realignment news going back to last year. While the national media jumped on this story last week, Sandhop has been reporting the likely move of Texas A&M to the SEC for a month. He provides the latest twist and the latest developments from late Tuesday night

First of all, let's quickly address the issues here with Texas A&M. Well, it's very quiet as you can tell. That is by design. I think A&M got a little ahead of itself. Also, the situation is actually starting to turn into A&M's favor and time is actually on the Aggies' side.

First let's look at the SEC. We know that Texas A&M wants the SEC, and the SEC wants Texas A&M barring any complications. One interesting note, I was told that if for some reason the SEC deal fell through that A&M's second option would be the Big 10. Not that there have been any conversations, but Texas A&M administration would contact the Big 10 and they feel there's some interest there to pursue if needed. But that's just an interesting side note because as far as all parties are concerned, it's an SEC/A&M deal that simply needs to get sealed.

In talking to SEC sources, the hold up is no longer just waiting for A&M to get a divorce, but also that the SEC is having troubles identifying the appropriate 14th member that can get enough votes for ratification. A&M is an easy sell and an easy vote for SEC presidents because A&M adds geography and a fertile new TV market...and doesn't encroach on other schools' territory. FSU is a good football school and apparently would switch to the SEC if invited, but Florida is strongly opposed to inviting FSU and apparently they have a voting block (Florida, USC, Georgia) in place to stop it in its tracks.

Same thing with Clemson. South Carolina would block any attempt for ratification of their state rival and Georgia would block Georgia Tech's entry.

Now here's a nugget that REALLY surprised me. With the apparent roadblocks with Clemson, Georgia Tech, and FSU, the SEC's next target is Missouri, but what my source told me, the Tigers are balking and taking their sweet time. They are still dreaming of the Big 10 and continue to have a dialogue with them. Wow, two weeks ago insiders thought Missouri would get on its knees for an SEC offer, but if we are to believe SEC sources, that doesn't appear to be the case.

So for now, let's say Missouri won't commit and the SEC moves on looking for a quick 14th member, who would it be? It's not that easy. Politically (based on what we're seeing with FSU, GT, Clemson), it has to be a school that expands the geographic SEC foot print and bring a new TV market to the conference. The schools that fit that bill are West Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina St., and even Maryland for the Washington DC and surrounding markets. Culturally, it's a stretch for Maryland and a weak football program doesn't help. West Virginia is far away, and Virginia Tech has stated publicly that they are happy in the ACC. I think North Carolina State is an option who could get out from under the basketball shadow of its two Carolina state rivals, compete in the SEC in basketball, and form a unique and dominant football brand in a North Carolina....or they may want to stay in a basketball-focused conference.

The point here is that there are no obvious answers here. That's the dilemma. If the goal and only goal is to add unique TV markets and expand the borders of the conference, then the SEC's options are limited. It also clearly shows you why the SEC will wait for Texas A&M, and a unanimous vote is a foregone conclusion. The Aggies are by far the best option for the SEC.

And there is reason for Texas A&M to take some time and you can thank Dan Beebe for playing his hand today by saying that the Big 12 needs to know quickly what Texas A&M is doing. That's because the Big 12 is already resigned to losing A&M, and Texas has decided they must continue the Big 12 and want to add a replacement quickly and move on to protect the Fox contract. If you ask BYU insiders, they believe the Cougars will be invited and will be allowed to integrate their network.

So...if Baylor wants to sue, then threaten to take more time. If the Big 12's bill for penalty fees is too high for A&M's liking, then maybe President Loftin needs a few more weeks to make the right decision for Texas A&M. .The Big 12 and the other schools can't plan for the future until A&M gets off the pot. I know many Aggie fans are impatient and feel like the university has to go immediately, but the A&M administration is not so pressed for time. The Aggies have an eventual home and they know where they will be in the future and can pick their spot when they want to leave. The Big 12 must wait and guess. So A&M can negotiate exit terms and tell BU's lawyers to stand down or everybody waits. Texas President Powers will tell BU President Ken Starr to drop it so they can move forward with replacing Texas A&M.

Who has the leverage in this scenario? That's right...the Aggies.

I think Texas and the Big 12 will blink quickly, because not only does Texas have to get back to business on this LHN deal, but I also think Texas sees BYU as a savior of sorts. The Cougars and Longhorns can play their game each year on the BYU and LHN network. That's a big deal when Tech, Baylor, and OSU have already turned down the Longhorns in their bid to get that second game on the LHN.

All factors in this game of chess are really pointing in Texas A&M's favor. The only scenario that could trip up A&M is if the SEC gets frustrated with trying to find team #14 and decides to bail out of expansion for a year or two. I think that is highly, highly unlikely, but the only scenario I can think of that can derail this effort for A&M.

As I mentioned earlier, a source has a contact that apparently spoke directly to Deloss Dodds and he's pretty upset with the Aggies and he vows not to play Texas A&M in any sport. So who's the angry, jealous institution here...the calm, cool Longhorns always under control of every situation, or those shoot-from-the-hip emotional Aggies with a chip on their shoulder? Well, Loftin said yesterday he hopes to continue the longstanding rivalry.

This really has been a game-changing event in more ways than one. Who's acting like the calm big brother, and who's little brother? It's hard to tell anymore.

Check mate.

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