Hop's Realignment Blog - 9/8

It was an eventful day in the ongoing saga known as Big 12 realignment. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop breaks down all of the days activities and discusses what will happen next now that Baylor has thrown a wrench into the plan for the Aggies to officially join the SEC on Thursday.

I wish I had some ground breaking scoop that would put this to bed and let you all sleep well tonight, but I don't. I was hoping to have an update earlier, but I keep holding out for one of my sources to actually come back with tangible, solid information that I can report. I'm telling you...it is very quiet out there on the both the A&M side of things and the SEC side of things. Most of the chatter is coming from people/sites in Waco and Austin.

I know that a source in Waco is reporting that a deal has been reached that would keep OU in the Big 12 and will allow the Aggies to quietly leave without the threat of legal action by Baylor and the rest of the Big 12. That's a very plausible story and one that is very believable given the circumstances, but you can't find anybody close to Texas A&M who can either confirm or deny it. I'm pretty sure if A&M got a get out of jail (Big 12) free card, President Loftin and the Aggie admin would know about it.

But I would keep my eyes open for such an arrangement. About mid-afternoon, I think we actually understood the end game for Baylor and Texas when it was reported that Baylor and the rest of the Big 12 would drop the roadblocks for A&M if OU reaffirms their commitment to the Big 12. Ah, that tells me who the wizard is behind the curtain. You guessed it, Texas. They know that the ONLY way the LHN survives intact is by preserving the Big 12, and for that to happen OU and OSU must have good reason to stay. And Ken Starr and Baylor realize that this is the only scenario where they survive another day as a BCS member so they will gladly play the fall guy.

I also think that in the end, OU doesn't really want to go to the Pac-12, especially if they must go first without Texas. That means a lot of travel and will complicate recruiting efforts in Texas. So as long as Texas can show them a little respect and maybe throw them a bone (maybe help OU start-up its regional network), they will stand down. The rumor of a deal indicated that Texas and OU agreed to equal revenue splits for first and second tier rights. If true, that doesn't sound logical on the surface, but actually it makes perfect sense when you are trying to save a conference and add new members like BYU. Ironically, A&M's departure is having an indirect effect of fixing the structural problems of the Big 12 in regard to inequality of tier one and tier two revenues. Texas is finally understanding this concept, and that's the only way they can get BYU or other quality partners.

So I do think this is a very possible solution, but when I went through all of my A&M sources tonight, they had heard nothing about such a deal. Really, about the only meaningful feedback I've gotten tonight is that as a whole, the A&M team working this deal still feels very confident this deal gets done. What Baylor did Tuesday evening was only a surprise in regard to timing after the September 2 letter from Dan Beebe. The A&M legal team expected this legal challenge to pop up at some point and that's why they have been so pragmatic in doing its due diligence over the past couple of months. A&M feels they are on very solid ground legally, but it's the SEC they have to convince.

No offense to our recent SEC friends who have joined the site recently, but I was a little disappointed that after all the time and hard work that both sides put into this effort and knowing that the legal risks are small, the SEC blinked when they were blindsided by the last minute phone call placed by Ken Starr. Whether intended or not, the conditional offer basically opened the door for the rest of the Big 12 to jump on-board and complicate the situation. The conditional offer also hung Texas A&M out to dry and caused a PR black eye...not a good way to kick off a new marriage. But this is just a minor bump in the road and from what I gather the A&M decision-makers are fine with what the SEC presidents did Tuesday night.

While I think there's a reasonable chance this situation gets resolved with the Big 12 retaining OU, I do think that the Aggies should flex a little muscle of their own if this situation stays mucked up for a few days. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, the A&M team does have a plan B and that is the Big 10. While no formal, direct contact was made that would have Ken Starr fuming, feelers to conference officials did indicate plenty of significant interest. I'm sure the same is true with the Pac-12. These aren't optimal options by any stretch, but they are feasible options and I've heard previously that A&M would not hesitate to go that route if something complicated the move to the SEC. This would put subtle pressure on the SEC to step-up and make the offer to join unconditional and support its newest member in severing ties with the Big 12. I have heard some rumors that the SEC may be contemplating such a move after seeing the sticky situation the conditional invitation caused yesterday, but I couldn't substantiate those rumors.

So while there's plenty to talk about and speculate, the detailed scoop on exactly what A&M is thinking and planning on doing just wasn't available through my sources Wednesday night. AS soon as I hear something, I'll let you know. The takeaway here is that a quick solution with OU staying in the Big 12 is feasible although not confirmed, and that Texas A&M still feels very confident about its legal and strategic position in the game of chess (or is it chicken) and will ultimately end up in a quality BCS conference...most likely the SEC.


Hop

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