Thursday, 08 September 2011 03:05

Trying to Make Sense of Big 12 Realignment

Written by Jay Beck
The Aggies feel like they're being held against their will by the Big 12. The Aggies feel like they're being held against their will by the Big 12.

Where do you even begin with the conference realignment circus that has become the Big 12.  So much has gone on between press releases, threats of lawsuits, non threats of lawsuits, and apparent hostage situations, it feels like what happened this morning was a month ago sometimes.  But anyway, probably the best way to stay caught up is to try and document what went down on Wednesday.

It started this morning with the SEC announcing they had unanimously voted Texas A&M into their conference with one stipulation, they need reassurance nobody was going to bring any legal action.

Here's a partial transcript of their press release.  The read the full version, here is a link on the SEC's website.

The SEC has stated that to consider an institution for membership, there must be no contractual hindrances to its departure.  The SEC voted unanimously to accept Texas A&M University as a member upon receiving acceptable reconfirmation that the Big 12 and its members have reaffirmed the letter dated September 2, 2011.

What is Mike Slive talking about?  Well, apparently Baylor took the "Don't Mess with Texas" campaign to heart and was threatening to take legal action if the Texas A&M left for the SEC.

It was interesting because the first sentence of the SEC's press release indicated they had received a letter from the Big 12 on September 2nd stating they were free to invite Texas A&M into the SEC.  Here is an excerpt from Dan Beebe's letter referenced by the SEC.

This is to confirm our discussion yesterday during which I informed you that the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors unanimously authorized me to convey to you and their colleagues in the Southeastern Conference that the Big 12 and its members will not take any legal action for any possible claims against the SEC or its members relating to the departure of Texas A&M.

So what gives?  Well, more on that in a second.

First, R. Bowen Loftin released a statement saying while he's was happy with the SEC to extend an invitation, there was something else on his mind.

"However, this acceptance is conditional, and we are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in Big 12 Conference. These actions go against the commitment that was made by this university and the Big 12 on Sept. 2."

This all happened by about lunchtime on Wednesday.  The rest of the afternoon was spent on twitter trying to decipher who was suing who, who was ganging up on Oklahoma, and who was or wasn't waiving their legal rights in this whole situation.

The next step in the saga was a press release from the Big 12 and Commissioner Beebe explaining the earlier letter and why there was now the threat of legal action from Baylor and others.

However, the waiver did not and could not bind the individual member institutions’ governing boards to waive institutional rights. If the departure of Texas A&M results in significant changes in the Big 12 membership, several institutions may be severely affected after counting on revenue streams from contracts that were approved unanimously by our members, including Texas A&M. In some cases, members reasonably relied on such approval to embark on obligations that will cost millions of dollars."

OK, so even though the original letter stated they had the member's permission to accept Texas A&M, there's a thought that it was not legally binding.  The SEC instead wanted individual waivers from each school saying essentially, they waived all legal rights pertinent to the situation.

First off, who in their right mind is going to waive their legal rights in a situation like this.  No one.  That being said, it still doesn't mean anyone has plans to bring legal action against anyone.  All they're simply doing is preserving their rights, nothing more, nothing less.

All this then led to some obvious frustration from Texas A&M's president.

"We are being held hostage right now," Loftin said of being forced to stay in the Big 12. "Essentially, we're being told that you must stay here against your will and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans for example and makes us free people."

All right R. Bowen Loftin, seems slightly dramatic but your point has been made.

The night essentially finished with ESPN reporting that eight schools have refused to waive their legal rights, everyone with the exception of Oklahoma.  That is, unless the Sooners would agree to commit to the Big 12, in which case the Aggies were free to go to the SEC.

That really wasn't surprising news except some have now called that report, well,  something other than true.  This from Barry Tramel on NewsOK.com:

It was a bogus report. Texas Tech denied the original Waco Tribune report, and OSU officials vehemently denied the espn.com report, saying they would never put OU in such a compromising position.

So where does that leave things?  Basically that no one has a solid idea of where this is heading.  The only real conclusion you can probably reach at this juncture is that Texas A&M is going to the SEC one way or another.  They simply aren't coming back to the Big 12 under a set of circumstances that wouldn't be good for any party involved.

There's a good portion of people around the country that seem to think when A&M's move to the SEC is finally official, all hell will break loose and the Big 12 is going up in a ball of flames.  Might that happen?  It surely could.  Do I think it will happen?  No, and here's why.

I always come back to simple common sense in trying to figure out what is going to happen here.  In my mind at least, it just doesn't make sense to have Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and possibly Texas and Texas Tech in the Pac-12.  Likewise, it makes even less sense to have Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State (or some combination) in the Big East (or wherever). What exactly are these schools gaining by heading east and west?  Not much in my opinion except a lot more travel for all of their athletes and long time rivalries gone in a split second. This is assuming, of course, there are not glaring economic differences that make it a no-brainer for a school to leave.  It's hard to guess on that front because if 16 team conferences form, TV deals will likely change and it's impossible to predict what each school could take home.

But getting back to my common sense argument, despite what it seems like sometimes, there are smart people running these universities.  They have to see that individually their schools are better off being in the Big 12.  And yes, even Texas and Oklahoma.  Now, whether they can they survive as a group is a different story.  I'm guessing that's what they're working on behind closed doors as we speak.

And then there is the fact that Texas does not want to go independent or give up the Longhorn Network which was a long time in the making.  But even in keeping the Big 12 together, I'm guessing Texas (and ESPN by default) would have to make certain legal promises that they would keep the network within a certain set of parameters to appease the other members.  How you go about doing that is beyond me, but you have to believe the other schools are running short on trust at the moment.

Hopefully for the Big 12's sake, Baylor made the right call in bringing up this legal mess.  It all seems directed at trying to get Oklahoma to stay put but how this accomplishes that, I have no idea.  It almost seems like an unnecessary step because I'm not convinced Oklahoma was ever leaving.

Has the Sooner's ship already sailed as far as the Big 12 is concerned?  I'm guessing we'll soon find out.  And I'm also guessing the Big 12 tries to get the band together yet again, with a couple new members coming along for the ride.  It just makes sense.  Hopefully they can figure that out if it's not already too late.

 

Last modified on Thursday, 13 October 2011 00:01
Jay Beck

Jay Beck

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