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TUESDAY UPDATE: Texas A&M has denied sending a letter to the Big 12 chairman about withdrawing from the league, and the NY Times has appended the original story to concur with that fact.That would effectively negate the entire report from last night, though A&M has not commented further or ruled the possibility that it may happen in the future.
ORIGINAL STORY: The New York Times is reporting that Texas A&M has sent a letter to the chairman of the Big 12 Conference, formally announcing its intention to withdraw from the league.
The final decision could come as early as Tuesday.
rumours had been swirling for weeks that the school was looking to jump to the Southeastern Conference, though no formal invitation had been extended.
However, it’s unlikely that A&M would take such a dramatic step announcing its plans, unless they were reasonably confident that the SEC was waiting to accept them.
The Aggies will also have to negotiate an exit fee with the Big 12, which could be more than $15 million. The conference reportedly sent the school a letter on Monday, spelling out what they believe the school’s legal and financial obligations are to the league.
If the move is successful, A&M’s transfer threatens to upset the fragile balance of college sports once again.
The Big 12 was already reduced to 10 teams during last year’s conference shake up that saw Nebraska move to the Big 10 (giving them 12 teams), while Colorado and Utah joined the Pac 10.
The addition of A&M would also give the SEC an uneven number of schools, which could inevitably lead to them adding a 14th school. (And possibly a 15th and 16th. Clemson, Missouri, Florida State and Virginia Tech have all been floated as possible additions.)
A&M’s move is believed to be a response to formation of the Longhorn Network, a 24-hour cable channel devoted to just one school — arch rival Texas. The money brought in by the TV network (via ESPN) would be seem to be too big an advantage for one team to have.
Also, the loss of Nebraska means the Big 12 cannot hold a conference championship game any more. Plus, the Big 12 does not distribute bowl payouts evenly among all conference members the way the SEC does (which also bring in more bowl money in the first place.) Financially, it’s a move that some A&M supporters feel they have to make.
The withdrawal could lead to more falling dominoes that could potentially kill the Big 12 forever. As long as Texas and Oklahoma remain committed, the conference could survive in some form, perhaps by bringing in new blood in schools like TCU, BYU and Boise State.
However, if Oklahoma decides it doesn’t like the Longhorn Network so much either, or simply feels that the writing is on the wall for the Big 12’s demise, the league may soon evaporate for good.