Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin has already said that a departure from the Big 12 would take time.
On Thursday, he announced another step in what many believe is Texas A&M’s steady march to leave the league and, perhaps, join the Southeastern Conference. The school formally notified the Big 12 that it is considering leaving and wants to know the process if it does.
Less than a week after publicly expressing interest in joining the SEC, Loftin’s letter to conference Commissioner Dan Beebe said it should not be considered notice that the Aggies have already decided to leave.
“As I have indicated previously, we are working very deliberately to act in the best long-term interests of both Texas A&M and the state of Texas,” Loftin said in a statement released by the university. “This truly is a 100-year decision. While we understand the desire of all parties to quickly reach a resolution, these are extremely complex issues that we are addressing methodically.”
Loftin received authority from the board of regents to take any action he deems necessary in terms of realignment on Aug. 15, a day after the SEC said it was happy with its current 12-school membership but left the door open to expansion.
If Texas A&M leaves the Big 12, the move could create a shake-up across college sports. In 2010, Texas considered offers to join the Big Ten and the Pac 10 before deciding to stay in the Big 12. Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) left the Big 12 in July.
Loftin said last week that he first approached SEC Commissioner Mike Slive on July 21 about Texas A&M’s interest in the SEC. He also said the Aggies would consider what their departure would mean for the future of the Big 12 before making any decisions.
In the letter, Loftin asked that the conference outline the process Texas A&M should follow if it decides to leave. Loftin said if the Aggies leave, they would want to do it in a way that complies with league bylaws and supports efforts to seek a new member of the conference. The school would presumably face some kind of exit fee.
Loftin has said financial consequences will certainly factor into any decision A&M makes about its future.
The Big 12, including Texas A&M, agreed to a 13-year television deal with Fox Sports in April worth more than $1 billion. There is a chance the contract could be voided if the Aggies leave the conference, which could lead to legal issues for Texas A&M and its new league.
On Thursday, Loftin reiterated Texas A&M’s reasoning for looking to move conferences.
“Ultimately, we are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs,” Loftin said. “As a public university, Texas A&M owes it to the state’s taxpayers to maximize our assets and generate additional revenues both now and well into the future.”
The Big 12 did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.
Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Loftin notifies Big 12 officials about school's plans.